IAC-INFAS Tribal Fellowship Program

In the 2020-21 academic year, Intertribal Agriculture Council (IAC) and INFAS have collaborated to pilot the first Native American graduate student fellowship program in Tribal food systems.  In the summer of 2020, IAC selected 11 graduate fellows to complete their proposed food sovereignty projects over the course of the year.

INFAS matched 18 faculty mentors with the fellows. The entire cohort is engaging in monthly shared readings and discussions. The fellows also receive a stipend, direct support from two mentors, and engagement opportunities with IAC. They will each publicly share their work at the end of the year.

The fellows, mentors, and our generous sponsors are listed below. For more information, please contact Kier Johnson at IAC or Melvin Arthur at INFAS. We hope to raise funding to make this program permanent; to get involved with that, please contact Christine Porter.

Current Fellows Volunteer Mentors Fellowship Sponsors

Current Fellows


Melinda Maria AdamsMelinda Maria Adams, 2nd year PhD student in Native American Studies at the University of California, Davis. Dago Te’, Shi Melinda Adams yinishye’, Hello my name is Melinda Adams. I am from the San Carlos Apache Tribe of Arizona and grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I am currently a PhD student in the Department of Native American Studies and I also work on research with the Environmental Policy and Management Department at The University of California, Davis. I have earned degrees in Environmental Science from Haskell Indian Nations University (Bachelor of Science), one of the thirty-seven Tribal Colleges located through the United States, and also from Purdue University (Master of Science), as the first Tribal College student to be admitted into the Sloan Indigenous Graduate Program for STEM students at Purdue.My research for the 2020 IAC-INFAS fellowship will include working with the Patwin Tribe (Southern Wintun) of California and their revitalization of cultural burns- which are prescribed burns conducted using Traditional Ecological Knowledge. Here, I will capture the powerful lessons shared by our cultural practitioners, traditional gathers and Tribal members through burn demonstrations. For millennia, our ancestors stewarded the land with fire to tend and care for our culturally significant plants traditionally harvested for food, fiber and medicines. Mentors: Dr. Beth Rose Middleton and Dr. Tiffany Beckman.


Eva BurkEva Burk, 2nd year MS student in Natural Resources Management at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Eva Dawn Burk grew up practicing her Athabascan traditions of harvesting fish, moose, waterfowl, berries and trapping with her family. Eva earned a B.S. from the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) in Civil Engineering (2007). Currently, she is at UAF working on a Master of Science in Natural Resources Management with a focus on Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development. Her interests include Indigenous food sovereignty, security and health justice; traditional song and dance; language revitalization; and healing through food and culture. Her research project uses digital storytelling and community outreach to increase awareness of potential impacts to Indigenous food sovereignty and possible adaptations to build community capacity and foster resiliency. She is dedicated to maintaining traditional lifestyles and opening educational farms on ancestral lands. She has spent the last few years volunteering and working for her villages as a Wellness and Culture Camp Leader, Fisherwoman, Cook and Laborer. Mentors: Dr. Stephany Parker and Linda Black Elk. 


Clifton CottrellClifton Cottrell, 2nd year PhD student in the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland. Clifton is an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation and doctoral candidate studying indigenous climate resilience at the University of Maryland's School of Public Policy. He is a UMD Global Stewards Fellow analyzing the food-energy-water nexus and researches how a tribe's recognition status impacts governance, climate adaptation, and food security. Clifton has a BA in History and Political Science from the University of the Ozarks, an MPAff from the Lyndon B. Johnson School at the University of Texas-Austin, and a JD from Baylor University. He resides in Pennsylvania with his wife and daughters. In his free time, Clifton is a contributing writer on energy and natural resource economics for Native Business Magazine and avid trail runner. Mentors: Linda Black Elk and Dr. Colby Duren.


Cristal FrancoCristal Franco, 3rd year MS student in American Indian Studies/Nonprofit Leadership and Management at Arizona State University. Cristal Franco (Yaqui/Chiricahua Apache/Mexican) is earning her master's degree at Arizona State University (ASU) in American Indian Studies and has earned a graduate certificate in Nonprofit Leadership and Management.  She was born and raised in rural Southern California and began learning how to farm and wild harvest in the Mojave Desert from her parents.  She has participated in multiple capacities within the food system - farmer, seed banker, cook, educator, researcher - both on and off reservations.  Currently, she works at the Ajo Center for Sustainable Agriculture, located in the borderlands of the Southwest, assisting in the COVID-19 food relief and food pantry programming.  At ASU, she studies how American Indian food systems development relates to the social economy, which includes alternative business development such as cooperatives, nonprofits, B-corps, and benefit corporations.  An Indigenous framework shifts the social economy to a greater focus on relationship-building, community responsibility, and community planning. Mentors: Dr. Elizabeth Hoover and Dr. Christine Porter.


