EPA awards 'first ever' grants to three Virginia Indian tribes

Watchful Eye

The EPA announced it has awarded grants to three Virginia tribes for community garden and composting projects.

The three recipients are the Upper Mattaponi Indian Tribe of King William, the Chickahominy Indian Tribe and the Chickahominy Indian Tribe Eastern Division, both from Providence Forge, said an EPA media release.

These "first ever" grants to Mid-Atlantic Region Tribes provide much needed funding, the EPA stated.

So, let’s look at the funding and what it's for.

The Upper Mattaponi Indian Tribe was awarded $25,000, said EPA statement revealed. The Tribe will use it to build a new composting program to process materials from the Tribal Center, five King William County Schools, and a local florist. The program will be used for “educational outreach,” and some funds will be used to establish a tribal community garden.

“We look forward to the opportunity of working with our Native community and business partners in removing food and organic waste from our landfills" Upper Mattaponi Assistant Chief Tommy Tupponce said via media release. “This community will be enriched by creating a more sustainable alternative for this waste through composting and supporting local food access through a tribal community garden.”

The Chickahominy Indian Tribe was also awarded $25,000. Their project will include a community compost program and three themed gardens that will showcase a model produce garden for sale or home use. They’ll display traditional Powhatan farming techniques as well as “cultivation of items of cultural importance” and will participate in community engagement, the EPA noted.

“In the past, many of our families cultivated, gathered and ate a wide variety of foods including wild meats like venison and fish and a variety of fruits and vegetables,” said Tribal Environmental Director Dana Adkins in the press release. “Since those days, we have seen an increase in the consumption of fast food and in diseases such as diabetes. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the burden on our families of acquiring affordable fresh vegetables and fruits. This grant gives us the opportunity to educate our youth in the practices of food production, preparation and preservation methods that our elders once practiced.”

The Chickahominy Indian Tribe Eastern Division was awarded the odd number of $15,959. This funding is supposed to be used for a garden and composting site that will increase food availability to tribal citizens, create new composting capacity, and support citizens in learning cultural and long-term knowledge regarding food waste, production and healthy eating. The garden will include a greenhouse so they can extend their growing season into colder months. The compost generated will be used at the community garden.

“Uncertain times have left many Indigenous families in a position of food insecurity. Developing a sustainable materials management program through a community garden for the Chickahominy Indian Tribe-Eastern Division will increase food availability to tribal citizens,” Jessica Phillips, Tribal Environmental Director of the Chickahominy Indian Tribe-Eastern Division said in the press release. “It will also allow citizens to learn cultural and long-term knowledge regarding food waste, food production, and healthy eating.”

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