Food Revolution

Coming Home to Rosebud: A Conversation with Deanna Eaglefeather

Food Revolution
Coming Home to Rosebud: A Conversation with Deanna Eaglefeather

In today's episode, Matte talks Deanna Eaglefeather, a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe who lives with her husband and four kids on a homesite east of Mission, SD on the Rosebud Reservation. Deanna shares how and why she made her way home to Rosebud after growing up in the Twin Cities, how she became interested in food sovereignty, growing food, and harvesting the wild foods of the prairie, some of her family's future plans for their homesite, and some tips for tapping boxelder (a species of maple) trees for sap to make syrup right here on the prairie.  

Full episode transcription available here

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(Intro) 00:00:00 Hau Mitakuyapi, and welcome to Food Revolution, brought to you by the Sicangu Food Sovereignty Initiative. Every other week, we'll be bringing you stories of food sovereignty from community members and tribal food producers working to build a more just, equitable, and regenerative food system for the Sicangu Lakota Oyate - the Burnt Thigh Nation. Together, we're building tribal sovereignty through food, and we've set a place at the table just for you. Join us and be part of the Food Revolution.  

(Matte) 00:00:29 Hey everyone. This is Matte Wilson. Today we'll be talking to Deanna Eaglefeather about the path she and her family have taken to practice food sovereignty in their everyday lives. Later on in the episode, Dee is going to talk about tapping boxelder trees to make syrup, and walk us through that process a little bit. This episode was recorded in advance, so we wanted to let you know that the best time to tap trees for sap is in late February or early March, when the temperatures are above freezing during the day and below freezing at night. 

While you're listening, we have a favor to ask. The Food Sovereignty Initiative is currently doing surveys to help us understand the experience our community members have around food, so that we can work towards building a more inclusive and equitable food system where everyone has access to healthy, fresh, local foods. Respondents will be entered into a drawing for cash prizes, with the chance to win up to $500. If you're interested, head over to our Facebook page, Sicangu Community Development Corporation, for more information and to access the survey. And now, back to the show. 

(Survey available here. Please only complete it if you live on or within 30 miles of the Rosebud Reservation.) 

(Matte) 00:01:30 Dee, wanna introduce yourself? Tell us a bit about your background, how you came to be living on Rosebud? 

(Deanna) My name is Deanna Eaglefeather. I currently live in Mission on the Rosebud Reservation. I am a mother of four children and a proud army wife. We moved to Mission, I would say about five, almost six years ago. And we have our own homesite in Mission, and yeah. 

(Matte) What brought you to come back home? 

(Dee) Okay. Um, so my dad is originally from here. He is Lakota. Um, my mom is Diné, and I grew up and I was raised in Minnesota. And then around the time that I became pregnant with my first child, my husband and I kind of wanted to, raise our kid in, in a more stable environment, and us growing up the way we did, it wasn't as stable as we wanted it for our children. So that's when we decided to come back to the reservation because we had the opportunity of getting a lease with TLE, a homesite lease. And that is for us, that was a huge deciding factor on coming back to the reservation.  

(Matte) 00:03:08 So can you, can you share a little bit about your experience with setting up your home site? Like how has that process gone for you and your family? What are your future plans for the site as well?  

(Deanna) 00:03:18 So, um, we, it was a little slow. Our Homesite was approved in 2016. Yeah. In the spring of 2016. And because, um, you know, with a home site lease, you're basically funding everything yourself, like getting your home out there. And so it took a little bit longer for us to actually move out to the land. But once we were out here, as a parent, you want to have a stable environment for your child and like, like most, I’m hoping, like all parents. And so once we were actually out here and building our home, how we wanted it, I started to see a change in myself and my husband and my oldest, you know, we made it our home. So we were able to relax more and actually enjoy, like, being out here and, you know, being on the reservation and being within our community. 

00:04:28 Um, and for our future plans, so we  actually started growing our own food last year, a little garden. And so this year we're actually going to be expanding on that, um, you know, breaking our garden up into a three sisters garden, a melon patch and, you know, things like that. And I've actually been able to do things that I probably wouldn't have been able to do like in the city or in a, in a smaller confined yard or anything like that. So it's definitely, um, there's a lot more improvements. Like everything else, you know, it takes time, but we, we've been enjoying it so far. And, you know, we have a place to call home and that's, I think that's really important, especially if you're starting a family and everything.  

