The international movement for healthy, sustainable food has taken hold in American Indian communities. But it isn’t just about tilling the soil and getting your hands dirty. It’s about reconnecting to the land and rediscovering growing practices in tune with the environment. It’s about revitalizing rich cultural traditions tied to seasonal growing and gathering practices. It’s about nutrition and health, reversing a tide of unhealthy eating resulting from the loss of land, nutritious foods and traditional lifeways.
In this video produced by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Mike Roberts, president of First Nations Development Institute, talks about the many opportunities for tribes to create local economies around agriculture and ways to reduce food expenses by creating community gardens and traditional food systems.
Before Columbus, the continent’s indigenous people were healthy and lived off the land around them. Tribal people’s relationship with the land, plants and animals yielded invaluable wisdom about how to marshal resources – in even the harshest environments – in order to sustain communities over generations.
Conquest, of course, changed that. Many tribal nations lost control of their homelands, losing touch with ancient wisdom in subsistence living. Fatty, salty government rations replaced healthy, traditional foods. The result for indigenous peoples was some of the world’s worst health outcomes.
Good food is essential to healthy, strong tribal nations. Having enough good food to eat – food security – is just one element of food sovereignty. That involves controlling and managing all of the factors that contribute to a sustainable food system: environmental assets, economic assets, cultural assets and more.
According to the Traditional Plants and Foods Program of Northwest Indian College, communities that exhibit tribal food sustainability and food sovereignty as those that:
- Have access to healthy food;
- Have foods that are culturally appropriate;
- Grow, gather, hunt and fish in ways that are maintainable over the long term;
- Distribute foods in ways so people get what they need to stay healthy;
- Adequately compensate the people who provide the food; and
- Utilize tribal treaty rights and uphold policies that ensure continued access to traditional foods.
Many tribal communities are regaining control of their food supply. They’re growing traditional foods, plants and medicines and collaborating with the federal government to retain rights for hunting and gathering. Eager for resources such as those contained within this website, leaders of this movement are sharing stories and gaining inspiration from each other.