Monthly Archives: May 2014

Oglala Sioux – Pine Ridge, South Dakota

“I WANT TO SATURATE PINE RIDGE WITH HEALTHY VEGETABLES,” says Steve Hernandez, Oglala Sioux Tribe gardening instructor. “The interest in gardening here is huge, and education is key. Through classes in everything from soil preparation to preserving the harvest, we ensure that our people are increasingly able to do this for themselves.”


For Oglalas, eating fresh, organic produce will mean better health. It’s a declaration of sovereignty, according to Hernandez, a tribal member and a former educator for South Dakota State University’s extension service. And it’s starkly practical as well, he says: “Most of our food is trucked in. If there’s bad weather—common on the Plains—it doesn’t get through.”

Hernandez facilitates collaboration among a huge network of groups and individuals who spent the month of May tilling, planting and laying out drip irrigation lines throughout the reservation. These include Pine Ridge schools from pre-K through college; a youth emergency shelter in Pine Ridge village; Lakota Funds, in Kyle, which provides loans and grants; and Kyle’s youth center, Oyate Teca, where kids participate in gardening and other wholesome activities. The center also hosts the Lakota Ranch Beginning Farmer/ Rancher Program, with courses for adults in horticulture and animal husbandry.Oglala4

In an ordinary growing season on the Northern Plains, indeed during an ordinary week, a gardener may face drought, grasshoppers, tornadoes, thunderstorms, hail, ceramic-hard soil and raccoons and other four-legged raiders. Then there’s the heat, which is worsening as the planet heats up. “Between June and August last year, there were only five days below 95 degrees,” recalled Cook. “I have watched the climate change.”

Cook, who is married to tribal member Loretta Afraid of Bear, has been helping Pine Ridge tackle these challenges since 1985. With support from Running Strong for Native American Youth, Plenty International and other funders, Slim Buttes’s 18-plus workers till more than 400 Pine Ridge household plots annually. These provide nearly 2,500 people with fresh fruits and vegetables—a little more than 6 percent of the reservation’s population.

The group hands out some 20,000 seedlings from its greenhouse, along with grocery sacks of seeds for peas, beans, peppers, tomatoes, lettuce, squash and more. Also included are plants, such as the medicinal herb Echinacea, that have prominent blossoms and help attract pollinators.

At Slim Buttes, gardeners amend the soil with needed nutrients, as they might anywhere, says Yellow Hair. But they also pray: “Prayer is a little-understood energy source. Every day, everything we do coalesces the forces of the universe into our soil.”Oglala3

“Gardens provide liveliness, fun and beauty, in addition to fruits and vegetables,” says Schoch, of Old West Gypsy Market: “Gardens are gathering places. They make the community a nice place.”

Condensed from an article by Stephanie Woodard

Read more at http:// indiancountrytodaymedianetwork. com/2013/06/24/dig-it-northern-plains- gardeners-grow-food-health-and- sovereignty-150076

From Food for Thought, Issue 11. Published November 2013.

Sierra Seed Cooperative


Our Mission: Sierra Seed Cooperative is building a rare and diverse seed collection, educating members about the practices of seed-saving, and growing a committed community of caring farmers and seed stewards.

Our mission is to create an accessible and affordable source of regionally adapted seeds, and a local seed bank. This will promote sustainable and ecological seed production in Nevada County and in our bio-region. Regionally adapted seeds are at the foundation of any truly sustainable local agriculture. Our goal is to preserve genetic diversity, empowering our local farmers and gardeners to take back the power of the seed stewardship. We need to work with our plants and seeds to create a new revolution and evolution of local foods, which better fit our lands, our growing methods, and our tastes and imaginations. We aim to save and select for seed varieties that are continuing to adapt to our unique growing conditions in the Sierra Foothills.

We sell only public domain, open-pollinated (OP) seed. None of our seeds are proprietary hybrids (F1), patented (PVP) or genetically modified (GMO) and all of our seed is grown without the use of chemical fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides.


