Food is a universal connector. As a necessity, its presence or absence can determine a community’s survival, its quality can determine a community’s health, and its production can alter entire landscapes and species. The role of food in the colonization of Lakota territory is easily traced, whether looking at the strategic decimation of the bison or restrictions on the land so necessary for foraging. Now, as Lakota communities reclaim their sovereignty and work to strengthen ourselves, food is an essential component of that process.
Our Food Sovereignty Initiative spent much of this month learning from and sharing food system strategies with other indigenous people and communities. Early in the month The Sioux Chef, Sean Sherman, came to our gardens to harvest food for a dinner his team was cooking in Rapid City. Since Sean began his work focused on pre-contact foods, it has expanded from a brilliant idea into a multifaceted set of pathways to revitalizing indigenous foods all across the country.
While the majority of Sean’s work is based in Minneapolis, future plans include the development of regenerative systems that help boost economic activity, build the local workforce, and strengthen local food systems in indigenous communities through a newly launched non-profit organization, North American Traditional Indigenous Food Systems (NĀTIFS). That goal is something we can support since we hope to create a similar system here at Thunder Valley CDC through our Demonstration Farm. An Agricultural Training Center located on the farm will help train people in everything from raising poultry and selling fresh eggs to operating a geothermal greenhouse. Because our system is regenerative, it can sustain itself once it becomes fully operational, and it can also be replicated for use in other districts on our reservation.
To learn more about what other indigenous communities are doing, our Food Sovereingnty staff attended the 2nd Annual Conference on Native American Nutrition through Seeds of Native Health. The conference had over 500 participants, all of which work in food, nutrition, or health in their Native communities. In line with the theme of the conference, lunches were composed of traditional and healthy foods such as elk, rabbit, bison and others, each meal focusing on the food traditions of a different tribal nation. It was at this conference the team learned that regenerative food systems are not only better for the environment than mainstream agriculture, but they actually combat the effects of climate change.
Our focus on regeneration also afforded us the opportunity to be invited to the the Regeneration International General Assembly in San Miguel De Allende, Mexico. Regeneration International is a “501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to building a global network of farmers, scientists, businesses, activists, educators, journalists, governments and consumers who will promote and put into practice regenerative agriculture and land-use practices that: provide abundant, nutritious food; revive local economies; rebuild soil fertility and biodiversity; and restore climate stability by returning carbon to the soil, through the natural process of photosynthesis.” Through their global network, they are connected to 4.1 million consumers, farmers, activists, scientists and policymakers in over 100 countries. We are very honored to join this network and work with others to create a more sustainable world.