Yuhkíti nē: Our Land Stewardship Project (2024)

Our Organization

The Atakapa-Ishak Nation of Southwest Louisiana

What is the name of your solution?

Yuhkíti nē: Our Land Stewardship Project

Provide a one-line summary of your solution.

Yuhkíti nē: Our Land Stewardship Project is a land justice initiative supported by AI technology that amplifies Indigenous farming practices.

In what city, town, or region is your solution team headquartered?

Located on Atakapa-Ishak Territory in the Greater Lafayette, Louisiana area, the initiative will take place in partnership with Royal Queen Farms in Church Point, Louisiana.

In what country is your solution team headquartered?

  • United States

Film your elevator pitch.

What specific problem are you solving?

Maintaining food sovereignty among Indigenous communities in the Gulf South has become increasingly difficult due to a lack of land access, land loss, and climate change. According to a study by The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, between 2000 and 2010, 25% of American Indians and Alaska Natives consistently faced food insecurity, double the number of white Americans. This trend rose to 50% between 2010 and 2020, with this statistic still on the rise as modern agricultural systems combat the ever-changing landscape of climate change. The U.S. Department of The Interior Indian Affairs describes food sovereignty as the ability of communities to oversee the amount of food being produced while also being able to control the quality of production. Louisiana is losing coastal wetlands at an alarming rate due to climate change and coastal erosion, which deeply affects the Indigenous communities who live there and prevents them from overseeing and participating in how their food is produced as their ancestors did. The current agricultural farming methods we rely on have been proven to be extractive, exploitative, and not sustainable for our future. National Geographic notes that over 1.7 billion acres are used for agriculture but fail to incorporate sustainable food production models through technology, which fuels large-scale pollution and stress on the land. Among these factors, there is also a lack of food sovereignty education initiatives, causing a disconnect between Indigenous communities and their ancestral lands. I have seen firsthand the adverse effects this has had on my tribe, The Atakapa-Ishak Nation of Southwest Louisiana. Indigenous farming methods have been proven to combat these challenges, but much of our state’s land is no longer in the hands of the traditional stewards of the land. This motivated me to create a program that brings empowerment through food production and education to our tribe and the surrounding Indigenous communities of the Gulf Coast.

Yuhkíti nē: Our Land Stewardship Project seeks to address food and land sovereignty issues by implementing initiatives to preserve land while providing food solutions for the Indigenous communities of the Southwest Louisiana region. We strive to advance traditional agricultural farming methods supported by modern technology and AI. Our program will also provide education initiatives to propel Indigenous food and land sovereignty into the future while highlighting youth-tailored teaching initiatives. By creating food systems that align with nature, we empower local Indigenous communities to grow and produce food in a way that offsets greenhouse gas emissions by rejecting the traditional extractive agriculture farming system.

What is your solution?

Yuhkíti nē aims to implement regenerative farming practices supported by AI to preserve land and enhance agricultural sustainability. The project will unfold in three stages:

  1. Reconnecting to Ancestral Lands: Partnering with Royal Queen Farms, Yuhkíti nē will reconnect with the Atakapa-Ishak Nation's ancestral lands. This partnership will facilitate the integration of Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) into food production practices, empowering the tribe to positively influence their food-growing methods.

  2. Restructuring Farming Practices: Yuhkíti nē will transition to regenerative farming models supported by AgTech programs. This includes the integration of soil moisture measurement sensors, aeroponic technology, and various irrigation systems to optimize water usage, increase crop longevity, and enhance sustainability.

  3. Optimizing with AgTech: Leveraging AgTech tools like weather sensing technology, Yuhkíti nē will anticipate weather patterns to plan watering cycles effectively, aligning farming practices with the demands of nature. By combining ancestral knowledge with modern technology, the project aims to produce harvests sustainably and in harmony with traditional practices.By incorporating multiple data sensing programs like soil moisture measurement sensors by METER and SENSOTERRA, we will prevent excessive water usage in our farming methods. By utilizing aeroponic technology alongside traditional farming practices, we will increase the longevity of our harvest in all seasons and conditions while ensuring our food system’s sustainability, thus cutting back on energy and watering needs. We will also combat the overuse of water by using sprinkler, center-pivot, and drip irrigation systems. Finally, we will incorporate weather-sensing technology to anticipate rainfall and plan watering cycles that reflect the demands of nature.

Which Indigenous community(s) does your solution benefit? In what ways will your solution benefit this community?

As the Deputy Chief of our tribe, I am next in line to succeed the Principal Chief and I am always seeking new and innovative ways to meet the needs of my community. I was raised in our culture, and I have a deep connection to stewarding the land as my ancestors did. I’ve seen how not having land access to steward has taken a toll on our tribe by disconnecting us from sacred sites, resources, foodways, and Traditional Ecological Knowledge that mainly comes about by being on the land. Our tribe is not state or federally recognized at this time, which has further isolated us from landback government-supported initiatives.

