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USDA’s chief scientist visits tribal colleges
27 July 2012

Dr. Catherine Woteki speaking with students about their research at United Tribes Technical College.
DENNIS J. NEUMANN<>United Tribes News

BISMARCK (UTN) – An official of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, who is in charge of research, education and economics, toured two tribal colleges July 19 as part of a visit to North Dakota commemorating agricultural research.

Dr. Catherine Woteki’s visits to United Tribes Technical College, Bismarck and Sitting Bull College, Fort Yates, focused on educational programs and projects that focus food, nutrition and agriculture research.

At United Tribes, she toured the college’s Nutrition and Foodservice Department and learned about programs in food safety, nutrition and food sovereignty. She met with UTTC’s Land Grant staff, heard about present and future science programs, and toured the campus experimental and community gardens.

At the college’s new Science and Technology Center, Woteki was briefed about student projects in the college’s Tribal Environmental Science program, including research about wild berries, diseases in bats, and soil characteristics and vegetation near rattlesnake dens.

"Tribal Colleges are fulfilling an important mission in Indian Country," said Woteki. "They’re educating the next generation in the skills they’ll need for future careers, while also preserving tribal culture."

Woteki’s visit coincided with a program celebrating the 100th anniversary of USDA's Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory in Mandan. Ag research was an important mission that evolved from passage of the Morrill Act in 1862. This year, the USDA is commemorating the 150th anniversary of the founding of USDA and land-grant universities. Tribal colleges attained land-grant status in 1994.

"Looking back at the long period of land grant programs in this country, tribal colleges have had a comparatively short history of involvement," said David M. Gipp, United Tribes Technical College president. "But in that time we’ve built a good working relationship with the USDA. Our goal is to continue building on that and opening up new areas of cooperation and support that will benefit tribal people in meaningful and equitable ways."

Woteki’s tour of Sitting Bull College included the Science and Technology Center, where students described research projects currently underway. Standing Rock’s natural beef research project is a joint effort with scientists from USDA’s Agricultural Research Service and instructors at Sitting Bull College, North Dakota State University and South Dakota State University. It is funded by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

"We’ve had a long-standing relationship with the USDA, including having USDA’s Tribal College Liaison Office housed on our new campus," said Laurel Vermillion, Sitting Bull College president. "As we continue to expand our undergraduate research efforts, it was a privilege and honor to have Dr. Woteki visit our campus."

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