Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission celebrates being awarded a First Nations Development Institute (FNDI) grant under the Native Agriculture and Food Systems Initiative (NAFSI) to fund its project Expanding the Columbia River Treaty Tribal Foods Systems Through Relevant Technical, Economic, and Social Media Opportunities.
The salmon marketing team at CRITFC is especially excited about the FNDI funding. “This grant will help solidify sustainable food systems that incorporate traditional tribal fishing practices,” said Salmon Marketing Director Buck Jones. “This will benefit tribal fishers while also increasing local communities’ access to healthy, traditional foods and strengthen the local food economy.”
One of CRITFC’s four organizational areas of focus is to provide services to tribal fishers exercising their treaty-reserved fishing rights. One way this is carried out is by helping fishers improve the commercial marketing of their salmon harvest.
The $32,000 grant from FNDI will primarily go toward assisting fishers expand their online presence and develop local market connections so Columbia River Indian-caught salmon goes straight from the river to the tables of their neighbors and customers in the Pacific Northwest.
“Using funds from this award, CRITFC marketing staff hopes to take advantage of and support the social media opportunities for tribal fishers to grow their businesses,” said Faron Scissons, CRITFC’s Community Health Specialist.
Online opportunities have shifted for tribal fishers as the Northwest sees the market starting to move away from larger retail sales of fish toward a more individual, customer-based market filled with shoppers seeking fresh food and salmon bought straight from the source.
“The old vendor-focused and retail-heavy market has begun to shift toward local shoppers investing in fresh food from a local and Indigenous source,” said Scissons.
The expanded marketing services for tribal fishers that this grant makes possible will include bringing in consultants to assist fishers in cultivating their online presence.
“We are working with a social media consultant who exclusively focuses on seafood and will assist fishers in expanding and strengthening their social media presence,” said Buck Jones, CRITFC’s Salmon Marketing Specialist.
In addition to working with consultants, other opportunities will be sought out by staff to further support fishers.
“The salmon marketing team will also be working with fishers who already have a social media presence by providing them with workshops and webinars to introduce tools and resources that take advantage of newer concepts of marketing like TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, and other similar platforms,” said Scissons. “We will also collaborate with the Intertribal Agricultural Council to help tribal fishers utilize the ‘American Indian Made’ trademark for products, which will help fishers market more expansively and increase the value of their sales.”
The trademarking will be done through the American Indian Foods program, which is available through the Intertribal Agriculture Council. The program offers a variety of services to assist Native American and Alaskan Native agribusiness owners and entrepreneurs seeking new markets or export expansion. The “American Indian Made” trademark certifies a product is 100 percent made or produced by a federally recognized tribal entity or individual. The marketing team hopes to get more of their fishers involved with this program.
“Tribal fishers have provided Columbia River salmon to those eager to enjoy this high quality and healthy food since time immemorial,” said Aja DeCoteau, CRITFC Executive Director. “Over the years, tribal fishers have needed to adapt as trading methods and markets have changed. This support from the First Nations Development Institute will continue this by helping fishers develop new skills and incorporate modern tools to bring their harvest to market and enable them to carry on their traditional way of life.”
Awarded funds were made possible through the support of the NoVo Foundation and Waverly Street Foundation. The grant period is for 10 months, beginning April 1, 2023, and ends February 1, 2024.
The Native Agriculture and Food Systems Initiative is a program of First Nations Development Institute that provides grants and technical assistance to Native American organizations working to improve access to healthy foods, increase agricultural production, and support traditional food systems. Since its inception, the program has awarded over $6 million in grants to Native American organizations across the United States.
For more information about First Nations Development Institute and the Native Agriculture and Food Systems Initiative, please visit www.firstnations.org.