Building Collaboration Between State and Tribal Land-grant Institutions in the North Central Region


This project will build on prior efforts to enhance collaboration between the Tribal Colleges and state land grants across the North Central region. Previous projects include the Tribal Water Resources Summit, led by the College of the Menominee Nation with the Great Lakes Land Grant Institutions in 2010. The First Americans Land-Grant College Organization and Network (FALCON), recently surveyed its members, and found strong interest nationwide to work on water quality-related projects.

The only currently-funded project between a 1994 and 1862 land grants in the region is “Streambank BMP’s on Tribal Lands in Northeastern Kansas”, funded by the USDA Tribal Colleges Research Grant Program, involving Haskell Indian Nations University and Kansas State University. There are several other water quality projects supported by other agencies, in cooperation with tribal colleges, most notably:

  1. A National Science Foundation TCUP grant with Turtle Mountain Community College in North Dakota to document water quality parameters on Ox Creek and Belcourt Lake;
  2. A USDA-NIFA research project with the White Earth Tribal and Community College in Minnesota, in cooperation with the Agricultural Research Service lab, to conduct water quality monitoring and wild rice studies;
  3. An EPA-funded project with Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College in Minnesota, examining the use of dragonfly larvae as biosentinels for mercury contamination, with the University of Minnesota Duluth;
  4. The Department of the Interior Northeast Climate Science Center is working with the College ofthe Menominee Nation on water resource- related projects.

With 19 tribal colleges (1994 land grants) across the North Central Region, there are clearly more opportunities for collaboration. There are several factors, such as vastly different missions, and the lack of similar organizational structures across the institutions, which may create barriers to cooperation. Tribal colleges are primarily teaching institutions, granting Associates and Bachelor’s degrees. Extension programming, if there is any, is mostly focused on youth development, natural resources or agricultural land management. These are broad generalities, and there are several excellent exceptions across the region.


This project helped organize and support an “Extension Water Summit” which will lead to improved communication and collaboration amongst 1994 land grants (Tribal Colleges) and the 1862 land grants (state universities). Leading up to the water summit, communications was enhanced between these groups with the sharing of ideas via a listserv and conference calls, organized around compelling topics. Learning about other regional projects will be a key part of this activity. The outcome of this project will be at least two proposals submitted to USDA- NIFA and other sources, to initiate new collaborations, and enhance current work. Ideas that are already being discussed include:

1) Emergency preparedness for Tribal communities, including water supply security, flooding, drought, waste management, etc;

2) Watershed assessments, bioassessments, agriculture BMP’s, streambank stabilization;

3) Water quality monitoring and wild rice production

Charles Barden
Project Director, Kansas State University