(Matte) 00:05:18 Yeah, that's awesome. Our interns are scheduled to come out and get a tour from you about your, on your home site. So we're pretty excited for that. And I know you worked with us in the past, and you have a lot of knowledge about wild foods on the prairie. How did you become interested, or where did you start learning about these traditional foods?  

(Deanna) 00:05:41 So, like most of, you know, our story, it actually started when I was pregnant with my first child. I started to look back like how I grew up and the things that I ate and the things that I enjoyed. And I realized not a lot of it was all that great. And I wanted to make changes to it and the best way to, um, bring health to our families is by food. And so I started cooking a lot more at home instead of eating out, and started to learn more about growing food and harvesting it. So it all started with my oldest Tecumseh, the idea of, you know, being more self-sustainable and understanding what food is and my health. And so I started looking at, it first started, you know, with books and the internet, of course, because being separated from, you know, Lakota culture and the community, I didn't really have anyone to go to.  

00:06:55 I couldn't go and ask a grandmother or, you know, another relative. So it all started with books and the internet. And it wasn't until I came out here, when I started to learn more about, um, you know, the environment, the land, the whole importance of conservation and why it's so important, especially out here where a lot of the plants out here are very, um, I want to say like delicate, like it's too much, it's too much is changed. Then we could lose out on all of these and not just us, you know, you and I, but also our future generations. And so that's when I became very interested in not only learning how these help, uh, how these plants can, you know, feed us and take care of us, but how, how can we do that for them? And I think that's (Matte) 00:07:55 Yeah, definitely. So a question I like to ask people is what does food sovereignty mean to you? What does that term mean to you?  

(Deanna) 00:08:04 So, for me, it means, you know, not having to go to the grocery store or not, you know, we were on commodities for a while as well, you know, not having to do the commodity program, and not just during the summer where everything's growing, but also how can I, you know, take what I grow in the spring, summer, and fall, and take it all the way back into the winter and early spring when nothing is growing or, you know, how can I harvest things that grow in the wooded area that we use that, that surrounds our home site and how can I, uh, preserve those so that it's lasting our family all through the winter and, you know, how, how much do we actually need? You know, so that I'm not taking from, you know, the animals that live around us too. And, uh, so for me, that's what that means is like, how can I do this as a mother and, you know, also feeding myself as well and not having to, you know, try and get a job, or, you know, put it, put it into our financial budget. Like, how do I do this? You know, sustainably. 

(Matte) 00:09:25 Awesome. So my next question is, it has to do with, uh, like the traditional lens that you kind of started out with. What does that mean to you to be able to raise your kids with this? So what does that mean to be able to have like these, these options for youth to be able to learn this traditional knowledge?  

(Deanna) 00:09:46 I think, um, in order to learn these things, you really, you really get to learn about yourself and the environment you live in. I think it's really important because then you get to appreciate everything that you go through, everything that is around you, you know, even the seasons, this was, you know, this was a pretty harsh winter. And, um, but you know, part of me appreciates that because I understand that that's what this place needs is that, that harsh environment, so that when we come into these other seasons, we appreciate these things more. And so, you know, when I raise them, when my children, you know, when I raise them this way, I want them to be happy. Like, that's my very first concern is like, are my children happy? Because that means more to me than anything else is like, making sure that they're happy, that they're fed, they're not going home, you know, going to bed hungry or thirsty.  

00:10:56 So when we raise them in these, when I raise my children in these environments, I know that it's not just about feeding them. It's just, you know, are they happy in this environment? And, you know, I see it when they see tomatoes ripen in the, in the garden last year, or like cucumbers, you know, at first they're like, Oh, it's so cute. And then they pick it off and then they eat it, you know? And it's, it's a good feeling for me to see my children go through that. And I, that's my biggest push. It's like, okay, I'm getting somewhere. I know I'm on the right on the right track. And I can guide them, you know, this way and in a healthy way.  

(Matte) 00:11:40 Awesome. That's awesome to hear. Um, I think whenever we have youth up in the gardens, it’s pretty cool to see, you know, just to be able to see how things grow and, you know, I think that's just something that's really cool to experience. That's awesome that you're able to do that here with your children. 

Last question is, what advice do you have for others who are looking to start harvesting or using wild plants as food medicine, or even just like food sovereignty in general? What do you think people should start? Or how can they start?  

