ENVIRONMENT Food Justice Indigenous Foodways Tech

The Women of Standing Rock Are Building Sovereign Food Economies

Cheryl Angel leads a group on pilgrimage at Black Elk Peak, one of four Lakota sacred sites that were visited during the Sovereign Sisters Gathering.

For Sicangu Lakota water protector Cheryl Angel, Standing Rock helped her outline what she stands towards: an financial system rooted in extraction of assets and exploitation of individuals and planet. It wasn’t till she’d had far that the imaginative and prescient of what she stands for got here into focus.

“Now I understand that sustainable sovereign economies are needed to exchange the system we help with our purchasing energy,” she stated. “Our historic teachings have all of those economies handed down in traditional households.”

Cheryl Angel leads a gaggle on pilgrimage at Black Elk Peak, one in every of 4 Lakota sacred sites that have been visited in the course of the Sovereign Sisters Gathering. (Photograph by Tracy L. Mitchell.)

Along with different front-line leaders from Standing Rock, together with Lakota historian LaDonna Brave Bull Allard and Diné artist and activist Lyla June (previously Lyla June Johnston), Angel started appearing on this vision in June at Borderland Ranch in Pe’Sla, the grasslands on the coronary heart of the Black Hills in South Dakota. Almost 100 Indigenous water protectors and non-Indigenous allies met there for one week to take steps to determine a sovereign financial system.

The primary annual Sovereign Sisters Gathering introduced together ladies and their allies to talk about methods to oppose the present industrialized financial system and set up a brand new model, one through which Indigenous ladies reclaim and reassert their sovereignty over themselves, their food techniques, and their economies.

“When did we as a individuals lose our self-empowerment? When did we look forward to a government to inform us whether or not or not we might have health care? When did we look forward to them to feed us?” Allard requested. “When did we anticipate legal guidelines and policies to be created in order that we might have a group? When did that happen?

Sovereign Sisters drove to Rapid City, South Dakota during the gathering to join a protest and court hearing of the Riot Booster Act, a bill introduced by Governor Kristi Noem aimed at criminalizing pipeline protestors.

Sovereign Sisters drove to Speedy Metropolis, South Dakota in the course of the gathering to hitch a protest and courtroom hearing of the Riot Booster Act, a invoice launched by Governor Kristi Noem aimed toward criminalizing pipeline protestors. (Photograph by Tracy L. Mitchell.)

“We’ve given our energy over to an entity that doesn’t deserve our energy,” she added, referencing the fashionable corporate industrial system. “We must take back that empowerment of self. We must take back our personal health care. We should take back our own meals. We should take again our families. We should take again our surroundings. Because you see what’s occurring. We gave the facility to an entity, and the entity is destroying our world around us.”

Allard, June, and Angel shared a bit concerning the work they’ve been doing to determine sovereignty, every in her own method, because the Standing Rock encampments.

LaDonna Courageous Bull Allard: Planting Seeds

As the lady who established the first water protector encampment at Standing Rock—referred to as Sacred Stone Camp—and issued a call for help that launched a movement, Allard discovered quite a bit about sovereignty and empowerment through the battle towards the Dakota Access pipeline.

As the camps began to dismantle in the final weeks of the rebellion, she regularly fielded the query: “What can we do now?”

Allard’s response was simple: “Plant seeds.”

Lakota Elder LaDonna Brave Bull Allard joined a van full of fellow Sacred Stone Village residents who made the five-hour drive from Standing Rock to join the Sovereign Sisters Gathering.

Lakota Elder LaDonna Courageous Bull Allard joined a van filled with fellow Sacred Stone Village residents who made the five-hour drive from Standing Rock to hitch the Sovereign Sisters Gathering. (Photograph by Tracy L. Mitchell.)

Planting seeds is what Allard has been doing because the Standing Rock encampment, as she’s labored together with her neighbors and with those who stayed on at Sacred Stone Camp towards a imaginative and prescient of a sustainable group.

“I inform people who our first act of sovereignty is planting meals,” Allard stated. “Our first act is taking good care of self. So it doesn’t matter what we do, if we’re not taking good care of self, we’ve already failed.”

Lately, self-care is extra necessary than ever, she stated, with the accelerating local weather crisis, something that Native individuals are conscious about and have seen coming for a very long time. “We’re not worrying—we’re getting ready,” she stated.

Sacred Stone Village has put in four microgrids of solar power and have two cellular solar trailers used to attach dwelling areas that may also be taken on the street for trainings, and the neighboring town of Cannon Ball has opened an entire photo voltaic farm. They’ve been planting fruit timber and rising gardens, fattening the chickens, stockpiling firewood. And in some ways, life on the reservation is already a preparation in itself.

“On the Standing Rock reservation, as you understand, we are under poverty degree, and most of the individuals stay by commerce and barter. A lot of people reside in houses without electrical energy and operating water. We burn wooden to warmth our houses,” Allard stated. “What I discover within the giant cities is people who don’t know how you can stay. And their surroundings—in the event you took away the electricity and the oil, what would they do? We already know the right way to reside without those things.”

Lyla June: The Forest as Farm

A Diné/Cheyenne/European American musician, scholar, and activist, June has gravitated towards a concentrate on food sovereignty by means of her work to revitalize traditional meals techniques. Presently, she’s in a doctoral program in conventional food techniques and language at the College of Alaska, the place she works with Indigenous elders across the nation to uncover the genius of the continent’s unique cultivators.

