Food Sovereignty: Growing Our Future

By Iyankawin Yellow Hawk (He Dog, South Dakota)

The past two summers, I did my OC Internship with the Rosebud Economic Development Corporation (REDCO) Food Sovereignty Initiative. During my time with this unique initiative, I learned that their mission is to create a stronger community by improving the diets of the Lakota people on the Rosebud Reservation, by empowering the tribe to take ownership of their food system.

Another goal is to grow fruits and vegetables to sell or give to local communities. Thus far, the Initiative has been holding a weekly farmers market where they sell some of their produce from the garden. The farmers market has started to expand and has been successful, with other vendors joining in. Recently the initiative is working on starting a mobile farmers market, where they will be traveling to the communities here on the Rosebud Reservation.

Front line workers on the Food Sovereignty Initiative at Rosebud Reservation.

My experiences for the past two summers have helped me in understanding what food sovereignty means. To me, food sovereignty means that a tribal nation has control of their own food system, and that they are able to produce much of their own food, instead of totally relying on outside resources to bring in our food. It also means that communities of the nation work collectively, not as lone islands. While interning with REDCO’s Food Sovereignty Initiative, I was also able to work with endeavors carried out with the communities and the youth here on the Rosebud Reservation, as well as the cultivation and maintenance of the Keya Wakpala garden. We are also educating the communities about the importance of healthy food, creating their own gardens, how to properly plant, harvest, and prepare locally grown foods. Also, encouraging our people to make healthier food choices, since good food is good medicine.

My overall experience of interning with the Food Sovereignty Initiative is something I won’t forget. I cherish the new experiences and knowledge I received–the passion, knowledge, and vision of the Food Sovereignty Initiative coordinator is what inspired me to intern a second year. I am glad I was given the opportunity to intern.

This was my first summer interning with the REDCO’s Food Sovereignty Initiative. (Summer 2018)

This was my first time I volunteered to attend one of the Boys and Girls Club cooking classes. The Boys and Girls Clubs are located in the Rosebud Community. We made an Indigenous dish with the youth–called the three sisters mash (a mix of Summer Squash or Zucchini, Beans, and Corn). This can usually be mixed in with a food oil of your choice.

I enjoy the initiative’s engagement with the youth. Pictured above is me and a girl who loved hanging out with me during the cooking class.

This is the first harvest of onions we had last summer. We were harvesting for the farmer’s market. (Summer 2019)

This is one of the interns harvesting broccoli.

This is the label the healthy food sampling program uses. The Food Sovereignty initiative collaborates with this program to showcase healthy foods and ingredients within the turtle creek grocery store. This program and the Food Sovereignty Initiative uses the labels and sampling to encourage shoppers to help navigate healthy foods, and hopefully to also encourage them to choose the healthy alternatives of foods.

We harvested garlic and had an outcome of over 100 pounds worth of garlic produce. We spent most of the garden braiding the garlic.

Iyankawin Yellow Hawk is currently a junior majoring in psychology at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, and she looks forward to returning to work and live on Rosebud Reservation.  Her OC Community internships were sponsored by Farm Credit Services of America and Fred & Gail Pace.

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