(Deanna) 00:12:14 I think it, I think people should start small, and start with things that they like. So, um, I got a lot of questions last spring with people that I knew personally, um, you know, they had questions on, okay, what if I, you know, I have a 30 by 40 foot space, I want to grow a garden and it's like, it, it takes, it takes a lot of energy. It takes a lot of time. Do you have the time to go out there? And do you have the time to, um, you know, water every day? Do you have the resources? And a lot of the times it was, you know, no. So, you know, it's just starting small, like grow something that you, your family, you and your family are going to eat and that you're going to enjoy. So it could be, you know, one type of plant and one tomato plant, or, you know, carrots and radishes, and, you know, just start, start out small.  

00:13:16 And as far as wild harvesting, start off with something that, you know, that, like I said before, like your family's going to enjoy and your family's going to eat, and that can be, you know, starting off with like, so right now is the time to go out and, uh, harvest sap from the boxelder plants, actually this next week is going to be the perfect time. And it doesn't take much, you know, you just need to drill, a bucket and a nailed to hang your bucket on, and, you know, that's altogether, if you already have a drill that's nothing, that's like, maybe like $10 for the rest of everything else. And, you know, boil it down and get, get your maple syrup that way, instead of going to the store and buying something, that's just, you know, straight up corn syrup and, or, you know, the maple syrup I've been buying is from Wisconsin and for a 16 ounce bottle, is like 10 bucks.  

00:14:25 I can't be spending, you know, $10 every few days, you know, because we, we eat pancakes like every day, but you know, those, those are little things like, Hey, you know, figure out like, what is something that we can all do together because trust me, one person doing all of it. It's like, it's so draining. And it's, you know, it gets frustrating after a while. So it kind of make this like a family thing, like, you know, everybody, you know, come out and help fertilize the garden or water the garden, or everybody come out and let's go harvest some chokecherries or, you know, some, uh, timpsila or, you know, let's go harvest them, you know, just incorporate it in your family, you know, into your family activities. Like this is, that's what it, that's what it's for, it's for your family. So that would be, that'd be, my advice is start off small and, you know, grow something or pick something that your family is going to eat and enjoy, and that you guys can enjoy as a family together.  

(Matte) 00:15:36    Awesome. I love that, that you’ve made that a family activity activity. That's amazing. Um, and as far as the boxelder syrup, you know, that was my first time doing it last year with, with you and your dad. I never got to experience that growing up so that, I think that was, that was really cool. Um, and I think we're going to be releasing that video, pretty soon here from, from last year that we recorded. So, um, so everyone of keep a look out for that. And, I'm excited for you, Dee, you guys, um, you know, sugarbush making, and I'm excited to hear more about it. So, yeah, I want to say thank you for taking the time and talking with me today. So, any last, any last thoughts or anything there?  

(Deanna) 00:16:24  I guess if you want to get started, look into some resources. I don't know if you guys can put out resources for people, but definitely, you know, maybe next year, people after hearing this and watching the video, if they're interested, you know, I'd be more than welcome to help set up a workshop for people in our community, you know, where, you know, where we all can convene and, you know, do do this all together because, you know, there's, you know, that's, I think that's the, the, the part where we're getting to where like a lot of people want to do these things, but there's not a whole lot of people around that know how to do it anymore. And, you know, I'm here, I'm home all the time. I'm a stay at home mom. So I'm more than, I'm more than willing to help, you know, set these things up. Of course, when we're able to meet and, you know, a group of people, again, I'm more than willing to come and help out. So yeah. 

(Matte) 00:17:31 That's awesome, thanks for throwing that out there. Cool. Well, again, thank you so much for taking the time to be interviewed today. Um, keep a look out for this episode and thank all for listening today. Catch you next time.  

(Deanna) 00:17:46 Thanks Matte. Have a good day. 

(Matte) You too. Thanks. 

(Outro) 00:17:50 You’ve been listening to Food Revolution with the Sicangu Food Sovereignty Initiative. Don't forget to follow us on Facebook at Sicangu Community Development Corporation, Instagram @sicangucdc, and check out our website at Thanks for tuning in and we'll catch you next time in two weeks. 

Host: Matte Wilson

Produced by: Mairi Creedon

Brought to you by Sicangu Food Sovereignty Initiative of Food Revolution