Indigenous Information Sharing:
Sustainable Tribal Economics,
A guide to restoring Energy and Food Sovereignty in Native America.
By Saniz Catholique
“We are the keepers of this Earth.
Those are divinely mandated instructions to us.
We are at an incredible challenge at this point of our journey.
We have been blessed by being Indigenous.
What a blessing and what a responsibility.”
In this reflection, I will share information that I pulled from the Sustainable Tribal Economics Publication. I am concerned about the loss of our connection to Indigenous diet and food security. It is a topic that I will explore and share my findings. I have summarized the Parts of one to three in this blog.
In this reflection I will share and “explore food and energy issues in tribal communities, identify their linkages, and provide examples of tribal innovation. Also, I will outline options for tribal communities to create sustainable energy and food economies for this millennium and for the generations yet to come, by looking at the creation of local economies, and using the sources available to each Indigenous community”(p.2).
“Recovering and restoring local food and energy production requires a conscious transformation, and a set of technological and economic leaps for our communities. We must decide whether we want to determine our own future or lease it out for royalties. In the end, developing food and energy sovereignty is a means of determining our own destiny” (p.2).
“The industrial economy is not the only economy. In fact, the cash reliance of an industrial economy is a relatively new addition to Indigenous economic and trade system. Indeed, the fur trader, agency offices, annuity payments, trading posts and other cash based institutes that became so significant in our post-contact history were major elements in the unhealthy transformation of our economies from wealthy and self-reliant to poor and dependent” (p.3). Cash is not essential to an economy. “The structure of a dependent economy puts Indigenous communities at risk of constant destabilization and often at the mercy of outside forces” (p.3). “To become self-sustaining, we need to break the cycle of dependency. Our people suffer from a history of dependency resulting from the confiscation of our lands, the mass slaughter of the buffalo, the war on poverty, the theft and sale of our natural resources and other aspects of colonization. This created dependency only hinders our sustainability. In a world where tribes have been pushed to create cash-driven economies, there is anther more resilient way to live and it begins with valuing who we are and reclaiming our own definition of wealth. We believe that restoring a local economy rooted in our own knowledge as Indigenous peoples is essential to revitalize the health and sustainability of our communities” (p.3).
“Traditional food production keeps wealth in the community, while purchases from border towns in multinational food supply enterprises and chain grocery stores drain income and wealth from the tribal economy. The crisis situation facing tribal food economies is a major contributor to tribal poverty” (p.5). “However locally owned business, selling goods harvested and made locally, keeps our dollars local, supporting our communities economy” (p.5). “Re-localizing food and energy economies for our future generations. This requires a paradigm shift back to our traditional knowledge systems. We cannot erase the process of economic colonization and the deliberate creation of dependency. But we can join with others and take action to reclaim our future” (p.5).
“With global warming, many of our foods and medicines must adapt, seek cooler climate or face extinction” (p.7). “Unsustainable energy and industrial agriculture are the primary culprits behind climate change” (p.7). “The worst carbon offenders are electric power production and transportation” (p.9). “Indigenous coastal villages, once protected by coastal sea ice, are now in danger of being washed away by harsh storm surges” (p.11). “Human beings have used close to half the worlds known oil reserves in the last fifty years. We are approaching the “peak” of worldwide oil production and the depletion of conventional supplies” (p.13). “Major oil companies are moving into remote and primarily Indigenous areas to extract and secure new oil to offset declining production and increasing demands” (p.13).
“Studies of tribal food security indicate that just one hundred years ago, we produced nearly all of our own food locally. Tribal communities are now reliant upon the same food system and stores as the dominant population. Our food economies have become increasingly dependent upon the external, industrialized food economy. Industrial food is expensive, unhealthy and insecure” (p.19). “Industrial food is shipped and trucked tremendous distances. Food travels an average of 1,546 miles from the producer to the kitchen table” (p.19). “To keep food products from rotting in transit, manufacturers rely on petroleum based plastic packaging that also requires tremendous amounts of fossil fuels to make” (p.20).
“Industrial meat operations are also major greenhouse gas emitters. Live stock along accounts for 18% of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, eating a kilogram of beef from the grocery store produces more greenhouse and other pollution than, driving for three hours while leaving all the lights on at home” (p.20). “To make room for cattle, corporations in the Amazon Basin are clear cutting forests and uprooting Indigenous peoples. Seven football fields worth are cut each day. Approximately 55 square feet of forest are destroyed for every hamburger that comes from Central America” (p.20). “Most of our meat today comes from factory farms, also known as concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, where animals are kept confined in inhumane conditions while being pumped with antibiotics and hormones. Diseases like E.Coli, mad cow and swine flu spread quickly because of these factory farming practices” (p.21). “The industrial food system relies on petroleum-based pesticides and fertilizers, which have wreaked havoc on our air, soil and water” (p.21). “In contrast, it turns out that many of our traditional foods are drought and frost resistant. That’s because our traditional seeds and foods were produced in a pre-fossil fuel world. Our traditional foods do not need petro-chemical fertilizers or giant irrigation systems and don’t need to be transported across the country. Restoring traditional food is a means to restore our food security” (p.21).
“The lack of access to our traditional food had a devastating impact on the health of our community. We are paying astronomical bills through our indian health service and contract health to combat the high rates of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease we face as a result of the industrial food complex. The hefty cost of addressing these diet-related illnesses will not diminish unless we take action by restoring our traditional foods” (p.22). “The process of colonization not only deteriorated our bodies but also, our knowledge of food. Children that were forced into boarding schools were fed greasy, salty, sugary foods, none of which had been in the native diet before. Knowledge “about medicinal foods, agriculture techniques, seed preservation, and blessings that corresponded to planting, growing, and harvesting,” was deliberately suppressed. With parents forced away from growing traditional foods and children removed from their communities and life ways, native peoples were left with a future of food dependency and ill health.” (p.22)
“There is a better way and it begins with restoring our traditional foods. The recovery of the people is tied to the recovery of food, since food itself is medicine, not only for the body, but for the soul, and for the spiritual connection to history, ancestors and the land.” (p.22)
There are many challenges facing Indigenous peoples. Food security and economics is something I feel can be addressed and improved at a grassroots level. If people have access to the right information and history of the cause of food insecurity, I believe it will empower people to want to make a change, to better their lives and be more aware of the issues and be able to make more concise choices. Restoring traditional food knowledge is something that I would like to work towards in the future. I believe that it will not only improve the health and well being of Indigenous peoples but also, improve our people to once again be self-determined, self-reliant and sustainable.
Sustainable Tribal Economics, A guide to restoring energy and food sovereignty in native America. A publication of honour the earth. Minneapolis.