Fighting Food Colonialism in the Hopi Nation
November 25, 2019 10:57 AM   Subscribe

Hopi leaders are restoring food sovereignty for the tribe’s 2,500-square-mile reservation—which has only two grocery stores.

For Rosalie Talahongva, a former business analyst and a member of the Hopi tribe, weekends on the reservation are sometimes like battles. Unlike urbanites, who might get to enjoy a relaxed morning, her Saturdays start at dawn. She often leaves her home at 6 a.m. and drives more than 100 miles southwest from Second Mesa in the northeast corner of Arizona to a nearby town to do a week’s worth of laundry, buy gas for her car, and shop for groceries.

“You need to get everything set up,” said Talahongva. “Because if you forget something, you might have to wait another week.”


posted by poffin boffin (8 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
 
They should be allowed to bring sheep back to range and use the compost for walled gardens and orchards.
posted by parmanparman at 11:05 AM on November 25, 2019 [2 favorites]


The corn looks very different from the yellow corn I'm used to. I wonder how it tastes. I bet it's got a better nutritional value.
posted by The corpse in the library at 11:58 AM on November 25, 2019


The Hopi and the Navajo have a dispute over land and thus, the size of the herds of sheep were also disputed. 2014 story
Livestock permitting on HPL
posted by Ideefixe at 1:22 PM on November 25, 2019 [1 favorite]


Looking at Google maps, it looks like the grocery stores are Bashas', a chain you find all over Arizona. Both the Hopi and the Navajo reservations are dry--no alcohol sales--and I wonder if that makes a profit difference for the stores. There are a bunch of gas station type stores and their comments are all about the prices being too high. The population of the Hopi reservation is only 9000 people, but the surrounding, much larger (more than 10 times bigger) Navajo reservation is 350,000. These are very rural areas, though they get a significant amount of tourist traffic, which usually makes for better grocery stores. In east Texas, dry counties usually don't have as nice stores as wet counties.
posted by Bee'sWing at 3:10 PM on November 25, 2019


I was trying to put the food desert situation in Hopi in the larger context of America and came up with a couple of comparisons. No Car and No Supermarket Within a Mile. And in search of food deserts. Neither are quite what I was hoping for, which was just a simple map of grocery stores per capita on a by-county or otherwise finer grained level. But they both show that Four Corners is severely lacking in grocery stores compared to many other parts of the sparsely populated West.

But Hopi isn't like the rest of the US. It's a sovereign nation with its own culture and a very specific history. I appreciate how this story frames things in terms of colonialism and the Hopi trying to solve problems for themselves. Here's a direct link to the Hopi Farmer's Market info site. Looks like they have six a year.
posted by Nelson at 3:47 PM on November 25, 2019 [4 favorites]


I was hoping to find what “food sovereignty” meant but didn’t really see it. If they mean “growing enough food to feed their people,” there are a lot of larger groups in the U.S. that don’t do that. I’m not sure I see why it would be desirable vs. people having access to a healthy diet at a reasonable price that they can afford. Of course, maybe that is what they mean.
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 5:54 PM on November 25, 2019


The corn looks very different from the yellow corn I'm used to. I wonder how it tastes. I bet it's got a better nutritional value.

That is likely not eat-the-kernel corn. It's most likely corn for grinding and using to make some kind of bread, probably flat like piki bread only not blue. The whole mano/metate culture is found strongly throughout the entire southwestern US.

Add in the lack of access to grocery stores with lack of access of (to varying degrees and in varying combinations) plumbing, clean water, electricity... A lot of lives on a lot of reservations are lived in circumstances that are difficult to grok in the second decade of the 21st Century. I wish the US Government would step up and honor the treaty commitments, but history doesn't give me much hope about that.
posted by hippybear at 6:38 PM on November 25, 2019 [1 favorite]


If they mean “growing enough food to feed their people,” there are a lot of larger groups in the U.S. that don’t do that. I’m not sure I see why it would be desirable vs. people having access to a healthy diet at a reasonable price that they can afford.

This is how I was raised. There is an immense value to us in keeping our traditional ways alive and passing along the knowledge. The white colonialist attitude that food can be divorced from the people who grew it and still be healthy, is not one that we share.

It is also important to know that the Hopi are the people of the corn (along with several other tribes like the Díne) and the Corn Maiden is the Mother of all Hopi and creation. Food is spiritual.

The lack of food and the illegality of growing food and herding sheep was part of the efforts to exterminate my people. Part of the way the government forced us into losing treaties etc was by making our existence dependent on government cheese. Which, by the way, most Natives are lactose intolerant.

Food sovereignty is about asserting our rights over our own land our right to self determination. It is pushing back against the policies that want us to starve. It is what will keep us alive as climate change threatens mass agriculture.
posted by stoneweaver at 7:42 PM on November 25, 2019 [24 favorites]


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