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.

Mvskoke Food Sovereignty Initiative (MFSI)

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Okmulgee, Oklahoma Muscogee Nation

The Mvskoke people were indigenous to what is now the Southeast United States and are an American Indian federally recognized tribe. Mvskoke food heritage and traditions goes back in time long before the Trail of Tears forced them to Oklahoma. For centuries the Mvskoke maintained a successful agriculture-based culture that sustained large populations living in towns along the rivers and creeks. These were the “mound builders” who developed a sophisticated civilization, taking care of the food, spiritual and political needs of their people. Growing, preserving and using traditional foods plays an important role in cultural activities.

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The Mvskoke Food Sovereignty Initiative works to enable the Mvskoke people and their neighbors to provide for their food and health needs now and in the future through sustainable agriculture, economic development, community involvement, cultural and educational programs, such as:

  • Community Outreach for Producers’ Empowerment Project
  • Food & Fitness Policy Council
  • Seed Bank
  • Farmers’ Market
  • Linking local growers with Tribal Programs
  • Supporting Tribal Sovereignty a Community Food Project

The seed bank was established to preserve and restore endangered seeds that are culturally linked to Native gardens. Through this project, MFSI is successfully restoring the Mvskoke favorite corn known as Sofkee corn that had almost gone extinct.

MFSI Food Sovereignty Goals include: Recognizing the right to self determination; establishing a tribal, national policy for the protection for Indigenous knowledge and biological resources and a tribal food policy council responsible for protecting the health, security and general welfare of the Muscogee Creek Nation.

For more information, visit Text adapted from MFSI website.

From Food for Thought, Issue 13. Published April 2014. 

A New Generation of O’odham Farmers: a program of Tohono O’odham Community Action (TOCA) in Sells, AZ

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Tohono O’odham Community Action (TOCA) is one of the few non-governmental organizations (NGOs) operating in “Indian Country.” As an independent 501(c)(3) non-profit, TOCA has been able to respond to Tohono O’odham community members’ interests — be they traditional basket-weavers, desert harvesters, or teens — more “nimbly” than federal, tribal, educational, and medical bureaucracies.

Sometimes TOCA is able to partner with local coalitions or pan- native initiatives, but TOCA’s guiding question is always, “How does this work empower Tohono O’odham individuals and families to determine their own future?”

Revitalizing a local food system economy and Tohono O’odham farming traditions are approaches to this question dating back to TOCA’s first garden in 1995. The answers below, from TOCA staff, focus on TOCA’s farmer/gardener training initiative, “A New Generation of O’odham Farmers.”

For more information about TOCA, visit www.TOCAonline. org or find TOCA- Tohono O’odham Community Action on Facebook.

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What are the events and/or programs that led to the creation of the “New Generation of O’odham Farmers” program at Tohono O’odham Community Action (TOCA)?

It has taken 15 years of TOCA’s community work to create the conditions necessary for the success of the “New Generation of O’odham Farmers” program. TOCA’s first farm apprentices just graduated, but this is only the first step toward creating a local sustainable agricultural economy and a healthy native foods system on the reservation.

TOCA was growing traditional Tohono O’odham plants in our first community garden in 1995. We also organized seasonal harvesting trips for wild foods growing in the Sonoran Desert, including cholla buds, prickly pear, and saguaro fruit. Elders taught us how to eat from the desert and how to prepare traditional foods. We also grew plants in our gardens to be used as materials for basket-weaving.

TOCA has been farming traditional crops since 2001. That year, the family members of co-founder Terrol Dew Johnson said they wanted to invite TOCA to replant the land of his grandfather’s farm. It had not been planted for decades. To try to re-start traditional Tohono O’odham ak chin (monsoon floodwater) farming was an exciting, if somewhat daunting, opportunity. We began to sell produce at cost, under the label “Tohono O’odham Trading Co.”

In 2003, we were able to harvest 2,500 pounds of tepary beans. At the time, that was a 10-fold increase over the previous year’s yield. Today TOCA produces 230,000 pounds of healthy, Tohono O’odham foods. Dry packaged goods are sold to the public through our Desert Rain Gallery. In 2009, we opened Desert Rain Cafe, where healthy, affordable dishes are prepared using traditional ingredients. Lately, we’ve been able to expand in the local school cafeterias to include an “O’odham meal option,” so that kids from Head Start to high school are able to eat the foods of their ancestors. We pair this with culturally-based garden and nutrition classes at the schools, led by our young adult leaders. Young O’odham United Through Health (Y.O.U.T.H.) and Project Oidag (“oidag” means field or garden) have been enthusiastically teaching kids about Tohono O’odham foods and how to plant them.

