"Bringing Back the Songs We Need": The Narragansett Food Sovereignty Initiative at the Crandall Minacommuck Farm
This work seeks to understand Indigenous food sovereignty movements by placing them into historical context, connecting past colonial encounters with contemporary struggles surrounding food access. Food sovereignty goes beyond food security, taking into account deeper cultural connections to food. Outside of Native communities, food sovereignty movements are often misunderstood due to the individualized nature of each movement according to the culture from which it emerges. This goes back in part to a misconception of Indigenous nations, particularly those in North America, as one monolithic culture. In reality, each of the hundreds of Indigenous cultures across the continent have their own beliefs and traditions, and though there are some common threads between communities, what works to restore or improve one group’s food sovereignty may not work for another. Federal groups that provide funding for such movements, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Natural Resources Conservation Service, often do not allow for differences in cultural preferences when stipulating how funding must be allocated, and Indigenous peoples are made to either compromise their own values or not receive funding. On the ground, Native communities face harassment from non-Natives who see the enactment of Native fishing, hunting, or gathering rights—typically rights protected by treaties—in an ahistorical context that appears on the surface to be undeserved special treatment. These views have resulted in lengthy and expensive court litigations, harassment and property damage preventing access to resources, and in some cases outright violence against Native peoples. Fostering an understanding of food sovereignty movements and the long, complex histories behind them may help mitigate these kinds of instances, making the way back to food sovereignty easier for Indigenous communities.