We are seeding the local revolution. While our focus is on varieties that do well in our bioregion, we hope to make these varieties available to others who grow in similar climates in other places. Locally adapted varieties are the foundation of the durable and resilient local food system that we are helping to create.

Why is Local Seed Important? Seed is a precious common heritage and is an essential component to the future sustainability our food. There is an urgent need to protect seed sovereignty; the corporations who dominate the seed industry are not working for the common people. It is the right of the public to own and develop our seed supply, especially if we are to ensure food security in a way that is congruent to our values of a healthy ecosystem and a just society.

Learn more at:


From Food for Thought, Issue 6. Published May 2013

The Northwest Indian Treatment Center


The Northwest Indian Treatment Center runs a 45-day inpatient treatment program in Elma, WA. The Squaxin Island Tribe created the program to address an unmet need for culturally based drug and alcohol treatment centers for Indian people who grew up on reservations. The program specializes in treating people with chronic relapse patterns related to unresolved grief and trauma, including historic trauma from colonization.

The treatment center weaves culture into the fabric of the program. According to the director, June O’Brien (Nansemond), patients must be able to see themselves in their recovery, and when patients’ traditions are honored in the healing process, re-traumatization is less likely to occur. “Their culture is their medicine,” she says. “Native plants, singing, drumming, a sweat lodge, beading, and support from local Native spiritual communities are part of the program. These act like pillars to hold patients up during their recovery.”

In 2005, the treatment center created the Native Foods Nutrition Project to increase patients’ access to and knowledge of high-quality foods, including fruits, vegetables, and Native foods such as berries, wild greens, seafood, and game. Weekly hands-on classes teach patients how to grow, harvest, process, and prepare these foods. Twice a month, tribal elders, storytellers, and cultural specialists speak as pan of the program. On Sundays, families can visit patents, and the treatment center also offers monthly classes to patients and their family members. This helps families see what patients are learning and teaches activities that families can do together at home.

The partnership also benefits patients who want to enter college or find jobs working with traditional foods and medicines. Upon graduation from the treatment center, patients receive a Traditional Foods and Medicines Certificate with 2.7 continuing education unit credits.

For full text, visit: Sovereignty%20Elise%20Krohn.pdf

From Food for Thought, Issue 7. Published June 2013.

The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC)


Mazopiya is a community-oriented natural food market that focuses on clean organic foods and carries local products whenever possible, including produce from the SMSCʼs organic garden Mdewakanton Wozupi.


Mazopiya opened in the fall of 2010. In the Dakota language, “Mazopiya” means “a store, a place where things are put away and kept.”

Mazopiya consists of a produce department, grocery department, grass fed meats, dairy, cheeses, pet foods, frozen foods, bulk foods and products, health/wellness/personal care department, soup and salad bar, and much more. The store also offers a Community Room for classes and demonstrations.

Mazopiya emphasizes seasonal eating by presenting customers with locally grown, in season produce. Locally sourced and produced buffalo, honey, maple syrup, wild rice, and other items are available. Customers are encouraged to live clean and green.

Values important to Mazopiya include offering sustainable, local, organic, foods whenever possible, along with offering fair trade foods, those which pay a living wage and promote sustainability in developing countries.


Geothermal System

Geothermal heating system for temperature control captures heat and cooling from the ground. Wells were drilled down 180 feet to utilize the temperature of the earth, which maintains a constant 52 degrees Fahrenheit, to help heat and cool the building. The parking lot was designed with a minimum number of parking spaces to reduce impervious surfaces. Drought tolerant landscaping was used so no irrigation is needed.

The building also runs on alternative energy purchased from the utility company.

If you’re excited to learn more, visit and html

From Food for Thought, Issue 12. Published in December 2013.

