In a small office on the second floor of the former El Prado Post Office, Delane Atcitty is making great strides in helping indigenous tribes use their natural resources through the nonprofit Indian Nations Conservation Alliance (INCA).
âWhat we’re responsible for doing is organizing the farmers and ranchers to form a conservation district. That way, they can form their own list of natural resource priorities, âsaid Atcitty, executive director of the group for the past two years.
âFor some tribes, water rights are a big issue and they want to use an efficient irrigation system. Or some tribes, they want to turn to hoop houses to grow their own vegetables, which leads to food sovereignty and food security for sovereign tribal nations, âhe said.
CNIB works with the Jemez Pueblo and the Navajo Nation, as well as with tribes in Alaska, Montana, Oklahoma and elsewhere.
âSome tribes want to raise their tribal herds and they want bison to return to their traditional diet,â he said.
The Indian Nations Conservation Alliance was founded in 2002 in Twin Bridges, Mont., By Dick Gooby, state director of the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
After Gooby’s retirement, Atcitty took the helm and moved the CNIB headquarters to Taos. Operating as a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit, the alliance employs 18 workers, mostly Native Americans. âThat way they can identify with our customer base,â Atcitty said.
âRight now we’re working mostly on federal grants, to help them do outreach and maintain contact with the tribes. Most of our federal agencies have a fiduciary duty to work with tribes, as they often border tribal lands, âsaid Atcitty, who received an undergraduate degree in agribusiness from Oklahoma Panhandle State University and a diploma in agribusiness. graduate studies in ranching from Oklahoma Panhandle State University. Texas A&M University-King Ranch Institute.
The INCA acts as an intermediary between tribes and government agencies like the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, and the United States Department of Agriculture.
âWith the new agricultural laws, there are joint management opportunities for the tribes with these federal agencies – it is in their best interest to help the tribes follow their natural resource priorities,â he said.
One of the projects the alliance is working on is to create a coalition of indigenous grazing lands. âThis is one of the greatest assets of the tribes – the native rangelands. It consists of 55 million US acres. And it can also serve as a model for migration from Canada to Mexico, âAtcitty said.
The INCA is reaching out to a number of foundations to join them in this effort, including The Nature Conservancy.
Some tribes want to expand the production of cannabis and hemp, and come to Atcitty with technical questions. Other tribes are asking for help in marketing their products.
âBut I think our biggest business right now is helping tribal youth,â Atcitty said. âThere are high rates of suicide among tribal youth, and there are high rates of drug and alcohol addiction. We want to let young people know that there are jobs available for them who work there on their tribal lands, in natural resources.