This summer, Civil Society and Community Studies graduate student Becca Dower is helping the Intertribal Agriculture Council (IAC) develop a tribally-supported agriculture program—or TSA—to distributes Native American produced goods to Native American communities. During this time, she will be conducting preliminary research with funding from SoHE’s Summer Time Academic Research (STAR) Award, supported by the Catherine K. Sheehan Fund. Read her first and second posts.
The Fort Peck Reservation is located in northeastern Montana. It is a land rich in sage, echinacea, wild turnips and countless other medicines. As I look out across the prairie I can imagine the buffalo herds that once roamed here. In 2014, tribes in both Canada and the United States, including the tribes of Fort Peck, signed The Northern Tribes Buffalo Treaty. It establishes “intertribal alliances for cooperation in the restoration of American buffalo (or bison) on Tribal/First Nations Reserves or co-managed lands within the U.S. and Canada.”1 As of early 2015, the Fort Peck tribes were managing almost 200 genetically pure buffalo.2 For the people of the plains, buffalo are a way of life connected to physical, spiritual, and cultural traditions. Because of initiatives like this, the tribe was able to give 50 pounds of buffalo meat for the purpose of a community feed. We used this meat to make traditional dishes including a soup of last year’s wild turnip harvest, blue dry corn and buffalo stew meat. The feed also included a traditional berry soup, corn bread made with corn from the Ute tribe of the four corners region, a popcorn sweetened with maple syrup, and fry bread. In all there were about 14 dishes we prepared in my friend’s sister’s kitchen with kids running in and out between play breaks. Community–this is what Indian country is about.
As I sat down with my plate among generations, friends, and community I overheard a woman behind me talking about the wild rice salad I prepared with berries and fresh herbs. “There is an Anishinaabe here,” she said, referring to the relationship Anishinaabe people have with manoomin, or wild rice. Our foods are location-based, held in our oral tradition, ceremonies, healing, and way of identifying. As the feast and ceremonies came to an end, my friend gave gifts to every community member who came. When someone realized the gift bundles included a Tupperware container, we made a call for everyone to come take food for home. By the time everything was given away and people had gone we were all exhausted. We complete the things that couldn’t wait until morning and head for bed. Tomorrow is another busy day, cleaning and preparing to head to Trenton, North Dakota where my family was allotted land following the Dawes Act of 1887.
Becca Dower is a Civil Society graduate student at SoHE. With support from the STAR Award, Becca will spend the summer conducting preliminary data collection in order to understand feasibility and desire for community distribution sites. She’ll then work with community members to establish accessible site locations.
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