Destruction of Indigenous women and of Indigenous food systems were two powerful weapons used by colonists to conquer the North American continent. Today, stories of recovering traditional foodways are braided in with stories of re-making women’s place in society, as well as reclaiming the important role of two-spirit people. Previous to colonization, not only did women hold places of equal power in many indigenous societies, but many more shades of gender and sexuality were recognized as normal, and even special.
This episode of the podcast miniseries ‘A Journey Through Feminist Agroecology’ explores the encounter between Indigenous feminisms and food sovereignty as a decolonial project of reparations and reconstruction. Lisa Ironcloud, Priscilla Settee, Simone Senogles and the Oshkii Giizhik singers Lyz Jaakola, Rebecca Gawboy, Darcey St. John shared with us their stories.
In this episode we continue our journey, exploring the link between food sovereignty and Indigenous feminism as a decolonial project of reparations and reconstruction in the context of North America. Lisa Ironcloud tells us about the art of butchering buffalo, her personal journey of reconnection with Indigenous foods, and how this led her to support other people, especially women, in similar processes. Priscilla Settee then provides us with insights into the historical legacy behind the discrimination and intersectional, colonial violence against food and women. Finally, Simone Senogles talks to us about the complexity of feminism in the Indigenous food sovereignty movement. The stories of these three amazing women help us better understand how Indigenous food memories are braided in with experiences of systemic violence against women, and two-spirit people. Importantly, they provide insights into the ways in which feminism helps to untangle the mess colonialism has made of gender relations in Indigenous communities. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
Lisa Water Ironcloud teaching women and children how to butcher buffalo.
Lisa Ironcloud is Oglala Lakota from South Dakota. Lisa teaches women, youth, as well as men, to butcher buffalo as their ancestors did. In the 1890s, Indigenous women were banned from butchering buffalo, this historically and culturally important food for the Lakota people, as a way to separate people from their traditions. The recovery of women’s place in this culturally important act is significant for building feminist food sovereignty. Lisa traces family memories back through time to recover her people’s food practices and stories and embark, unknowingly, on a journey of self-discovery.
It started … from the butcherings into the plants into ‘okay so who am I?’ … They say … I’m Lakota, I’m enrolled Lakota and I’m a woman. But … what does that really mean? And I would come across people: “Well you know you’re a woman, so you have to take care of the home and you have to do this and do that”. Okay, you know, really trying to make sense of it. But as I journeyed on and started becoming closer with the plants, closer with our food, understanding why they prepared foods in certain ways…I started questioning a lot of these…roles. Our roles as a woman and what they say a woman should be, it didn’t make any sense to me.
Simone Senogles from the Indigenous Environmental Network shares candidly how the word feminism is not well aligned with an indigenous worldview, but in fact it is necessary to untangle the mess colonialism has made of gender relations. Just as buffalo for the Lakota, wild rice is a key food for the Ojibwe people of the Great Lakes Region of the United States and Canada. Women used to be the caretakers and harvesters of wild rice but in the early 1900s, men displaced women from their role when wild rice became a commodity that was bought and sold among white traders. Simone tells us how today, going out to harvest wild rice is a way of exercising feminist, indigenous food sovereignty.
And I always think that the way that colonization has affected indigenous communities is almost like a big tangle. It’s just this big confusion, the way that colonization affects our communities and the way that it affects our power structures and the role of women. The role of two-spirit, non-binary people, men, has been distorted because of colonization. So now in this moment like we have to pull out a string to talk about that particular dynamic, and feminism is a word that for me is useful in that conversation because it challenges us to think.
Dr. Priscilla Settee provides some historical background on what actually happened in the colonial period and describes the mess colonialism has made of gender relations as a ‘hangover’ that we are still recovering from today. Lisa Ironcloud offers us a way through it. She suggests following our connection with food, one that everyone has, back to the source. A group of women hand drum singers provides the inspiration and the hope needed for the long, arduous process of recovery.
But, why are we talking about food sovereignty on a podcast mini-series on agroecology? Both food sovereignty and agroecology are social movements that strive to build food systems that are ecologically and socially just. We believe that the lessons learned from feminisms in indigenous food sovereignty movements are valuable to other contexts around the world and to building our understanding of feminist agroecology in practice.
