Date: June 6, 2019
Interviewer: Sarah Ballew Headwater People
Interviewee: Neely Snyder (St. Croix Ojibwe), Executive Director, Dream of Wild Health
Quick stats about Dream of Wild Health:
As an answer requests from the Native community in the Twin Cities of Minnesota for re-connection with their traditions, foods and medicines, Dream of Wild Health was created in 1998 to recover and preserve the traditional Native American relationship between people and plants, especially traditional plants that offer spiritual and physical sustenance to our ancestors.
In addition to a 10-acre farm in Hugo, Minnesota Dream of Wild Health creates culturally-based opportunities for youth employment, entrepreneurship and leadership.
The farm has grown over 7 tons of produce that has been delivered to Native community members.
Dream of Wild Health increases access to indigenous foods through farm production, sales and distribution. And engages in community outreach and education around reclaiming cultural traditions, healthy indigenous foods, cooking skills and nutrition.
Our mission of Dream of Wild Health is to restore the health and wellbeing in the Native community by recovering knowledge of and access to healthy Indigenous foods, medicines and lifeways.
Dream of Wild Health is one of the oldest and longest operating Native American led and focused nonprofits in the Twin Cities.
Dream of Wild Health began as a program of Peta Wakan Tipi, a 501c3 nonprofit organization that was founded in 1986 to provide transitional housing and supportive services in a cultural context for homeless and chemically dependent Native Americans.
Dream of Wild health leads the Indigenous Food Network, a collaboration of partners in the Phillips neighborhood of Minneapolis to build up food sovereignty within the community, as well as economic growth.
They serve over 5,000 people of all generations each year.
Strengths, Keys to success:
Dream of Wild Health offers a significant array of youth and educational programs. Offering distinct programs serving children ages 8-12 (Cora’s Kids), 13-18 (Garden Warriors), and 18 and above (Youth Leaders). Children have the opportunity to learn culture, farming, gardening, seed cultivation, cooking, community outreach, agriculture economics, personal finances and leadership through Dream of Wild Health programs.
Children are getting interactive, immersive experiences with farmers, seed keepers, chefs, elders that support their learning and practicing of growing/foraging, preparing and bringing food to the community.
Garden Warriors and Youth Leaders learn about finances through a stipend. The Youth Leader program is being expanded to be year-round.
Dream of Wild Health’s networks of relationships that partner with staff to offer its very high-level programs. Partnering with local chefs like Brin Yazzie, the Seed Keepers Network and the Indigenous Foods Network has increased their capacity considerably in their programs and in influencing long-term systems change in the overall health of the Native community.
Reclaiming indigenous foods in the community in itself carries a lot of momentum and opens the doors to additional opportunities to expand.
Barriers and Challenges:
The staff is dedicated and passionate about the work, and, as a relatively small organization, capacity and resources are limited. Strengthening the organization’s infrastructure and increase support and compensation for staff is a current challenge.
Because of office space constraints, staff occupy separate spaces and the travel between the office in Minneapolis and the farm in Hugo are challenges as well.
The work is primarily funded through foundation grants. This year was the first year of securing a state grant.
Insights for others:
Foundations and partners need to visit the grantees. Understanding the programs and the barriers are important. Providing additional support, such as technical assistance to grow within, provide tools with communications and evaluations can help with longevity and support for nonprofits to sustain themselves in the future.
It’s important to support organizations that are working with their own community and know the strengths to build upon when working with challenges and limitations. These are the organizations that can help community members succeed in the future, they may just need support to leverage and enhance those effort.
Not every Native nonprofit is a good fit for funding from tribal casinos or tribes.