Date: June 19, 2019
Interviewer: Sarah Ballew, Headwater People
Interviewee: Valerie Segrest, Executive Director; Director of Curriculum and Instruction for the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe
Feed 7 Generations is a nonprofit known as FEED, an acronym, and representation of the organization’s core principles;
• Fostering economic opportunities for Tribal food producers in a modern, global food system,
• Educating Tribal communities by developing and teaching health education materials grounded in both health traditions and modern scientific findings,
• Empowering Tribal communities by strengthening our voice and presence in the broader food movement, and
• Developing Tribal communities through policy frameworks that create meaningful community change and measurable outcomes.
Feed revitalizes the health and wellness of tribal communities by amplifying the voice of native people, reconnecting to ancestral community health practices and elevating land management strategies.
In 2015, the Legislature passed Senate Bill 5433 requiring the inclusion of tribal sovereignty curriculum be taught in all schools. The resulting curriculum is called Since Time Immemorial: Tribal Sovereignty in Washington State. However, Since Time Immemorial mostly reflects sovereignty in historical terms such as treaty rights. Tribes, like Muckleshoot wanted to offer an additional response that shows Native peoples as a living culture that is moving forward into the future. FEED, Tribes in Washington and throughout Indian Country are using a food lens to achieve this.
FEED works with tribal communities to collaboratively develop curriculum materials that reflect the intersection of land, health, and identity wellness for specific regions and geographies.
Strengths, Keys for Success:
FEED’s team has a collective 100+ years or experience.
FEED is grounded in ancestral knowledge and the guiding question of Are the decisions that we're making to move these things forward making them proud? Connecting to the ancestral knowledge bank that allowed people to thrive in place for thousands of years has been the strategy for promoting healthy change and the recipe for success.
While there is a lot more work to do, after a decade of doing this, the current environment is one where some people are actually valuing traditional ecological knowledge and understand that it has the answers to some of these problems.
Food sovereignty as a lens allows community and community leadership context to think through when they are looking at land acquisition, or dammed rivers, or fish passages or the food bill. Being able to show how changes to the natural landscape has reduced Camas prairies, the second most consumed food after salmon pre-contact, by over 97%, and how that dramatic reduction has affective the health and cultural identities for Native people who traditionally ate them, can be a powerful lesson.
And so, for example, the Muckleshoot Tribal School is now launching a horticulture program this fall on growing prairie food seeds and building strategies to restore prairie lands.
Barriers and Challenges:
Funding usually have a short-term perspective of community transformation, and a goal that big happens over 10 years, not 12 months. Building evaluation models to show significant change in 12 months is really difficult, and most of the funding opportunities last from 6 months to one-year.
Evaluation models just don’t show what is really happening in communities. There are incredible things happening with a very small percentage of the dollars that go to other communities, but there is no way to show what is really happening through an evaluation model.
USDA, private donors, foundations, the Muckleshoot Tribe and Shakopee’s Seeds of Native Health
Insights for others:
There is a need for a funding that can cover a fair salary for three years. If we had a person that could focus on their job and not constantly applying for and attending to grants, we can make lasting change happen. The right people who are resourced to concentrate on the actual work we can instigate change and create sustainable and positive patterns and norms in communities.
There are very responsible funders who are doing investigations and resources and making grants to Indian Country voluntarily, and out of the goodness of their heart. But they still come with a lot of institutionalized thinking around Native people and it is work can take an immersive process to shift those paradigms.
Private donors need help to understand that each tribal community is unique and may have very different needs from one community to the next. Tribes in the northwest aren’t growing corn and don’t have a powwow culture. There are distinct ways here, and very different from tribes from the plains or the east coast.