“I feel there’s a huge mythology that Native individuals right here have been simpletons, they have been primitive, half-naked nomads operating across the forest, eating hand to mouth whatever they might find,” she stated. “That’s how Europe portrays us. And it’s portrayed us that approach for therefore many centuries that even we start to consider that that’s who we have been.

“The truth is, Indigenous nations on this Turtle Island have been highly organized. They densely populated the land, they usually managed the land extensively. And this has lots to do with food as a result of a big motivation to prune the land, to burn the land, to reseed the land, and to sculpt the land was about feeding our nations. Not solely our nations, however other animal nations, as properly.”

Musician, public speaker, and scholar Lyla June on recovering traditional food systems: “What we’re finding… is that human beings are meant to be a keystone species… what [we’re] trying to do is bring the human being back into the role of keystone species, where our presence on the land nourishes the land.”

Musician, public speaker, and scholar Lyla June on recovering traditional meals techniques: “What we’re discovering… is that human beings are supposed to be a keystone species… what [we’re] making an attempt to do is deliver the human being again into the position of keystone species, the place our presence on the land nourishes the land.” (Photograph by Tracy L. Mitchell.)

June is intrigued by soil core samples that delve hundreds of years into the previous; evaluation of fossilized pollen, charcoal traces, and soil composition reveals a lot about land use practices by way of the ages. For instance, in Kentucky, a soil core pattern that went back 10,000 years exhibits that about three,000 years in the past the forest was dominated by cedar and hemlock. However about 3,000 years in the past the entire forest composition modified to black walnut, hickory nut, chestnut, and acorn; edible species akin to goosefoot and sumpweed started to flourish.

“So these individuals—whoever moved in round three,000 years ago—radically changed the best way the land seemed and tasted,” she stated.

So did the colonizers, however in a a lot totally different means. The prices to the food system because of colonization, she stated, is turning into clear, and the mounting strain of the local weather disaster is making a shift imperative.

“When did we start ready for others to feed us? That’s not going to be a luxury query,” June stated.

In addition to the vulnerability of monocrops to extreme climate occasions, these industrial agricultural crops are additionally depending on pesticides and herbicides. Additionally, pests are adapting, producing chemical resistant bugs and superweeds.

“We’re operating out of bullets in our food system, and it’s fairly precarious right now,” she stated. “The poor animals that we farm are also on the precipice … so we’re in a state the place we should always in all probability start asking ourselves that question now, earlier than we’re pressured to, and keep in mind the enjoyment of feeding ourselves.”

That’s June’s intention; to take what she’s discovered from a yr of apprenticeships with Indigenous elders in several bioregions, then return residence to Diné Bikéyah—Navajo territory—to apply it, regenerating traditional Navajo meals methods in an interactive motion research venture aimed toward each educating and learning, refining methods with annually.

“I’m hoping on the end of three years, or 4 years, we might be fluent in our language and in our meals system,” June stated. “And we might be working as a staff—and we may have a hit story that different tribes can look to and mannequin and be inspired by.”

The long-range objective, she stated, is to create an autonomous faculty that teaches conventional tradition, language, and food methods that may be a model for other Indigenous communities.

Cheryl Angel: Creating Sovereign Communities

To Angel, sovereignty is greatest expressed in creating group—the short-term communities created at gatherings, like on the Sovereign Sisters Gathering, but in addition extra everlasting communities, like at Sacred Stone Village.

Part of being sovereign lies in strengthening and rebuilding sharing economies, she stated. And a part of it lies in decreasing waste, rejecting rampant consumerism and the harmful points of the fashionable industrial system, like single-use plastics and poisonous chemical compounds.

Cheryl Angel in a late-night talking circle, sharing reflections about her Lakota ancestors: “We were never into entitlement; that's why we didn't have kings. We were into revering, honoring, relating to everything around us. All of these living spirits around us… That's the system nobody is talking about, that needs to be protected.”

Cheryl Angel in a late-night talking circle, sharing reflections about her Lakota ancestors: “We have been never into entitlement; that’s why we didn’t have kings. We have been into revering, honoring, referring to all the things around us. All of those dwelling spirits round us… That’s the system no one is talking about, that needs to be protected.” (Photograph by Tracy L. Mitchell.)

“I noticed it all happen at Standing Rock; everyone came with all of their expertise, they usually brought [their] economies—they usually have been medicating individuals, they have been therapeutic individuals, they have been feeding individuals, cooking for individuals, training individuals, making individuals snicker—they have been doing every little thing. Every thing we would have liked, it came to Standing Rock.”

Regardless of the cash the pipeline firm spent to repress the uprising, she stated, water protectors all over the world stepped up and pitched in to create an alternate financial system at Standing Rock, and hundreds of thousands have been raised to help the resistance.

“We might do this again. We will present our economies between each other. We’re doing it right here,” Angel advised the ladies assembled in the Black Hills—ladies who have been gardeners and builders, craftswomen and cooks, healers and legal professionals, filmmakers and writers—and, above all, water protectors. “These few days we’ve been here show to me and will prove to you that we now have the talents to create communities without violence, without medicine, with out alcohol, with out patriarchy—just with the intent to stay in peace.”


This text initially appeared in YES! Magazine, and is reprinted with permission.

Prime photograph: Water protectors of all persuasions gathered in speaking circles at Borderland Ranch in Pe’Sla, the guts of the sacred Black Hills, in the course of the first Sovereign Sisters Gathering. On the middle are Cheryl Angel in pink and white and on her left, Lyla June. All pictures by Tracy Barnett.

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