Joseph Gazing WolfJoseph Gazing Wolf, 1st year PhD student in Environmental Life Science at the University of North Carolina. Joseph Gazing Wolf (Lakota/Amazigh) is a PhD student in Environmental Life Science at Arizona State University. His research interests germinate from his experiences as a tribal shepherd in the Nile valley and as a buffalo range rider in the Northern plains. An emerging theme of his research is the restoration of biocultural diversity through the fusion of applied indigenous science, traditional ecological knowledge, and the revitalization of Native arts and culture. In this vein, he hopes to elucidate the cultural/social, economic, governmental, and ecological variables that contribute to social-ecological resilience and sustainable livelihoods for tribal communities, with a particular focus on the unique strengths, contributions, and struggles of tribal women. He is currently exploring Tatanka (buffalo) as a model organism for biocultural restoration and social-ecological resilience in Native American communities. He is also developing the same approach amid indigenous communities in west Africa and Latin America with locusts as the model organism. Mentors: Dr. Trudy Ecoffey and Dr. Diana Doan-Crider.


Leslie HutchinsLeslie Hutchins, 2nd year PhD Student in Environmental Science, Policy and Management at the University of California, Berkeley. Aloha! My name is Leslie Hutchins. I am a second year PhD student in the Environmental Science, Policy and Management Department at UC Berkeley. My research seeks to understand dimensions of various food movements in Hawai’i, my island home. In particular, I want to disentangle farmer values rooted in food sovereignty and security narratives. My primary research questions include: How does a farmer’s background (Hawaiian or non-Hawaiian) influence the narrative (sovereignty or security) and farming practices they use? Does their narrative type impact where they choose to distribute their food (e.g., farmers market vs. restaurant)? Which communities or groups of people benefit most from each narrative? I will interview Hawaiian and non-Hawaiian farmers on the island of O’ahu to address these questions. Mentors: Dr. Noa Lincoln and Dr. Elizabeth Hoover.


Tara MaudrieTara Maudrie, 2nd year MS student in International Health at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Tara Maudrie of the Sault Ste Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians is currently pursuing her Master of Science in Public Health in Human Nutrition at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Tara is leading a mixed methods research study to understand the prevalence and impact of food insecurity in the Baltimore Native community. She hopes that this work will lead to a better understanding of how urban AI/AN access food, as well as how cultural food security effects the Baltimore Native community. She is passionate about Indigenous and qualitative research methodologies, food sovereignty and urban Native health. Her long-term goal is to advocate for change in Indian Health policy to create an urban Native food distribution program to promote more equitable access to traditional foods. After completing her master’s degree she hopes to enter a PhD program and continue to serve Native peoples through strengths-based participatory research. Mentors: Dr. Valarie Blue Bird Jernigan and Dr. Rich Pirog.


Alishia OrloffAlishia Orloff, 2nd year MS student in the School of Forestry and Environmental Science at Yale University. Alishia Orloff is a graduate researcher currently obtaining her Master's in Environmental Science at Yale University. Alishia Orloff is a graduate researcher currently obtaining her Master's in Environmental Science at Yale University. She has a strong interest in the biocultural implications of traditional land management and indigenous science. She is currently conducting ecological research with regards to agroecological restoration of kalo on the He’eia wetlands in Hawai’i. This project aims to understand the use of traditional management in maintaining structural and diverse habitat for a variety of ecosystem services. This work promotes conservation efforts for endangered aquatic plants and migratory birds as well as the human dimensions of traditional knowledge of taro cultivation. Alishia utilizes community-based approaches to scientific methodology that engage and acknowledge communities most directly impacted. Her research prioritizes the reaffirmation and integration of traditional ways of knowing as a lens for holistic understandings of our complex ecosystems. Advocating for the necessity of contextualized science, Alishia aims to reframe dominant narratives of scientific epistemologies to address systemic injustices as they pertain to food sovereignty. Mentors: Dr. Kristine P. Ruppel and Dr. Angel Cruz.


