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68th National Congress of American Indians
November 1, 2011 7:50 PM   Subscribe

The National Congress of American Indians is holding its 68th annual conference in Portland, Oregon this week. Oregon Public Broadcasting's Think Out Loud program talked today with Jefferson Keel, president of the NCAI and with others about food sovereignty on tribal lands.

You can read a draft schedule of the conference here. Most of the topics seem to be about dealing with the federal government of the United States, but there are also talks focusing on domestic violence, drugs, education, and environmental issues.

Today, the "Obama administration reaffirms opposition to Supreme Court tribal land ruling" which stated that the government could not hold land in trust for tribes recognized after the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act. Currently any tribal land owned by those tribes is managed by the local state and state laws, not the federal/tribal laws which grant more control to the tribes themselves.
posted by curious nu (17 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
State leaders feared the tribe would create a tax-free zone undercutting local businesses, build a casino or that criminals could hide on tribal land safe from the reach of state law. That is still partly the fear from opponents of a change to the law on Capitol Hill, said Brian Patterson, president of the United South and Eastern Tribes Inc. But he disputed that lands put in trust would be used for gambling enterprises.

So, Obama supports the pro-casino ruling for recently purchased tribal lands?
posted by Brian B. at 8:56 PM on November 1, 2011


Hayes said the federal government opposes the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the law, and argued Congress should extend the right to hold land in trust to every tribe, regardless of the date of its recognition.

This is backwards. The country should be working towards removing the illusion of tribal lands as separate, not encouraging more of the same.
posted by madajb at 9:49 PM on November 1, 2011


The food sovereignty link is fascinating - I can't wait to listen.

Of course, there's this doofus in the comments, who is super outraged that people, somewhere, are excluding him from something. (Unclear why Native Americans daring to have separate cultural traditions is awful but presumably he's okay with this also being true of, say, Austrians.)
posted by thehmsbeagle at 10:34 PM on November 1, 2011


Please, someone, the tl;dr version: What is "food sovereignty"?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:56 PM on November 1, 2011


Many Native American tribes have been gaining ground in recent years in the goal known as "food sovereignty." Over the past 15 years, tribes in the Northwest and across the country are pushing to return to diets that more closely resemble those of their ancestors. More traditional diets help battle food-based diseases like diabetes that are over-represented in Indian cultures. They also combat the infamous "boarding school" practices throughout the 20th century, which aimed to "westernize" Indians and separate them from their culture.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 11:06 PM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Chocolate Pickle: there is a pretty decent wikipedia page that has a slightly better summary (I think) than the one quoted by thehmsbeagle (sorry). But, basically, it's a term to describe the desire of groups of people to grow, gather, hunt or otherwise obtain food that they see as appropriate to their culture, rather than having to eat whatever the majority in their country (or outsiders) might see as "normal".
posted by R343L at 11:10 PM on November 1, 2011


This is backwards. The country should be working towards removing the illusion of tribal lands as separate, not encouraging more of the same.

It isn't an illusion, tribal lands are sovereign. The tribes don't answer to the state (depending on what the treaty the were forced to sign says) they answer to the Feds. What makes you think it's illusory?
posted by Peztopiary at 2:41 AM on November 2, 2011 [9 favorites]


This is backwards. The country should be working towards removing the illusion of tribal lands as separate, not encouraging more of the same.

Well, considering it was ALL tribal land here until a bunch of people from the other side of the world arrived and just started taking it away from them... And then when the natives ended up on the losing sides of various wars the newcomers tried to make it not look so bad by giving them crappy land grants "in exchange" for all the good bits they'd already settled anyway...

It's really not much wonder they're trying to make sure what they do still have is as much separate and theirs as possible.
posted by hippybear at 4:38 AM on November 2, 2011 [8 favorites]



This is backwards. The country should be working towards removing the illusion of tribal lands as separate, not encouraging more of the same.


As others have just said, it's not an illusion, any more than it's an illusion that Canada is a sovereign nation. The tribal lands are complicated, though, because of overlapping jurisdictions, and because of a long history of treaty violations, land sales and purchases, and complicated legal rulings. Personally I think the fact that the US has within it a bunch (maybe a couple of hundred?) sovereign and semi-sovereign nations is really interesting, and is something I'm ok seeing clarified and strengthened.