Join us for a deep dive into the stories told by Lisa Ironcloud, Priscilla Settee, Simone Senogles and three singers from a women’s hand drum group called the Oshkii Giizhik singers: Lyz Jaakola, Rebecca Gawboy, Darcey St. John.
Lisa Iron Cloud is Oglala Lakota living in South Dakota, US. She is teaching indigenous women and girls how to butcher buffalo according to tradition and to forage for, preserve and cook with indigenous foods. She shares her knowledge and skill to help heal deep fractures created by colonialism within indigenous communities and to reclaim indigenous women’s place in society.
Priscilla Settee is a First Nations (Swampy Cree) activist for Indigenous rights, women’s rights and environmental rights living in Canada. She is Professor Emerita of Indigenous Studies and the Interim Vice-Dean Indigenous in the College of Arts and Science at the University of Saskatchewan, Canada. Her research interests include Indigenous knowledge systems, biodiversity protection, Indigenous food and politics, the impact of globalisation on Indigenous Peoples, Indigenous women’s rights, Indigenous food sovereignty and trafficking of women and children.
Simone Senogles is Anishinaabe from the Red Lake Nation in Northern Minnesota, US. She is a member of the leadership team at the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) where she has worked for over 20 years. Her work focuses on indigenous women’s leadership and the importance of lifting up their work and power. IEN is an indigenous led and operated Environmental Justice organization working with indigenous communities and nations in the US and Canada. IEN works on climate justice, sustainable communities, a just transition away from a fossil fuel economy and more. She has been part of the convening committee for a series of webinars on indigenous feminisms.
The Oshkii Giizhik singers are a community-based group of Native American women singers from the Fond du Lac/Duluth area. Singers on the episode are: Lyz Jaakola, Rebecca Gawboy, Darcey St. John.
LISTEN to our first episode, What does feminism have to do with the food you eat? Also available in Spanish.
Destruction of indigenous food sources in the United States
- ‘Kill Every Buffalo You Can! Every Buffalo Dead Is an Indian Gone’ (article, The Atlantic)
- ‘You can’t say you’re sovereign if you can’t feed yourself‘ (academic article by Elizabeth Hoover)
- US removal of native people from their lands onto reservations (essay, AEON)
- Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West (book by Dee Brown)
- The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to the present (book by David Treuer)
Commodities foods and the impact on health
- The Historical Determinants of Food Insecurity in Native Communities (article, CBPP)
- After a Fraught History, Some Tribes Finally Have the Power to Rethink ‘Commodity Foods’ (article, CivilEats)
- Reservation Life (blog, Red Road Project)
- Critically Sovereign: Indigenous Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Studies (book edited by Joanne Barker)
- Indigenous Sexualities: Resisting Conquest and Translation (book excerpt by Manuela L. Picq and Josi Tikuna)
- Two-spirit (short overview)
- Missing and murdered Indigenous women in United States and Canada (MMIW): facts and stories
- Missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls: A snapshot of data from 71 urban cities in the United States
- Collection of books on missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls
- The Strength of Women: Âhkamêyimowak (book by Priscilla Settee)
- Indigenous feminism is our culture (article by Jihan Gearon)
- Feminisms and Indigenous women (webinar series by Indigenous Environmental Network)
- All My Relations (podcast exploring what it means for Indigenous persons to be engaged in relationships—relationships to land and place, to a people, to non-human relatives, and to one another. )
- Making Space for Indigenous Feminism (book edited by Joyce Green)
- Linking food and feminisms: learning from decolonial movements (blog by AgroecologyNow)
- Holding Our World Together: Ojibwe Women And the Survival of Community (book by Brenda J Child)
Indigenous food sovereignty
- Indigenous Food Systems Network
- Native American Food Sovereignty Alliance (NAFSA)
- Indigenous Food Sovereignty: A Model for Social Learning (book chapter by Dawn Morrison)
- Gather (documentary film on the growing movement amongst Native Americans to reclaim their spiritual, political and cultural identities through food sovereignty, while battling the trauma of centuries of genocide)
- Toasted Sister Podcast about Native American food
- Harvesting is an act of indigenous food sovereignty (blog, AgroecologyNow)
- Indigenous Food Systems: Concepts, Cases, and Conversations (book edited by Priscilla Settee and Shailesh Shukla)
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement No 844637