Indigenous Food Sovereignty Movements Are Taking Back Ancestral Land
We see more and more examples of Indigenous Peoples finally achieving a long awaited return home to ancestral land. This article showcases four incredible stories from tribes in Nova Scotia, California and Oklahoma.
- In November 2020, the Mi’kmaq First Nations from Nova Scotia bought 50% of Clearwater Seafoods, the largest North American seafood business.
- In 2000, the Wiyot tribe bought 1.5 acres on Tuluwut Island in California which led Eureka city to return most of the island to the tribe in 2019.
- The Yurok people have successfully fought for an agreement that four dams along the Klamath River in California will be removed to restore traditional salmon runs, as well as securing over 60,000 acres of ancestral lands with the aim to restore their traditional foodways, economies and culture.
- The Quapaw Tribe in Northeast Oklahoma are remediating toxic polluted land from mining residues to regenerate it into agricultural land.
For centuries, Native Americans in the United States have endured countless atrocities, from massacres to forced removal from their ancestral lands by the federal government. This separation from the land contributes to the loss of traditional foodways, culture and history.
“Now we’re in the process of completing that healing process by bringing back the traditional plants that were . . . in the waterways so our eels, and our oysters can grow back in the bay,” explained Hernandez. “And once that’s complete, then we can start the healing process for the whole world. But in order for us to do that, we need our traditional foods.”
Myers sees the land reclamation work of his and other tribes as more pressing than ever in light of climate change. “[We are at] the frontlines of this war to reclaim our history, our land, our culture . . . We have a system that can not only be saved but restored. Not just kept from going extinct, but being able to flourish in abundance. We’re ready for some victories.”
Just this week, the US government’s new Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, the first Native American to hold this important position which oversees the management of federal lands, announced launch of the Tribal Youth Coastal Restoration Program, which will fund six projects estimated to restore up to 1,000 acres of wildlife habitat on tribal lands along the Gulf Coast. The program will help fund projects run by the Chitimacha Tribe of Louisiana, Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida, Seminole Tribe of Florida, Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, Poarch Band of Creek Indians and the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana. The program aims to provide training and livelihood opportunities for tribal youth related to improving water quality and restoring native species in the degraded coastal and adjacent riverine lands. Read more about the new initiative here.