Arielle QuintanaArielle Quintana1st year MS Student in Human Dimensions of Natural Resources at Colorado State University, Ft. Collins. My name is Arielle Quintana and I am a proud tribal member from Cochiti Pueblo in New Mexico. I am a first-year master’s student in the Human Dimensions of Natural Resources program at Colorado State University. My career is centered on supporting tribes in their management of natural and cultural resources within reservation and ancestral lands, for the betterment of tribal food sovereignty. My research is grounded in the belief that Indigenous communities need to have more access and ownership of ancestral lands in order to achieve a future of food sovereignty. I am interested in understanding the applications of co-stewardship between Indigenous communities and public land agencies as a means to improve Indigenous access and ownership of ancestral lands, reintroduce Indigenous land stewardship practices and demonstrate the benefits of such practices for all stakeholders, and reclaim tribal food sovereignty and traditional roles of women and families in food systems. Mentors: Dr. Tiffany Beckman and Dr. Valarie Blue Bird Jernigan.


Marie RichardsMarie Richards, 3rd year PhD Student in Social Sciences at Michigan Technological University. Marie R. Richards is an enrolled citizen of Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians and currently a PhD student in Industrial Heritage and Archaeology (Social Sciences Department) at Michigan Technological University. Ms. Richards’ research focuses on changes to Anishinaabek cultural landscapes and food sovereignty as a result of industrialism in the Great Lakes. Interest in subsistence practices and traditional cultural landscapes began while working on a BA in Anthropology at the University of Iowa and sharing stories of wild blueberry picking and duck hunting. Currently, Ms. Richards is the Repatriation and Historical Preservation Specialist in the Language and Culture Department for Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians. Mentors: Michelle Miller and Dr. Gary Nabhan.


Alexii SigonaAlexii Sigona, 1st year PhD Student in Environmental Science, Policy, and Management at the University of California, Berkeley. Alexii is a member of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band and currently a second year Ph.D. student in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management at the University of California, Berkeley. His research interests include Indigenous stewardship and access rights, political ecology, and tribal governance, particularly for non-federally recognized tribes. For the past three summers, he has served as a Native Land Steward for the Amah Mutsun Land Trust, where he works on land restoration projects in coastal central California. In the future, Alexii hopes to increase avenues for Indigenous communities to be the leaders in environmental decision making affecting their respective homelands. Alexii is a Ford Predoctoral Fellow and UC Berkeley Chancellor’s fellow. He serves as Board secretary of Roots & Routes IC and is on the Advisory Board for Green Foothills. In his free time, he enjoys hiking, camping, and fishing. Mentors: Dr. Thomas Tomich and Electa Hare-RedCorn.

Volunteer Mentors

  • Dr. Tiffany Beckman, Assistant Professor of Medicine, University of Minnesota
  • Linda Black Elk, Hunkpapa Lakota Ethnobotanist
  • Dr. Valarie Blue Bird Jernigan, Professor of Rural Health, Oklahome Statue University; Executive Director of the Center for Indigenous Health Research and Policy
  • Dr. Angel Cruz, Academic and Extension Initiatives Manager, Center for Environmental Farming Systems, North Carolina State University
  • Dr. Diana Doan-Crider, Animo Partnership in Natural Resources, LLC; Adjunct Professor, Department of Ecosystem Science & Management, Texas A&M University  
  • Dr. Colby Duren, Director, Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative, University of Arkansas
  • Dr. Trudy Ecoffey, Executive Director, Tanka Fund.
  • Electa Hare-Redcorn, Pawnee Seed Preservation Project
  • Dr. Elizabeth Hoover, Associate Professor, Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management, University of California Berkeley 
  • Dr. Noa Lincoln, Associate Researcher, Indigenous Cropping Systems Laboratory, University of Hawai'i at Mānoa
  • Dr. Beth Rose Middleton, Professor and Department Chair, Department of Native American Studies, University of California Davis
  • Michelle Miller, Associate Director, Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems, University of Wisconsin Madison
  • Dr. Gary Nabhan, Author and Ethnobotanist 
  • Dr. Stephany Parker, Oklahoma Tribal Engagement Partners
  • Dr. Rich Pirog, Director of the Center for Regional Food Systems, Michigan State University
  • Dr. Christine Porter, Wyoming Excellence Chair in Community & Public Health, Associate Professor, University of Wyoming
  • Dr. Kristin P. Ruppel, Associate Professor, Department of Native American Studies, Montana State University
  • Dr. Thomas Tomich, Professor, Director of Agricultural Sustainability Institute, University of California Davis