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Indigenous Peoples Summit: Focus on Food Sovereignty

Indigenous Peoples Summit, Omaha, NE - August 9, 2022
Siouxland Public Media/Mark Munger
Indigenous Peoples Summit, Omaha, NE - August 9, 2022

August 9th is International Day of the World Indigenous Peoples. A summit highlighting Native Nation sovereignty and environmental justice took place at Metro Community College in Omaha. As Siouxland Public Media’s Sheila Brummer reports, part of the discussion centered around agricultural initiatives.

The Director of the Food Sovereignty Initiative, Nic Hernandez, says by coming together, Native American Tribes can educate and support food programs and each other.

“One hundred fifty years ago, we had active, thriving communities that you won't find in any history book. And so, we need to recreate those relationships, and coming to the table like this is rebuilding those relationships within one nation within one community within one family.”

The Planning Director of The Omaha Nation Garden Project, Mike Grant, worries about the environmental impact on agriculture.

Indigenous Peoples Summit/Zoom

“In 100 years, it's going to be really tough, you know, because of climate change, and how the weather is changing, how the temperature is changing, I mean, look at what we're dealing with now. We’re in heat waves all the time. And so, we have to figure out a way of how we can grow for ourselves and to be able to feed our children.”

One of those ways is hydroponic farming. The Omaha Tribe received a USDA grant of more than $670,000 to help launch the project, including three greenhouses.

The Omaha and Winnebago Tribes also teach school students the art of gardening and promote incorporating fresh produce as a healthy eating alternative.

Aaron LaPointe is the Senior Agribusiness manager for Ho-Chunk Farms, Inc.

“Twelve Clans, our new hospital, was getting data tying many of our chronic diseases to our diets. And then, we start to look at what diets we can provide to our community members. Well, we have $1 General that has frozen pizzas and chips. And that's about it. So, the real issue was we were living in a food desert. We didn't have the ability to have local fresh produce provided to our community members.”

The Winnebago Tribe launched a farmer’s market and other programs, including a push for native farming and equitable rental agreements surrounding their 30,000 acres in northeast Nebraska. Little Priest Tribal College plans to add more agribusiness courses. The Omaha Tribe is also working on the Maya Regeneration Project, a plot of land 20 miles south of the reservation that will include a poultry, forestry, and a value-added farm operation. All efforts to grow a more sustainable future.

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