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Rancher's Round-Up Featured at 2020 Mid-Winter Fair


February 12, 2020

As one of the 2020 Mid-Winter Fair events, the Montana State University Extension Office sponsored a program called Ranchers’ Round-Up on February 6-7. The program was held in Room 213 of the Returning Buffalo Building on the Aaniiih Nakoda College campus.

Beginning at 9:00 a.m., coffee and donuts were served. Following a welcome and introductions at 9:30, the Nakoda Aaniiih Credit Agency (NACA) not only provided Youth Finance Training but shared some details about Youth Akiptan Loans.

Stationed in Eagle Butte, South Dakota, Akiptan is a Native Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), a team of people who are helping to make a change in Indian Ag Finance. Akiptan has professionals from across the country comprising their Board of Directors.

Through the Akiptan Loan Program, Native Youth are able to obtain a loan or investment. This program allows for the younger generations to start growing their agriculture operations. Anyone who is 10 to 20 years old can apply for a Youth Loan of up to $5,000. These loans can be repaid over a maximum of seven years, with a five year investment period added if the producer so chooses.

Thursday morning’s session broke at noon for a lunch at the Bingo Hall, sponsored by the NACA.

In an afternoon session, which reconvened at 1:00 p.m., Stephanie Hester, the Invasive Species Outreach Coordinator for the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, presented her research on feral pigs. According to Hester, photos taken as recently as last year showed feral hogs only five miles north of the U.S./Canadian border. Consequently, Montana is in the process of developing a response plan. The plan will be modeled on a successful Washington state program called “Squeal on Pigs,” which encourages people to report wild pig sightings.

Among western states, the animals are cited as one of the top 25 threats to the environment. Hester’s research suggests that regardless of the measures taken, wild pigs will inevitably make their way into Montana.

“There are no fences or a wall to keep them out, so it’s only a matter of time before they wander south and begin their destructive assault on everything from wildlife to agricultural fields and even archaeological sites,” Hester claims.

According to a University of Saskatchewan study, wild pigs have increased their territory in Canada by 5,400 square miles a year, on average, during the past decade. Just in the Canadian Prairie Provinces, wild pigs range over 46,000 square miles.

The animal’s population increases so quickly because they are sexually mature at a young age and can have large litters of six piglets or more. On average, they weigh from 120 to 250 pounds, but larger hogs have tipped the scales at more than 400 pounds.

After Hester’s presentation, the NACA provided information in a workshop called Rancher Bookkeeping Made Easy. The final agenda item for the afternoon featured Skya Ducheneaux, who shared further information about Akiptan Ag Loans.

CDFI Manager, Ducheneaux is a 23-year-old young woman who spent her first 18 years of life on a ranch on the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Reservation in South Dakota. A 2017 graduate of Black Hills State University, where she received a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration, Ducheneaux is currently earning credits toward a Master’s in Business Administration from Capella University.

She has worked diligently to create the first national Native CDFI dedicated to Indian agriculture, which launched in 2018.

According to their website, Akiptan, (Ah-keep-tahn) is the Lakota word for together, in a joint effort, cooperatively. In that spirit, Akiptan strives to provide fair financing to Native Americans Agriculture Operations throughout Indian Country.

Friday, February 7, Day Two of the Rancher’s Round-Up, again began with a coffee, donuts, welcome and introductions ritual followed by a series of workshops on hemp. Farm Service Agency (FSA) Representative, Jennifer Perez Cole shared FSA Updates and USDA Hemp Policies.

That presentation was followed by a Fort Belknap Indian Community Hemp Update and an Island Mountain Development Group Hemp Update.

Sponsored by Fort Belknap Livestock Marketing Coop, lunch was again served in the Bingo Hall from noon until 1:00.

In an afternoon session, Emma Cole and Tracyee Sunchild led a presentation on the Intertribal Agriculture Council (IAC) Youth Group. Founded in 1987 to pursue and promote the conservation, development, and use of agricultural resources for the betterment of American Indian people, the IAC promotes the “Made/Produced by American Indians” trademark as a means to successfully and clearly identify actual American Indian products from federally recognized tribes.

Emma, who is fourteen years old and the daughter of Skip and Jennifer Perez Cole of Dodson, also shared details of her trip to Las Vegas, Nevada. The young Cole earned the trip after researching and writing an essay titled “The New Old Crop of Agriculture,” which describes Native Americans’ use of hemp. Cole’s essay finished in the Top Ten of all entries and earned her a trip to the Indian Agriculture Council’s (IAC) 2019 Annual Conference held at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas for three days in mid-December.

At this conference, the largest American Indian Food Growers conference in the country, Cole and other student leaders from across the country discussed and received education on such topics as natural resources, agriculture, indigenous food systems, tribal governance, and national policy.

The IAC Youth Group presentation was followed by a sharing session with Rob Kingaman and Derek Bell, two of the owners of Top Crop Farms, which is a limited liability corporation growing and processing hemp in Harlem, Montana. Using CBD oil, Top Crop Farms sells Montana-made products, such as salves, deodorants, lip balms, essential oils, lotions, topicals, and bug spray—products that their website claims are “effective, reliable, and safe for customer use.”

Their website also describes the company as working “in the midst of some fairly trying times in agriculture” to grow and process “a product that is old, yet new.”

The day’s agenda ended at approximately 3:00 p.m. Anyone seeking follow-up information about the Rancher’s Round-Up is encouraged to contact Liz Werk, Extension Agent at the Fort Belknap Reservation Extension Office, by calling (406) 353-3656 or 390-3080.


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