“Food Sovereignty is the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture system.” – La Vía Campesina
Food Sovereignty is a term that describes our inherent right as Native people to gather, grow, hunt, and harvest the healthy and traditional foods that our communities have always had but have been continuously stripped of. It is a framework that advocates for placing the power back into the hands of indigenous peoples and returning to us control over our own health, culture, community and environment. This also makes it a vital ingredient of Tribal Sovereignty and a really important concept for understanding food justice work in Indian Country.
That said, Food Sovereignty can sometimes use alienating terminology that puts it at risk of being lost to academic discussions and political theorizing. We must remember that the true power of Food Sovereignty comes not from the theories it supports but from the action it inspires, and so it is crucial that we ultimately define the movement with our actions more than our words; that we show others what Food Sovereignty looks like instead of describing what it is.
So, what does Food Sovereignty actually look like?
That is the question that Ndee Bikiyaa, The People’s Farm, set out to answer by holding their first annual K’edilzeehí Yídágoł’aa (Learning to Plant) Summer Camp on the White Mountain Apache Reservation this summer. The camp brought 35 middle school-aged Apache youth to the farm for a week-long celebration of Apache food traditions and an activity-filled introduction to the concept of Food Sovereignty. Though we did have a lesson in which we discussed the definition of Food Sovereignty, the ultimate goal was to provide the students with a deep-rooted understanding of what Food Sovereignty means by showing them what it looks like, what it tastes like, what it feels like.
We are very honored to have shared this experience with our youth, our Elders, and our community members, and we are very proud to share the following images with you.
This is what Food Sovereignty looks like:
To learn more about the amazing work that Ndee Bikiyaa, The People’s Farm, is doing, please visit their website and Facebook.
Maya Harjo is Quapaw/Muscogee and grew up in Los Angeles, CA. She is currently serving with the Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation where she teaches nutrition & gardening lessons at a local elementary school and collaborates with Ndee Bikiyaa to bring farm-grown produce to cafeterias and farm-based education to students. After FoodCorps, she hopes to continue working in community-based food production and garden education for Native youth.