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Date: Thu, 19 Jan 1995 10:20:28 -0800
Sender: American Indian Discussions <IND-NET%WSUVM1.BITNET@cmsa.Berkeley.EDU>
From: Indian Agriculture <indianag@COOPEXT.CAHE.WSU.EDU>
Subject: IAC's Historical Overview of the Reservation Extension Program

Historical overview of the Reservation Extension Program

By Ross Racine, Intertribal Agricultural Council.
19 January 1995

The question has been asked, Why is Intertribal Agriculture Council involved in the Reservation Extension Program? To fully explain the involvement of IAC in the Reservation Extension Program requires an understanding of the history of Extension on Indian Reservations and the history of the IAC. This brief historical overview will hopefully answer the question and give the reader an understanding of the intent of the program.


Indian Country has not been totally devoid of Extension services or extension type services. Squanto, a Massasoit Indian, is credited with the first method demonstration and the first agriculture extension work recorded in American history. He taught the newly arrived European settlers how to grow corn. Other Tribes had thriving agricultural societies in the Ohio Valley, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and along the Missouri River. These societies began to disappear as they were dispossed of their traditional lands and were placed on reservations.

At the time of the establishment of Indian Reservations, the federal government attempted to assimilate Indians into the main stream by forcing an agrarian lifestyle on them by providing farm implements. Missing from this unsuccessful equation was the instruction for use of the European implements. Providing farm implements was replaced with the removal of children from the family and placing them in boarding schools. In the 40's and early 50's the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) through the Soil and Moisture Conservation Program, provided Boss Farmers and farm implements for individual Indians interested in farming or ranching. The Boss Farmer would go out to an individuals place and instruct that individual on the How To's and Why For's of becoming a successful farmer, as well as provide the equipment for land development.

This program was followed by the BIA contracting with the state land grant university for extension on Indian Reservations. It was not unusual to see two extension agents at each reservation agency. One agent was primarily responsible for family living and home economics programs while the other was responsible for 4-H and agriculture. This approach was fairly successful through the mid-70's. The BIA began to de-emphasize resource management and began to place the agency priority on social service programs. Natural resource staff as well as the contracted extension agents began disappearing and welfare workers took their place.

As a result of Congress appropriating $6,000,000 for Tribes in Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota to buy hay to maintain livestock herds during the drought of the mid-80's, the BIA had to submit a report to Congress. Within that 1986 report was 9 recommendations: #1 stated, Establish a commission similar to the Intertribal Timber Council on a national/regional level for agriculture/range (The birth of IAC.); and stated, Include an agriculture extension service activity in the Bureau's agriculture program budget to improve and enhance Indian agriculture education programs for the needs of the Indian people through cooperative agreements with the Department of Agriculture and land grant universities.

The 1986 Report to Congress did not address the agriculture issues faced by all of Indian Country, only the area which received the drought money. However, the 86 report did recommend a continuation of the hearing process on a regional basis to obtain testimony from tribes not included in the 86 report. The Secretary of Interior appointed 12 Indian leaders and 6 BIA employees to the National Indian Agriculture Working Group and their charge was to prepare a report which addressed all of Indian County's agriculture issues. A total of 14 public hearings were held across Indian Country and these testimonies were used by the National Indian Agriculture Working Group to prepare their recommended actions. A major suggestion of the Indian who participated in the hearings was re-establishing Extension Agents on reservations. Within their 1987 report, Final Findings and Recommendations of the National Indian Agriculture Working Group, were 32 recommendations to improve agriculture conditions and support Tribal goals in Indian Country. The 32 recommendations were not prioritized but grouped by topic. Number 15 of the recommendations was the re-establishment of the Reservation Extension Program by the BIA.

In November of 1987, 87 Tribes gathered in Las Vegas, Nevada to form the Intertribal Agriculture Council. From that meeting came the IAC charter and by-laws. The 32 recommendations made in the 87 report became part of the To Do list of the IAC. Just to give you an idea how all of this ties together, Robert Miller, President-IAC and Fred Smith, Vice President-IAC were on the Working Group appointed by Congress. Also, Greg Smitman, Executive Director-IAC was the primary author of the 86 and 87 reports. The IAC began the task of addressing the 32 recommendations.

