Our Food is Medicine: Cultivating Tribal Food Sovereignty
Many 1994 Land-grant Tribal Colleges and Universities are leading the wellness movement by enhancing contemporary and traditional initiatives to cultivate tribal food sovereignty—the right of people to shape and control their own food systems. The 1994s seek to educate communities on public policy, local food systems (past and present), and traditional plants and animals that are used for food, medicine, and ceremonial purposes. Research confirms the nutritional value of culturally important plant foods, such as buffalo berries, stinging nettles, and chokecherry. Native foods may be healing tools, especially when paired with physical activity, to combat obesity and diabetes in tribal communities. Local food production projects include traditional gathering and hunting, as well as farmers’ markets, community gardens, and a research-demonstration garden.
At the Folklife Festival, community educators from the United Tribes Technical College and Northwest Indian College demonstrated current initiatives that represent the broader scope of food sovereignty taking place at tribal colleges across the country. Visitors explored live plant displays, touched the hide and bone tools in the “buffalo box,” saw demonstrations of traditional food storage container making (baskets and hides), and listened to Native American music. They also learned about the “Three Sisters” story (corn, beans, and squash), drying vegetables and fruits, and substituting modern food ingredients in traditional recipes.