The modern health outcomes for natives are really appalling; my sense is that "food sovereignty" is one piece of the puzzle for addressing this. No one thinks it is enough on its own to do much, but together with a whole host of cultural, legal, and environmental efforts I could imagine it helping. (And as someone who lives close to three reservations, I have the selfish motivation of hoping that food sovereignty efforts will lead to the availability of interesting local foods in addition to the introduced foods which are mostly what are produced in this region now.)
posted by Forktine at 6:19 AM on November 2, 2011


Google fry bread obesity or "commod bod" for an idea as to why food sovereignty is such an important concept.
posted by elsietheeel at 8:14 AM on November 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


It isn't only about health. I ate at the Desert Rain Cafe last spring. Had an interesting chat with some of the folks there about how local, traditional foods were not only healthier, but they also provided jobs to locals (gathering, growing and/or processing) and encouraged good environmental practises.

The food was so good, once I finished breakfast I had to stay for lunch, too.
posted by QIbHom at 8:42 AM on November 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm interested in whether any "US owned" lands near some of the reservations that are unoccupied might assist with the goal of food sovereignty. Ie. areas that are more fertile, hospitable to animals.

Thanks for posting this.
posted by xarnop at 8:42 AM on November 2, 2011


Probably doesn't merit its own posting to the front page so I'll add this here:

I can't believe the Federal Government involves themselves to the point of calling the Native Americans children who are incapable of manning their own affairs or even knowing if they are being insulted or not

Tribe sues NCAA to let school use name

Really? The tribe can't decide on its own to allow its name to be used by someone? The NCAA's position that it is derogatory and demeaning even if the tribe doesn't see it that way is incredibly insulting. Their view is far more derogatory and demeaning than the schools authorized (and presumably paid for) use of the tribes name, image, or whatever two adult groups consent to.
posted by 2manyusernames at 8:47 AM on November 2, 2011


It isn't an illusion, tribal lands are sovereign. The tribes don't answer to the state (depending on what the treaty the were forced to sign says) they answer to the Feds. What makes you think it's illusory?

If your independence rests on the whim of another entity, if you rely on that entity for support and protection and if that entities laws supersede your own, you are not sovereign in any meaningful sense of the word.
Indian land exists because the Federal government allows it to exist to assuage some vague sense of guilt.

Is there anyone who doubts that if an Indian tribe tried to do something truly out of bounds, legalizing hard drugs, say, or damming a river, that it would be stopped forthwith?


As others have just said, it's not an illusion, any more than it's an illusion that Canada is a sovereign nation.


The situation is quite different, as Canada does not exist within the borders of the United States.
posted by madajb at 8:54 AM on November 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


The idea of 'food sovereignty' is related to 'seed sovereignty' - resistance to corporations trying to eg obtain patents on traditional seeds. The idea is there is a shared agricultural patrimony that a corporation can't own, it's already owned in common by the people; thus it should always be legal to save seeds from plants you have grown yourself and re-plant them (something Monsanto eg would like to see outlawed for plant varieties they "own"), etc. Organizations like Native Seeds/SEARCH promote seed sovereignty for indigenous crops.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:06 AM on November 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm interested in whether any "US owned" lands near some of the reservations that are unoccupied might assist with the goal of food sovereignty. Ie. areas that are more fertile, hospitable to animals.

Yes, definitely. The tribe closest to where I live (and on whose traditional lands I am sitting at this moment) has treaty rights for fishing, hunting, and gathering on the gazillion acres of land that were given up to the US government 150 or so years ago; that land, and the traditional foods from it, would be central to any attempt at food sovereignty. And in the linked radio piece, someone talks about huckleberry harvesting, which is almost certainly on public lands to which traditional harvesting access has been maintained or negotiated.
posted by Forktine at 10:26 AM on November 2, 2011


I read this and expected something slightly different. My wife worked in a grocery chain, and knew several people from the food safety department. Mainly they taught employees proper food handling and sanitation to prevent the stores from selling spoiled food, from primarily from the hot food and deli counters.

As a result my wife learned that due to sovereignity issues, the restaurants in indian casinoes are not health inspected. The tribe may have a similar position, but any food safety regulations off of the reservation are primarily advisory, and may be followed on a voluntary basis. Never ate at an indian casino again.
posted by Badgermann at 2:03 PM on November 2, 2011


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