The years of 88 and 89 were spent knocking on the doors of Congress and the Department of Agriculture. Valuable lessons were learned in this period, lessons from both Congress and the bureaucracies. For instance, the reason reservations were no longer receiving any Extension Service programs was due to the fact Indians do not contribute to the county or state tax base. The County Extension Agents are directed by county commissioners and committees who feel justified in excluding reservations from the service area. After all, the counties contribute 18% of the funding.

In November of 89 the first ever joint hearing on Indian agriculture was held with the Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs and the Senate Agriculture Committee. The testimony from that joint hearing again expresses a primary desire of those Tribes testifying to restore Extension and reflects that the year-to-year funding and contracting under the old BIA contracted Extension Agent Program was a barrier to the effectiveness and success of the program. One of the results of the hearing was the establishment of a committee to develop recommendations for a program which would provide for the placement of Extension Agents on Indian Reservations to provide education programs in the areas of agriculture and 4-H youth beyond that being already provided by County Extension Offices. Members of that committee included: Hollis Hall, Chairman, USDA; Woodie Winans, Arizona: Norman Wolf, New Mexico; Lloyd Hansen, South Dakota; Howard Jones, Arizona; Keith Soiseth, North Dakota; and Stuart Jamieson, USDA. (Recognize some names?) The IAC appointed Calvin Wilson, Cynthia Gonzales, Jim Thannum, Calvin Waln, and Greg Smitman to work with this group and represent the Indian concerns in the design.

The goals developed by this committee, however not totally realized, are still the goals of the present Reservation Extension Program:

  1. To secure an adequate continuous funding base,
  2. To establish an effective Extension program to serve each Reservation having the potential for a significant agricultural industry,
  3. To employ technically competent Reservation Extension staff with an appreciation and understanding of Native American culture and heritage, and
  4. To develop educational programs unique to the problems facing Native American farm and ranch families on each Reservation.

The IAC and members of the committee designed a program which put an Extension Agent on every reservation larger than 120,000 acres and at least two agents on reservations larger than 1,000,000. This prerequisite identified the need for at least 86 agents. A funding base of $6.2 million was identified to fully implement the program. Each reservation office would be supported with appropriated Extension funds except for office space, basic equipment and telephones which would be considered in-kind from the respective Tribe. In addition to conducting traditional agricultural and 4-H youth programs, each agent would serve as a liaison and referral between Indian farmers and ranchers and other USDA agencies.

The need for advisory councils was identified by this group. The make up of the advisory councils should be representative of the reservation population and the role of the advisory council would be to identify Extension educational needs, set program priorities, review and approve Extension plans of work and assist in the evaluation and selection of personnel.

The IAC utilized the goals and recommendations put forth by this committee and their own concepts of what the program should look like to get the Reservation Extension Program authorized in the 1990 Farm Bill. Title XVI-Research, Section 1677. Reservation Extension Agents, page 439, House Report 101-916 states:

(a) Establishment - The Secretary of Agriculture, acting through the Extension Service, shall establish extension education programs on Indian Reservations and Tribal Jurisdictions. In establishing these extension programs, the Secretary shall consult with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Intertribal Agriculture Council, and the Southwest Indian Agriculture Association, and shall make such interagency cooperative agreements or memoranda of understanding as may be necessary. The programs to be developed and delivered on Reservation and within tribal jurisdictions shall be determined with the advice and counsel of Reservation or tribal program advisory committees.

(b) Administration and Management - Extension agents shall be employees of, and administratively responsible to, the Cooperative Extension Service of the State within which the Reservation or tribal jurisdiction is located, and employment and personnel management responsibilities shall be vested with the State Cooperative Extension Service. In cases where a Reservation or tribal jurisdiction is located in two or more States, the Secretary of Agriculture shall make the determination of administrative responsibility, including possible divisions along State boundaries.

(c) Advisory Committees - At the request of a State Extension Director, and with the assistance of the Tribal authorities, the Secretary of Agriculture may form an advisory committee to give overall policy and program advice to that State Director with regard to programs conducted on reservations or within tribal jurisdictions. Program advisory committees may be formed to assist extension staff in development and conduct of program activities.

