Hosting a marquee event like Super Bowl LII in February 2018 will be a wonderful way to showcase our community. There is, however, a deeper benefit — one very close to home — that makes the Super Bowl so much more than a game. It can bring us together more closely. It leads us to take stock of who we are and how we live and work together. It also makes us think about how we invest in Minnesotans.

That’s why the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC) is proud to partner with the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee Legacy Fund’s 52 Weeks of Giving campaign, combining our shared values of caring for and helping others (wookiye in the Dakota language). This effort supports projects that will directly benefit children and families in 52 communities across Minnesota, with a focus on our Native American young people.

The Super Bowl Legacy Fund is committed to improving the health and wellness of Minnesota’s children through community grants and programs. Native Americans face the worst health disparities of all other groups of Americans — including some of the highest levels of diabetes and obesity. More than 24 percent of Native American households live below the federal poverty line. Native American kids in particular are bearing the brunt of these alarming statistics — and we must act swiftly to change their course.

Closing these disparities begins with tackling the nutrition crisis and lack of access to healthy and natural foods in Indian Country. Through its Seeds of Native Health campaign, the SMSC is shining a light on the dietary health crisis faced by Native Americans. Through collaborations with a diverse group of partners over the past two years, Seeds of Native Health has become the single largest coordinated and multifaceted effort to improve Native American nutrition — through grant-making, capacity-building, sponsored research and new educational initiatives.

Since the 1990s, the SMSC has donated more than $350 million in total, including grants to schools, police departments and hospitals. The tribe is the largest philanthropic benefactor in Indian Country nationally, and it is one of the largest charitable givers in Minnesota. The SMSC believes deeply in using its resources for good — the same spirit that drives this groundbreaking partnership with the Super Bowl Legacy Fund.

Improving health disparities for Native American communities across Minnesota is precisely the kind of lasting impact we hope to deliver with the Legacy Fund’s 52 Weeks of Giving campaign. We are providing a new grant to a community organization in Minnesota each week — all of which will target ways to get kids moving and build healthy habits for life. In particular, we are investing in communities where health disparities are the greatest.

With funding from the SMSC’s Seeds of Native Health, the 52 Weeks of Giving campaign will help all 11 Native American communities in Minnesota take their nutritional destinies into their own hands and improve the overall health of their people. We recently provided a $50,000 grant to Dream of Wild Health, a 10-acre organic farm in Hugo that is working to restore health and well-being in the Native community.

Minnesota is a generous place — but we all know there is more to be done. From the 11 sovereign tribal nations to the increasingly diverse communities across our state, many of our fellow Minnesotans are still struggling — to stay healthy, to care for their families, and to live happy and productive lives.

The SMSC and the Super Bowl Legacy Fund are facing this challenge head-on and bringing the needs of Indian Country front and center. But the work doesn’t stop there, and we encourage others to join us in shaping a legacy of generosity for all Minnesotans that will continue well after the game is over.

 

Charles R. Vig is chairman of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community. Maureen Bausch is CEO of the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee.