by Abbey Dickhudt
Over July 24th and 25th faculty, staff, and students with interests in organic gardening and Native food sovereignty visited the Fond du Lac Reservation under the Institute for Advanced Studies grant looking into Indigenous Food Sovereignty.
In planning the trip, the group worked with past faculty and members of the community to plan an integrated visit with key organizations, lakes, gardens, and places that highlighted the history, context, and work of the reservation. The trip included a visit to the Resource Management Division to learn about reservation resources such as fish, wild rice, and other community necessities and how they manage and encourage the hunting and harvesting of said resources. Stitched into this visit was the importance of tribal sovereignty and treaty rights over the land and it’s resources which is crafting an environment that strengthens the community’s cultural and historical practices. Following that, we learned from the Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College Environmental Institute, the Bimaaji’idiwin & Babaamaadiziwin Gardens, and the Cloquet Forestry Center about the importance of indigenous seeds, foods, and the growing of those with community members through a walk of native and medicinal plants.
This plethora of information connected to the broader context of the history of the reservation and of the importance of their work to create sustainable environments for the members of the community, both physically, mentally, and spiritually. The final part of the trip was spending the next afternoon learning about, recognizing, and remembering the Sandy Lake Memorial. In company with the remembrance, there was a community discussion and celebration of their ancestor’s strength to persevere through those times and of their strength to continue that work today.
With the interconnections of Indigenous food sovereignty, it was key that we learned about resources, community organizations, gardening, and cooking. We were able to share in it all, as it is within all of those that sovereignty is established within the tribal communities. Students and visitors on the trip were able to experience and interact with tribal community members that are deeply invested in work that will continue to influence the lives of others for many generations. Derek, one of the many that joined us in this great experience, took away a great message from this trip. He states that what stood out to him the most was, “the coming together as a community to bring awareness of Indigenous people. A common theme speakers touched on [was] ‘We are the land, We get what we put out.’ I thought it was important for students and faculty to take this trip because personally it expanded my knowledge of indigenous lifestyle and I had a very good time in the process. Also, I believe that it changed my perspective on life in a positive way!”
We here at the Center for Small Towns agree. We hope you feel inspired to learn, influence, and be influenced like we were through this incredible trip.