Lake Superior Whitefish: Carrying on a Family Tradition

Lake_Superior_WhitefishPat & Chris Peterson, Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa

Avid fishermen for subsistence prior to European settlement, the Lake Superior Chippewa quickly found Gichigami’s (Ojibwe word for Lake Superior) fish to be a valued trade item once explorers penetrated to this inland sea. Tribal fishermen traded fish harvested from birch bark canoes, using gill nets made form twisted and knotted strips of willow bark.

As more and more settler pushed into the Lake Superior region, non-Indian commercial fishing began to take hold with the use of large boats and massive nets. In 1984, the treaty tribes formed the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission (GLIFWC), an agency of elven Ojibwe tribes in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan, to jointly manage the Lake Superior tribal commercial fishery as well as off-reservation inland hunting, fishing and gather activities in the ceded territories.

Tribal commercial fishermen in Lake Superior primarily target whitefish, but also fish for lake trout, siscowet, herring, and salmon. Tribal commercial fishing is regulated through tribal codes as well as through negotiated agreements with the state of Wisconsin for the Wisconsin waters of Lake Superior.

The family owned and managed Peterson’s Fish Market is one of several fish businesses run by tribal families. They are an inter-generational family business. Gilmore Peterson, a Red Cliff tribal member and a fourth generation commercial fisherman, learned the trade from his father Wilfred, who in turn learned from his father. Today, Gilmore and his wife Pat run the business while their three sons, Chris, Joel and Matt, ply the waters and the rest of their family members work at the Peterson’s Fish Market in Hancock, Michigan and the adjacent Four Suns cafe.


For the full story, visit

The Ways is an ongoing series of stories from Native communities around the central Great Lakes. The Ways is a production of Wisconsin Media Lab.

From Food for Thought, Issue 9. Published August 2013.

Doi Dicutta Community Project

Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Tribe - Pyramid Lake, Nevada


The Doi Dicutta Community Project is a permaculture sustainability and sovereignty project. Members of the Fallon Paiute-Shoshone tribe are laying the groundwork for upcoming projects including: rain gardens and swales, grey water reuse, native medicine gardens, native berry and perennial gardens, annual community gardens, local food cooking classes, cob benches, and community space building.


The design team is beginning to design plans for the permaculture-designed swales and rain gardens in the subdivision on Doi Dicutta Street. The design team consists of Carmen Gonzales, Environmental Protection Specialist from the Tribe, and volunteer designers Neil Bertrando, Permaculture Designer, and Oren Peters, Draftsman. Included are water-catchment features that will be built over the course of the next year to capture rainwater that floods the roads and infiltrate it back into the ground. The project will also focus on building elements of the community that can be an example of sustainable living. Some of the ideas include orchards and berry gardens, community laundry with grey-water reuse, bicycle exchange, community tool shed, vegetable and medicine gardens, outdoor cob ovens, art sculpture areas, and community gathering space.



Permaculture is a design science that builds systems that work together in beneficial relationships. The systems that permaculture-thinking creates help to heal the earth while creating other benefits such as greater yield, stronger community, and healthy people. Permaculture is rooted in the ethics of caring for the earth, caring for people, and sharing the abundance created so that we can continue caring for the earth and each other.

To learn more, search “Doi Dicutta” on facebook.

Or, contact Carmen Gonzales at 423-0590

Text from the Doi Dicutta Community Project’s facebook page.

From Food for Thought, Issue 8. Published July 2013.