(d) Staffing - Insofar as possible, agent and specialist staff shall include individuals representative of the tribal grouping being served. Programs shall emphasize training and employment of local people in positions such as program aides, master gardeners, and volunteers. Staffing at a particular location shall be dependent on the needs and priorities of that location, as identified by the advisory committees and the State Director, and the Director may make use of existing personnel and facilities as appropriate.

(e) Placing of Agents - The number of offices and their placement shall be jointly determined by the State Extension Directors and tribal authorities of the respective States by the taking into consideration the agricultural acreage within the boundaries of an Indian Reservation or tribal jurisdiction, the soil classifications of such acreage, and the population of such Reservation or tribal jurisdiction.

(f) Authorizations - There are authorized to be appropriated such sums as may be necessary to carry out this section.

The passage of the 1990 Farm Bill brought about the birth of the Reservation Extension Program. It is only fair to point out that the getting this program established through law was opposed by USDA administration, ECOP, the 1890 schools and the National Association of Land Grant Colleges and State Universities. It is this opposition that lead to the administration of USDA not including the program in their 91 and 92 budgets. Funding for the program came through a Congressional add-on as a result of a strong lobbying effort in Congress by the IAC and member Tribes.

The program became a line item within the USDA budget in 1993, however never has the 6.2 million budget been requested to fully implement the program. Funding has remained static at 1.75 million against the annual testimony of the IAC on the USDA budget. Part of this lack of funding is due to the lack of support on the part of Extension Administration in Washington, DC and in part to those who opposed the program from the beginning. In looking at the politics of this, one must remember that the past Deputy Secretary of Extension was the president of the association of the 1890 schools when the IAC had to struggle to get the program put into law.

As stated above, the law states the IAC and SWIAA are to be consulted in the establishment of extension programs on reservations. This consultation took place the first active year of the program. Representatives of both organizations actually sat down with Dr. Hollis Hall, Director, Reservation Extension Program, Myron Johnsrud, Director of Extension, and selected which programs were to be funded. A heavy weighting factor in this consideration was the Tribal contribution to the program as in-kind contributions of office space, clerical support, etc. and in direct support dollars. Since that meeting, the IAC has never participated in this process. It has been all done by the administration.

Consultation in program selection is minute in comparison to reaching the initial goals of the program. The discussion of an initial $6.2 million was needed has occurred earlier in this paper. It must be pointed out that figure was an estimate to cover start-up of only the 4-H and agriculture education programs. A much higher figure is needed to address the family living and other educational programs. Paramount in reaching the goals of the program is the . . . development of educational programs unique to the problems facing Native American farm and ranch families on each Reservation.

Since the Reservation Extension Program has been in operation, stumbling blocks have been identified. One is the annual change of leadership in the program. Others include lack of formal direction of the program; the with-holding of an overhead, which amounts to a much greater amount than the administration is providing in service to the program; and programs being designed and evaluated at the federal/state level not at the reservation level through advisory committees as required by law.

We have been assured by the present director, Fred Swader, that he will be with the program for a period of 5 years. Formal direction of the program is an issue the IAC is in the process of addressing. Extension Agents on Indian Reservations and their advisory committees are the experts. They are the people who are taking traditional extension programs to the Reservation, modifying them at the advise of the advisory council, and providing that service to the Indian people. It is the expectation of the IAC that they can best advise on how this program should be formally directed. Individuals from Extension leadership have stated a willingness to assist with the address of barriers and we will work together to put forth the formal direction necessary to implement a program that will serve the needs of Reservation Community.

The IAC was very naive about the policy and regulations within Extension Service when they set out to get the program started. We realized having the program within the BIA was not the way to go, but we did not realize that putting the program within the confines of the Smith-Lever Act was going to cost dearly. Having been somewhat educated on the workings of that Act, we may never get away from having an overhead taken out of the base funding at the national level. We are working to get the overhead reduced to 4 percent and having overhead directed to the administration of the program. Hopefully this will happen with the distribution of 95 funding.

With your input and direction, the IAC working with the administration and Congress, and the assistance of friendly Extension Directors, a program designed and evaluated at the Reservation level will be designed and implemented.

The IAC is very committed to the initial goals of the program and will continue to work towards those goals, fulfill the terms of the law, and insure that individual reservations are getting the type of programs they desire. The IAC and a few friends in Extension developed a program which could be one of the most successful programs in the Extension Service if the goals are reached and stumbling blocks are removed.