This first week, the theme is “Digging In.”
Today’s topic is Indigenous Food Ways: Suppression to Celebration and Sovereignty
In her book Sacred Instructions: Indigenous Wisdom for Living Spirit-Based Change, Penobscot lawyer, activist and teacher, Sherri Mitchell (Weh’na Ha’mu Kwasset) writes “One of the most important things we can do for ourselves, our children and the future of the planet is to decolonize our minds and ways of life.”
Awareness and honesty continues to grow about the extent to which mainstream food systems are at base an extension of colonialism. Mitchell defines colonization as “the act of appropriating or forcibly overtaking a place and exerting control over it.” American history centrally features the extermination of indigenous peoples, the theft of their lands and the repression of their traditions, including their food ways. A failure to at the very least recognize and publicly acknowledge these facts leads to a perpetuation of injustice and the dehumanizing impacts of the colonizer mindset. Mitchell writes that addressing colonization in the modern day means confronting “the lingering systems of control and the insidious patterns of thinking that colonization brings.”
Read this short (4 page) article from Food First : “Decolonize Your Diet: Notes Toward Decolonization”
- What reactions come up for you as you read the article? How do you relate to this idea of decolonizing the food system? To what extent does colonization, or the colonizer mindset, show up in your work, studies and other forms of participation in the food system? How do you relate to the notion of decolonizing your diet ? What questions come up for you?
- Are you aware of who inhabited the land in your community/state/region prior to the arrival of Europeans? Do you know what happened to the indigenous peoples and their practices? Do you know where are they now and what is happening to them? Do you know what fights for resistance and self-determination they are currently engaged in?
- Explore/find out: Who inhabited the land in your community prior to the arrival of Europeans? What happened to the indigenous peoples and their practices? Where are they now and what is happening to them? What fights for resistance are they currently engaged in? You might consult this on-line map, which should not be seen as a perfect representation of official or legal boundaries of Indigenous nations. To learn about definitive boundaries, contact the nations in question.
- Bring the questions above to your workplace, community, or place of worship.
- Find out what are appropriate actions to support indigenous self-determination by reaching out to nearby tribal offices or groups.
- Consider working towards land reparations and land returns to indigenous people. While there is no blueprint for how to do this, a good starting point is this very rich resource page from Resource Generation.
04 Digging Deeper, Time Permitting
- Check out this series of blog posts about indigenous foodways from Civil Eats
- Read this article and listen to this podcast from “The Table Underground” (featuring Mohegan Anthropologist and Food Solutions New England Network Leadership Institute alum Rachel Sayet)
- Explore these indigenous food sites:
Garden Warriors Good Seeds
Indigenous Food Revolutionary
Cooking Healthy in Indian Country [YouTube channel]
- Listen to this podcast episode of Flipping the Table with Denisa Livingston, Diné leader from New Mexico tribal lands, sharing a victory in taxing soda and junk food to help heal her people from Type II Diabetes.
- Watch “A Conversation with Native Americans on Race”