Special Report: Reportback from the 2014 Food Sovereignty Summit

By Joseph Miller, Big Pine Paiute Garden Manager

Oneida Nation • Green Bay, WI

Food-Summit-Logo Attending the Food Sovereignty Summit 2014 at Oneida Nation in Green Bay this April was a truly unique experience from start to finish. The Oneidas are hospitable hosts and have made much effort to preserve many facets of their cultural heritage. In a region surrounded by corporate influence they still practice traditional ceremonies, song, dance, language and grow, process and consume a respectable portion of their indigenous native food. Tsyunhehkwa pronounced joon-hey-qwa would be a term we would become familiar with over the period of our stay with the Oneidas. Loosely translates it means life sustenance and is the name of Oneida Nations culturally and community based agriculture program. Nightly we were treated to traditional foods such as bison, venison, lake trout, wild rice, corn mush, wojapi, corn soup and fresh vegetables. They were prepared by four accomplished native chefs Franco Lee, Wolf Thorstenson, Sean Sherman and Arlie Doxtator.

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On The first morning of the Summit we were treated to a traditional tobacco burning ceremony and prayer by our hosts. Next we where given a welcome reception with song and flying of colors by local native armed forces veteran color guard and a quick introduction to Tribal Council and the Clan Mothers of the three Oneida clans Wolf Clan, Bear Clan and Turtle Clan.


A keynote introduction speech to get us geared up was given by TED Talks speaker Winona LaDuke, Anishinaabekwe (Ojibwe) environmental activist and founder of Honor the Earth. An organization whose mission is to create awareness and support for Native environmental issues and to develop needed financial and political resources for the survival of sustainable Native communities. Our keynote speaker opened by talking about the destructive blizzard of 2013/2014 and the devastating loss of livestock in the north as a result and she shared her personal experience of seeing the dead animals personally as she rode horse back on a long distant ride in the North Country. She spoke about hydraulic fracturing or fraking as its called and the need to put an end to it on native inhabited lands. She encouraged protest of the development and expansion of the Enbridge Clipper pipeline and the Enbridge Sandpiper pipeline. Pipelines carrying oil across native inhabited lands to be delivered to tanker ships in the Great Lakes.Moving into the context of the conference she spoke about native food systems and traditional foods, stressing the importance of home gardening and the benefit of a healthy dietary lifestyle. The entire time putting emphasis on the phrase, “How sovereign are we if we cannot feed ourselves?” It was a truly moving keynote speech.

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The second morning Michael Roberts the President of First Nations Development Institute, the organization responsible for funding the development of the BPPT permaculture project spoke, on the importance of developing these sovereign and sustainable food projects. They are genuinely the financial backbone for many small tribes being able to accomplish the development of such projects.

Next we were treated to a short speech from another TED Talks speaker Valerie Segrest, a member of the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, she serves her community as the coordinator of the Muckleshoot Food Sovereignty Project and also works for the Northwest Indian College’s Traditional Plants Program as a nutrition educator. She spoke to us about how the ndian tribes around the Puget Sound have practiced sustainability with its foods for thousands of years, but now the prairie lands and meadows are in decline and salmon runs are waning. She also emphasized on the importance of edible landscapes, home gardening and healthy dietary lifestyle as a beneficial attribute to the vitality of indigenous people.

On the third morning we were given a presentation on the Three Sisters Philosophy. The Oneidas are traditionally farmers. At the core of the sustainability model is what is known as the Three Sisters: corn, beans and squash. A gift given to them by the Creator to replenish their bodies with Tsyunhehkwa or life sustenance, the relationship between these plants is symbiotic. The corn provides a stalk for the beans to climb upon. The beans replenish the nitrogen for the health of the corn. The squash plants large leaves cover the ground beneath minimizing weed growth and increasing water retention. These foods also compliment each other in nutrition values. The corn provides carbohydrates. The beans are packed with protein and contain some of the essential amino acids. The squash fruit contains vitamins and minerals vital to well rounded development.


In summary hearing about the development and success of other Tribes agriculture projects and seeing where the bar has been set with Tribes such as the Oneida Nation gave me time to reflect and brainstorm new ideas that can be implemented into our own project. In my personal opinion health, well being and freedom from the stranglehold of food corporation are crucial factors of our Tribal sovereignty.

After all, how sovereign are we if we cannot feed ourselves?

From Food for Thought, Issue 14. Published May 2014.