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With the “New Generation” program, we are able to really focus on training native farmers. It was a natural next step to expand farmer training once TOCA had created the conditions of farm production and local demand. Based upon our success revitalizing Tohono O’odham agriculture, we got a three-year Beginning Farmers grant from the USDA. As TOCA’s Nina Altshul says, “It takes a village to raise a farmer.” We cannot merely train farmers, because we also need to create markets for their produce. We need to help Tohono O’odham families, who have been raised on commodity foods and fast foods, to learn to cook (and to want to eat) locally-farmed foods. Right now, TOCA is working with every age, from pre-schoolers to elders, to increase the growing, harvesting, cooking, and eating of Tohono O’odham foods. The “New Generation of O’odham Farmers” is at the heart of all our food system revitalization work, because this training program prepares young O’odham farmers to become the local food producers of both today and tomorrow.

Is traditional medicines incorporated into the “New Generation of O’odham Farmers” program?

We say that “Traditional Food is Medicine.” It regulates blood sugar, has lots of organic nutrients, and the work it takes to forage or farm improves your body and your spirit. Our ancestors were healthy. We want that back. We don’t want to have the diabetes and childhood obesity and an average lifespan of 55 years old. We want the next generation of elders to be able to get really old.

Is foraging of traditional foods incorporated into the “New Generation of O’odham Farmers” program? If so, in what ways?

Foraging – or harvesting wild foods from the Sonoran Desert – has been part of TOCA’s seasonal activities since 1995. The centerpiece of the year is Bahidaj Camp, the saguaro fruit harvest, but we also have seasonal harvesting throughout the year for things like cholla buds. All the farmer trainees — apprentices and summer youth alike — participate in our wild foodharvest field trips and Bahaidaj Camp. We also have begun hunting rabbits!

How has the “New Generation” program and Project Oidag involved elders and their knowledge base in these programs?

A good indication of how intensively elders have been involved in food system revitalization here is the book TOCA published in 2010, which is available at our gallery and (also online at It is called From I’itoi’s Garden: Tohono O’odham Food Traditions. It is a part cook book, part how-to harvest, and it also contain many planting songs and traditional stories involving Tohono O’odham foods. Over 30 elders contributed to the book and it remains our “bible” for guidance in our garden projects, school meals, and culturally-based nutrition training. One hard thing is that a number of our founding elders — Danny Lopez, Frances Manuel, and Terrol’s grandmother, have passed on. The “New Generation” program is really building upon the years and years of teaching they and other elders have provided. Now it’s up to us to take it forward. One of our staff members, Michael Enis, spent much of his youth learning the traditional songs from elders and continues

to learn. He teaches all of us the seasonal planting songs so that every season is blessed traditionally. In the winter, we also have storytelling nights in a community garden or at the farm.

What is the extent of community knowledge of and participation in this program?

Community support has been incredible. Even in our first year of the “New Generation” program, we had too many applicants for summer and full-time apprenticeship programs, so we had to conduct interviews and create waiting lists. Part of this comes from the credibility TOCA has built up over the years. While lots of agencies and programs talk about doing things, TOCA ‘s name includes the word “action,” and we have let our actions speak our words. Fifteen years ago, this meant people would hang back and see whether we were serious, whether we were staying around. Fifteen years later, people know we do what we say and we don’t say things we won’t do.

All this has led to amazing participation by community members. For example, in 2012 we had over 100 people camp out in the summer heat for a weekend of saguaro fruit harvesting, and for Halloween, about 150 — some 50 young families, many in costume– walked or ran the mile and a half “Tour de Oidag” between three of our gardens in Sells. There is a real sense of celebration around health, Tohono O’odham culture, and growing traditional foods. cholla buds in bucket

From Food for Thought, Issue 5. Published April 2014.

Navajo Nation: Service to All Relations (STAR) School


Native schools on reservations with limited budgets often struggle to provide healthy, unprocessed and culturally relevant foods for their students. One possible and viable solution to address the severe conditions of poverty, social stress and health and nutrition problems in Native communities and schools is a Farm-to-School program in which local farmers supply produce to the schools directly within in their communities.

