Also nowhere to be seen at Governor Kristi Noem’s ag-industrial summit in Sioux Falls this week: the Rosebud Economic Development Corporation (REDCO) and its Food Sovereignty Initiative, which is helping 34,000 tribal members get access to healthy local food. With a simple $39,600 grant from the First Nations Institute (smaller than the checks Governor Noem writes to big corporations who send a good chunk of their profits beyond our borders), the Food Sovereignty Initiative is helping more South Dakotans sell food they grow themselves to fellow South Dakotans in places underserved by grocery stores:
REDCO’s Food Sovereignty Director Mike Prate explains holding a regular farmer’s market in Mission—where two of the reservation’s three grocery stores already exist—isn’t enough to improve fresh food access in the area.
“So we decided we wanted to take the market mobile to some of these more isolated communities that don’t have food resources and are relying on corner stores that usually aren’t carrying fresh produce, that we were gonna go there and set up a weekly market.”
Starting in August, REDCO will bring produce and other goods to St. Francis, Rosebud and Parmalee. That same month, Prate says they’ll launch a community supported agriculture program—or CSA. By sharing some cost with the garden, residents can receive a weekly box of in-season produce with recipe ideas. Prate says that kind of program builds a sense of community around food [Jackie Hendry, “REDCO Expands Food Sovereignty Initiative with Mobile Farmer’s Markets, CSA Boxes,” SDPB Radio, 2019.07.08].
If Dennis Daugaard were Governor, I’d say something here about self-reliance. Self-reliance in food production was one of the first things we invaders took away from the previous tenants of this land:
A destructive series of policy initiatives like the Dawes Act also known as the General Allotment Act (an act intended to break up reservations into individual property ownership in an effort to destroy tribal governments and Native culture through forced individualism, Christianity, property ownership, and European-style agricultural systems and methods upon Native persons), combined with forced relocation onto reservations left Native communities struggling to secure access to wholesome food systems. For those who resisted forced relocation, this struggle was amplified by the mass killing of the buffalo, yet another tool for subjugating tribes through food access restraints.
“Access to food was the first thing attacked in an attempt to remove Native people from the land … if you think about the history of food systems on Reservations throughout the US, you can get a sense of how important food really is,” said REDCO Food Sovereignty Director REDCO Mike Prate [“Homegrown Stories: Rosebud Reservation Creates Economic Opportunity Through Food Sovereignty,” Farm Aid, 2019.04.09].
Maybe Governor Noem should consider bringing in some Rosebud garden produce for her next big party in Sioux Falls.