UAF receives grant to advance Alaska Native food and energy sovereignty


A $1.9 million federal grant will support University of Alaska Fairbanks programs that focus on Indigenous food and energy system development and sustainability at the institution’s five rural campuses.

The UAF College of Rural and Community Development’s project, “Place-Based Solutions for Alaska Native Food and Energy Sovereignty,” is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The institute has a competitive grant program for institutions serving Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian students.

The project is driven by Indigenous values of responsibility, relationship, redistribution and reciprocity. The main goals of the project are to promote equal access to education in rural Alaska and provide sustainable food and energy solutions for Alaska Native communities.

The funding will support academic programs, including ethnobotany (Kuskokwim Campus), food security and sovereignty (Chukchi Campus), high-latitude range management (Northwest Campus), tribal governance and stewardship (Interior Alaska Campus) and sustainable energy (Bristol Bay Campus). 

The programs use place-based, culturally relevant and experiential learning models. The content of each program will emphasize the relationships between Alaska Native peoples and the natural world, Indigenous knowledge and Alaska Native languages.

“Northwest Campus looks forward to growing our high-latitude range management program and our partnership with the Sami Education Institute,” said Barbara QasuGlana Amarok, the campus director in Nome. “This grant will extend the accessibility of food sovereignty programs focused on Indigenous lifeways, wellness, decision-making power and management to students in our region and throughout the state.” 

The USDA grant is double the amount previously awarded to UAF, in part because of the continued success of its programs in uplifting Alaska Native community practices to enhance food and energy systems, security, and sovereignty through education. 

For example, sustainable energy students created a prize-winning new design for rural Alaska housing construction at the 2022 National Renewable Energy Laboratory Solar Decathlon. A group of four Bristol Bay Campus students placed third in the New Housing Division for their innovative and sustainable rural Alaska housing design, the first-ever UAF team to place in the competition.

The continued support of this grant will promote collaboration between UAF’s campuses to enhance local food sovereignty and energy sustainability initiatives while improving student recruitment and retention in food, agriculture and natural resource sciences.