STAR School is an elementary charter school located near the southwestern edge of the Navajo Nation. The school is based on four values: respect, relationship, responsibility and reasoning that are rooted in Navajo Peacemaking, a traditional form of conflict resolution.

According to Dr. Mark Sorensen, STAR’s co-founder and Director, the Farm-to-School program was supported from the idea that plants have sustained families for generations. “Our communities are really suffering from not having nutritious food grown locally—our area of the Navajo Nation is considered a ‘food desert’—and kids are not likely to start eating more vegetables unless they are personally involved in growing, harvesting, and tasting the food.”

“Our program involves interaction of students and local farmers as well as developing greenhouses on the school campus, all for the purpose of providing students with healthy, fresh, locally grown vegetables,” Sorensen said.


“One of our purposes in this program is to help local farmers develop their food safety practices to the point of being able to regularly supply the school with food. It is to fulfill this purpose that we wrote the Navajo Food for Schools Manual.”

The program also teaches values that the students take away to share with their families. “The kids tell me that because of this, they help out more at home. They help their mother more with cooking. They helped their mom make bread. They use these foods in traditional ceremony and they will tell me they helped out.

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Want to read the whole article? Search “farm to school” at

From Food for Thought: Issue 10, published October 2013

Food for Thought


Since October 2012, Anya and May have been publishing a small printed insert for the Big Pine tribal monthly newsletter called Food for Thought: Exploring Native-Led Food Projects in the Owens River Valley and Beyond + Some Practical Advice for Gardening East of the Sierra Nevada. 

Each month we feature two stories under the themes of “Tribes Digging In” and “Community Spotlight” as a way to highlight tribal food sovereignty projects across the country and in the Owens Valley, where the Indigenous Farming Project focuses its work.

We are now going to publish the articles from Food for Thought on this blog so that the inspirational stories we’ve discovered can be shared with a wider audience.

If you know of ongoing tribal food projects in the country that should be published in Food for Thought, please email to share!



The Indigenous Food & Agriculture Initiative: University of Arkansas School of Law

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Encompassing multi-disciplinary research, service, and education opportunities, this Initiative is the first of its kind nationally, with the following goals and objectives:

1. To increase student enrollment in the land grant universities in food and agricultural related disciplines by supporting existing students and creating early pipeline programs for youth

2. To create new academic and executive education programs in food and agriculture, including law, policy, and tribal governance;

3. To directly support Indian country by providing strategic planning and technical assistance, including research and publications in the following subject areas:

  •  Tribal Governance Infrastructure to Enhance Business and Economic Development Opportunities
  •  Financial Markets and Asset Management, including Banking, Risk Management, and Stewardship of Land and Natural Resources
  • Health and Nutrition Policy for Tribal Community Wellness
  • Intellectual Property Rights and Protection of Traditional Knowledge

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Opportunities for Youth!

Summer Leadership Summit Native Youth in Agriculture

The Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative is hosting its first one-week Summer Leadership Summit: Native Youth in Agriculture, a summit focused on leadership and learning in agricultural risk management.

Fifty selected students will travel to Fayetteville to participate in a week long education and leadership summit designed to provide comprehensive training in the legal and business complexities unique to Indian Country land and agriculture.

Students will engage in classroom and leadership learning, participate in cultural activities, and receive specialized legal and land use education appropriate only to Native farmers and ranchers. All food, lodging, and instructional materials will be provided. Competitive travel scholarships to the University are available.

 Date: Monday, July 21 – Friday, July 25 (not including travel days)

 Deadline for application materials: April 1, 2014

 For more information, contact:

Janie Simms Hipp (Chickasaw) Director, Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative Phone: (479) 575-4699 Email:

From Food for Thought, Issue 13. Published April 2014


PJ in the Owens Valley: the Indigenous Farming Project


”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, is the spiritual connection to history,

ancestors and the land.”

-Winona LaDuke, in Recovering the Sacred

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I’ve been working on behalf of Planting Justice with a project called the Indigenous Farming Project (IFP), a tribal agriculture & nutrition pilot program in collaboration with San Francisco artist collective Future Farmers. Inspired by his train travels through the reservation lands, EPA Region 9 director Jared Blumenfeld recognized a common desire for developing food sovereignty projects within native communities and asked Amy Francheschini of Future Farmers to start up a program that would help tribes gain access to the resources they need to build resilient foodsystems on their lands.

