Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Food Sovereignty and a Yurok Tribal Beach Gathering

Recently, we've been asking a lot of people about food sovereignty and what it looks like to them. Food sovereignty has been defined as "the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems." You can read more about food sovereignty here, here, and here. The last link is to the Mvskoke Food Sovereignty Iniative, one of several Tribal food sovereignty movements in North America.

For larger scale food sovereignty actions, Maine is at the forefront. A few towns have recently declared that USDA regulations do not apply to locally produced foods exchanged between community members. These local ordinances will no doubt be challenged in court, but they serve to change the conversation about local agriculture and food policies. In the past couple weeks, the Maine legislature passed a joint resolution along the same lines, stating:

"RESOLVED: That We, the Members of the One Hundred and Twenty-fifth Legislature now assembled in the First Regular Session, on behalf of the people we represent, and in recognition of our State's proud agricultural heritage, take this opportunity to oppose any federal statute, law or regulation that attempts to threaten our basic human right to save seed and grow, process, consume and exchange food and farm products within the State of Maine."

To the USDA, those may well be fightin' words, just as recent local events may be fightin' words. Over this past weekend, members of the Yurok Tribe attended multiple beach gatherings to collect seaweed and mussel shells for traditional and ceremonial uses. Indigeneous rights to some of these cultural resources have been threatened by various government entities. Part of the purpose of the gatherings was to evoke indigeneous cultural rights and the right to food sovereignty. You can see pictures of the events on the Yurok Tribe's Facebook page.

Unfortunately, the beach gatherings conflicted somewhat with the Yurok Spring Fling in Klamath, where we were busy asking people about their vision of food sovereignty. The folks who were demonstrating it weren't able to add this vision to the poster. We're in the process of creating visual word clouds of the answers from the Weitchpec and Klamath Spring Flings and will post them when they're finished.

In the meantime, what does food sovereignty look like to YOU? If we get enough answers in the comments, we'll make and post a word cloud for this, too.

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