USD, CDC and Tribes Share Latest on Traditional Foods Effort in Indian Country

Image Chelsea Wesner Chelsea Wesner

Speakers at a two-day seminar in Sioux Falls and Vermillion sponsored by the University of South Dakota will share the latest information on a traditional foods movement in Indian Country and its role in improving food security and promoting health among Native American communities.

Chelsea Wesner, M.P.H., M.S.W., seminar director and an instructor in USD's Public Health program, said the purpose of the seminar is to share stories of how American Indian and Alaska Native communities are reclaiming traditional foods and practices that have been disrupted by a variety of factors, including loss of homelands and water rights, and cultural assimilation. “Reviving traditional foods in Native American communities not only strengthens food security and cultural knowledge, but it has the potential to reduce diet-related chronic diseases, such as diabetes," she said.

A team from the Centers for Disease Control's Native Diabetes Wellness Program, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and Wesner will share findings from the Traditional Foods Program, a six-year grant project that supported 17 American Indian and Alaska Native communities from coast to coast.

The seminar schedule:

Tuesday, Sept. 22, at USD's Vermillion campus:

  • 10:30 a.m.-noon: “Traditional Foods Have Become a Way to Talk About Health” seminar, Muenster University Center, Ballroom 225
  • 3:30-4:30 pm: Informal discussion with students, Muenster University Center, Room 219

Wednesday, Sept. 23, at USD Sanford School of Medicine in Sioux Falls, Room 242:

  • 10-11 a.m.: Open meeting with faculty, students, and staff interested in sharing current work, research ideas, interest in American Indian and Alaska Native health or careers with the CDC
  • 11 a.m.-noon: Special screening of Conquering Chronic Disease with Billy Mills, featuring Executive Producer Siobhan Wescott, MD, MPH
  • 2-3 p.m.: Open meeting with faculty, students and staff interested in sharing current work, research ideas, interest in American Indian and Alaska Native health or careers with CDC


Wesner and Aubrey Skye of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and Sitting Bull College in Fort Yates, North Dakota, will be available for media interviews from 1-2 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 23, at the USD Sanford School of Medicine, Room 242.


Founded in 1862 and the first university in the Dakotas, the University of South Dakota is the only public liberal arts university in the state, with 205 undergraduate and 73 graduate programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education, School of Law, Sanford School of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, Beacom School of Business and College of Fine Arts. With an enrollment of nearly 10,000 students and more than 400 faculty, USD has a 17:1 student/faculty ratio, and it ranks among the best in academics and affordability. USD’s 17 athletic programs compete at the NCAA Division I level.

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Michael Ewald
USD News