Many tribal reservations are geographically isolated and are “food deserts” in which there is very little or no access to healthy fresh foods, ( In order to combat this health related epidemic, there has been a resurgence in the number of American Indians and their allies championing a revitalization of traditional food knowledge and ritual farming-and-gardening.

In spring 2012, Anya Kamenskaya, the IFP project manager, started the first IFP-sponsored site with the Environmental Department of the Big Pine Paiute of the Owens Valley. Over the course of the year, as I joined on as a co-project manager and permaculture designer, we were able to work with Alan Bacock, Tony Karl & Sally Manning of the Environmental Department to design & plan an active demonstration community garden on the land of the Big Pine Paiute Tribal Headquarters.

During the fall, we visited Big Pine to install a pre-fab greenhouse. It was a great community effort! The growing conditions are dry, dusty and very minimal in terms of rainfall. The challenge of this site is definitely to build healthy soil that retains maximum moisture in the landscape.

With the completion of the design process, the tribe was able to secure a grant from the First Nations Development Institute to further fund the garden installation and maintenance for the next year. This allowed the tribe to hire a garden manager, a tribal member name Joe Miller who has been growing food and selling at markets for the past few years.

We’ve had some successful community work days to jumpstart the implementation of the garden — folks have been coming out early on weekend mornings this summer to gather & work in the garden, including digging and planting permaculture rainwater harvesting swales with fruiting perennials. The garden installation will continue with dry stack rock bed building (a plentiful resource out in the Owens Valley), an herb labyrinth, pie-shaped garden beds and row cropping. There is already a palpable sense of placemaking that is unfolding as the garden grows. In addition to continual planting and building, we are currently designing signage for the garden so that it can be an educational space for the community.

Last month the tribal council also approved the startup of a community farmers market at the garden site! The Nawanaki-ti Market is now in operation every Friday evening and currently featuring small local produce vendors, prepared foods such as pies & cookies, traditional crafts, and music and dance performances. The market is conveniently located right along Highway 395, so the space has a strong potential to attract curious passers by.

IFP is also collaborating with the Bishop Paiute Community Garden project. We installed a small pond there last month, and came back to a flourishing aquatic ecosystem, complete with mosquito fish! In October we will being installing a large greenhouse on site as well as helping to organize workshops on harvesting & cooking produce from the garden.

IFP’s goals are to establish working relationships with 4 tribes in the Owens Valley and surrounding areas. We are currently moving into design phase with the Utu Utu Gwaitu Paiute Tribe in nearby Benton. Their site presents more design challenges with a very short growing season, very high desert winds and contaminated water, but the desire amongst the community to create a space for people young and old to gather and cultivate is very strong.

The Indigenous Farming Project continues to be received with support and enthusiasm by the tribal communities we’ve met in the Owens Valley. This dry desert valley that sits between the Sierra Nevada & White Mountain ranges has suffered from the presence of the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (LA-DWP), who drained the Owens Lake at the turn of the century.  Moving into an area that was already experiencing contention amongst landowning ranchers, native communities, and goldrushers, LA-DWP contributed to further ecological & social degradation. What was once a lush, alluvial marshland valley filled with native bird & plant communities is now a disparate, isolated area where topsoil is blown away by strong winds every year.

Throughout the last year of visiting the Owens Valley, however, a burgeoning community of younger people is taking land stewardship seriously, both within tribal lands and the larger community of the Owens Valley. There is the Owens Valley Growers Cooperative and Bishop Creek Farms — two initiatives started by locals who are committed to cultivated an organic, local foodshed. We continue to meet families who are leaving their lives in the city to return to their roots in the valley to grow food & live in community.

IFP is also developing a web-based wiki map called the Puhidua Registry, which will allow growers in the valley to register their gardens, seed banks, farmers’ markets, and any other agriculture & food sovereignty – related projects. The website will launch this November.

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Initially in my visits, I have found the community of the Owens Valley to be one that has suffered from environmental isolation, ecological degradation, and minimal economic opportunity. As I get to meet more people from both tribal and non-tribal circles, I can tell that there exists a strong sense of hope, love and pride for the resilience of the communities that have survived in the area. There are deep roots of relationships that have remained underground for many years and a quiet common vision that has been struggling to be heard. Through my work with the Indigenous Farming Project and all of the community members who have showed up to shape their communities and landscapes towards resilience, I can feel the powerful groundswell of change emerging.

– May Nguyen




Reblogged from Planting JusticesCompost the Empire blog.