Native American Food Sovereignty

Food Sovereignty


“Food sovereignty is the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems. It puts the aspirations and needs of those who produce, distribute and consume food at the heart of food systems and policies rather than the demands of markets and corporations.”

Declaration of Nyéléni, the first global forum on food sovereignty, Mali, 2007

Food sovereignty in Indian country is one of the most important issues facing Native Americans today.
Food sovereignty is the keystone to good health. Without good health we do not have the strength, or energy to pursue anything else. We are unable to address all of the other issues facing Native America today.

TLE has a food sovereignty initiative. Funded by Christensen Fund to work with food stake holders on Navajo and with the Navajo Nation to put in place a food policy that will lead to food sovereignty. TLE is currently working with the Navajo Nation’s Office of the President/Vice President, Dine’ Food Sovereignty Alliance, LCRWCA, Black Mesa Water Coalition, and other food stakeholder to sponsor and present a Food Sovereignty Summit in April. We will bring together as many food stakeholders as possible. The summit will be a place to network, get acquainted, pool resources, support one another, get on the same page and spearhead tribal food sovereignty.

Before Columbus, the indigenous people of this land lived a healthy lifestyle that insured a long life. Among the Navajo People 102 years, was the traditional expected life span. Conquest, changed all that. There was lose of land and wholesale destruction of food source. Over the years due to lack of economic opportunities, and government intervention the indigenous diet went from wholesome and natural to fatty, salty “commodities”. Along with this drastic change in diet came a host of diet related illness. Diabetes, obesity, heart problems, and high blood pressure. Currently one third of the Navajo population is either diabetic or pre-diabetic. That is unacceptable, and is one of the main reasons for the Food Sovereignty initiative.

Tolani Lake Enterprises Inc. is not looking to re-invent the wheel. So we are not just collaborating with food stakeholders on Navajo, we are also working with other tribes with the long term goal of creating an inter-tribal food hub were tribes will be able to access other indigenous food to supplement their own traditional food supply.

Some of the goals of Indigenous Food Sovereignty are:

  • Have access to healthy food;
  • Have foods that are culturally appropriate;
  • Grow, gather, hunt and fish in ways that are sustainable over the long term;
  • Distribute foods in ways so people get what they need to stay healthy;
  • Adequately compensate the people who provide the food; and
  • Utilize tribal treaty rights and uphold policies that ensure continued access to traditional foods.

Tolani Lake Enterprises is also working with non-native off rez individuals and organizations in order to make use of modern techniques and marry the modern with the traditional in order to deal with the world as it is today.