The role of indigenous knowledge and innovation in creating food sovereignty in the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin
Today Native Americans have higher rates of diet-related illness and mortalities than any other racial or ethnic group in the United States. These figures reflect the many challenges to the land base, cultural identity, spiritual life, environmental quality and stability of local economies and political institutions which, in part, support healthy diets. The rediscovery and re-creation of sustainable, local food systems which include traditional foods is increasingly seen as a way to solve some of these pressing problems at both the community and individual level. Collectively, these efforts are building tribal nations which are food sovereign. Through participant observation, interviews and focus groups this research documents and analyzes the knowledge, practices, beliefs, and the "process of rediscovery" associated with traditional foods and local food system revival that members of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin employ and experience as they attempt to become food sovereign once again. Findings suggest that the resurgence of traditional culture has paralleled the relocalization of the Oneida food system and that traditional foods played a substantial role in this process. The accumulation and movement of knowledge within the community also reveals the importance of interdependence between community members--and between people and the natural environment--that was both a goal and part of the process of food system revitalization in Oneida. Recognizing that food production and distribution are part of the shared cultural fabric of both tribal and non-tribal members living in the Oneida reservation, I propose that western farming practices have--and can continue to be--indigenized and function as resources for building community while creating food sovereignty.