Returning to Our Roots to Rebuild Our Futures
I am proud to present our Fall issue on Indigenous food solutions. We bring you stories that highlight and elevate our traditional foods, their spiritual significance, and our connection to our ancestors and the natural world through our food. Today, more than ever, we turn to our local, Indigenous knowledge and ancestral ways to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic to heal and to rebuild our futures. We turn to our traditional agriculture and Indigenous agroecology to ensure our food sovereignty and food security for our communities and to restore delicate ecological balances on our lands to mitigate climate change. This issue of the CSQ is dedicated to all those working on returning to our roots, restoring traditional landscapes, practices, and heirloom varieties to solve some of today’s greatest challenges.
Colonial systems and structures impede on our ability to govern ourselves. Hundreds of years of land dispossession, environmental contamination, discrimination, and systematic marginalization have undermined Indigenous Peoples’ abilities to be self-sufficient. As Dr. Dalee Sambo Dorough (Iñupiat) and Carolina Behe (Inuit) point out, Indigenous food security is directly linked to our right of self-government and self-determination. Land title and participation in decision making are fundamental in securing our futures. Mina Susana Setra (Dayak Pompakng) speaks to the challenges Indigenous communities in Indonesia face whose lands have been degraded and taken, compared to those whose lands are still intact and home to hundreds of varieties of traditional foods. Million Belay of the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa relays the importance of food and water conservation and the cultivation of local varieties in the sustainability of farming.
The return to our ancestral ways also means respecting the interconnectedness of all things and ensuring reciprocity with the natural world. Dawn Morrison (Secwepemc) states, “Our economy begins with giving rather than taking. We do not view our food as a resource to be exploited. We eat food and it becomes us, therefore it is our relative. Our reciprocal relationship with the land, water, people, plants, and animals that provide us with our food in subsistence economies is the one of the most sustainable adaptation strategies of humanity. Giving, sharing and trading, and cooperating in reciprocal relationships is the basis of Indigenous food sovereignty.” Te Tui Shortland (Māori) writes, “Seed is not a commodity; it is the source of life. Gardens and forests are seed sanctuaries. When you respect the seed, you are connected to the sacred thread that connects us all.” And Linda Black Elk (Korean/Mongolian/Catawba descendant) reminds us that the preservation of foods is just as important as production.
I am inspired by the new generation of Indigenous farmers, the youth who have chosen to return to their traditional lands and learn about heritage food production from their elders. They are working hard to ensure that community members and those most at risk have access to healthy foods.
I am deeply grateful for the support that The CS Fund, The Agroecology Fund, and Universal Unitarian Service Committee have committed to make this groundbreaking issue of the CSQ possible. International solidarity is vital for the survival of Indigenous Peoples and all our relations. There is a special need to support Indigenous-led solutions. Since 1972, Cultural Survival has been supporting Indigenous communities in asserting their rights and in protecting their lands. Now, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Indigenous communities need our support to continue protecting lands and ensuring the health and safety of their people.
Galina Angarova (Buryat)