Frank Pommersheim discusses the implications of removing Indigenous people from the land in his essay 'The Reservation As Place". He leaves us with the following quote: “Indian people often cannot conceive of life without land. They are a part of it, and it is a part of them; it is their Mother." 1999, p. 60. Our solution at Yuhkiti nē is supported by our tribal members, who have a range of farming and agricultural skills in partnership with Royal Queen Farms. This regenerative farm sits on the traditional territory and ancestral land of the tribe. We have a team of committed local Indigenous partners who will best address our needs during our implementation process. Yuhkiti nē seeks to show other Indigenous communities that farming practices supported by AI technology can significantly increase our sustainability and survival long into the future.

By creating a means to “return home,” our initiative establishes a path to healing and reconnecting while promoting emotional wellness through land support. Our goal is to restore our land to reflect a pre-colonial time before the commodification of natural resources and the pursuit of wealth impacted the environment.

How are you and your team well-positioned to deliver this solution?

Our team lead, Atakapa-Ishak Nation of Southwest Louisiana's Deputy Chief Maaliyah Papillion, is integral to our vision. She provides firsthand feedback on what one of the largest Gulf Coast tribes needs right now. Her guidance is invaluable to our program, and she addresses the needs within our community she has endured herself.

Our partner, Royal Queen Farms, will host our regenerative farming systems to ensure our goals are met by serving as a guiding sponsor and lending their farming knowledge throughout our process. They also guarantee us a location for our solution by granting us land access to deploy our solution. We are also partnering with Dr. Tavina Lynn, PhD, Owner of STEMing, a graduate of the University of California San Diego Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and MIT Department of Biological Engineering Intern to use S.T.E.M. based curriculum to progress various education initiatives with Yuhkiti nē. Her curriculum will drive positive outcomes for Indigenous learners of all ages through culturally grounded educational opportunities and promote culturally informed mental and physical health and wellness services for our community members. Additionally, the advancement of community-driven digital sovereignty initiatives in Indigenous communities, including the ethical use of AI, machine learning, and data technologies, will be present.

Which dimension of the Challenge does your solution most closely address?

Strengthen sustainable energy sovereignty and support climate resilience initiatives by and for Indigenous peoples.

Which of the UN Sustainable Development Goals does your solution address?

  • 3. Good Health and Well-Being
  • 4. Quality Education
  • 5. Gender Equality
  • 6. Clean Water and Sanitation
  • 10. Reduced Inequalities
  • 11. Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • 12. Responsible Consumption and Production
  • 13. Climate Action
  • 15. Life on Land
  • 16. Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions

What is your solution’s stage of development?


Why are you applying to Solve?

The Atakapa-Ishak Nation of Southwest Louisiana, despite our deep-rooted history in the region, lacks the state or federal recognition that provides essential protections and support. Consequently, we have been compelled to explore alternative avenues to fulfill our aspirations for self-sustainability, food sovereignty, and land stewardship. In applying to Solve, we aim to access vital in-kind and pro bono resources for our business and farming endeavors, as well as AgTech support to advance our agricultural initiatives. Additionally, we seek legal services to safeguard the success of our project, Yuhkíti nē. By participating in Solve, we hope to connect with fellow Indigenous innovators engaged in land preservation and restoration efforts worldwide. Furthermore, we are eager to establish an annual monitoring and evaluation framework to effectively measure our impact and enhance our practices over time.

In which of the following areas do you most need partners or support?

  • Business Model (e.g. product-market fit, strategy & development)
  • Financial (e.g. accounting practices, pitching to investors)
  • Legal or Regulatory Matters
  • Monitoring & Evaluation (e.g. collecting/using data, measuring impact)
  • Public Relations (e.g. branding/marketing strategy, social and global media)
  • Technology (e.g. software or hardware, web development/design)

Who is the Team Lead for your solution?

Maaliyah Papillion

Please indicate the tribal affiliation of your Team Lead.

Deputy Chief of the Atakapa-Ishak Nation of Southwest Louisiana

How is your Team Lead connected to the community or communities in which your project is based?

Our team lead is the Deputy Chief of the Atakapa-Ishak Nation. She is currently undergoing training to succeed the Principal Chief, making her the second woman to lead the tribe in its known history. She is constantly seeking out new and innovative ways to meet the needs of her community while a focus on connecting with and taking care of her ancestral lands.

Yuhkíti nē: Our Land Stewardship Project (2024)


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Pres. Carey Rath

Last Updated:

Views: 6181

Rating: 4 / 5 (61 voted)

Reviews: 92% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Pres. Carey Rath

Birthday: 1997-03-06

Address: 14955 Ledner Trail, East Rodrickfort, NE 85127-8369

Phone: +18682428114917

Job: National Technology Representative

Hobby: Sand art, Drama, Web surfing, Cycling, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Leather crafting, Creative writing

Introduction: My name is Pres. Carey Rath, I am a faithful, funny, vast, joyous, lively, brave, glamorous person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.