Food Revolution

Indigenous Food Sovereignty: A Conversation with Foster Cournoyer-Hogan

Food Revolution
Indigenous Food Sovereignty: A Conversation with Foster Cournoyer-Hogan

In this episode of Food Revolution, our host Matte Wilson talks to Foster Cournoyer-Hogan, a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe from Parmalee. Foster currently works with the Initaitive as an intern through our WIK program (Waicahya Icagapi Kte, or They Will Grow into Producers, our year long internship for tribal members who are interested in becoming food producers). He talks about finishing up his senior year at Stanford University and future plans, how he became involved with the Food Sovereignty Iniative, and what he's learned about growing and wild harvesting over the past few years. 

Complete transcript available here.

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Intro Han 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 our 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 All right. So I'm here with Foster Cournoyer-Hogan. Um, Foster, can you introduce yourself, tell us a little bit about your background.  

Foster 00:00:35  Hau Mitakuyapi, cante waste nape ciyuzapelo. Foster Cournoyer-Hogan emaciyapelo. Hi, my name is Foster Cournoyer-Hogan, I am a senior at Stanford University graduating in a few weeks. Um, I'm from Parmalee and yeah, that's a little bit about me.  

Matte 00:00:59 Cool. And for those of you who don't know, Foster’s been with the, um, with our organization, the Food Sovereignty Initiative for, um, for a number of years, um, Foster, tell us a little bit about how you got involved with our program.  

Foster 00:01:12 Yeah, so my, I think I was a freshman, the summer of my freshman year of college. I was looking for a summer internship or summer job and came across this opportunity that the school offers to partner with any nonprofit. And so I was asking around like what I could do, where I could go, and I knew I wanted to come home for the summer, but I just didn't know where, where to be placed. So then someone made the connections with Mike [Mike Prate, Development Director of the Sicangu CDC and former FSI Director] and Mike was like, yeah, sure, come on. You know, we'd love to have you here. So then got placed with the Sicangu Food Sovereignty Initiative and from there, and I came back the following year and I think last year was my first break. And then here I am again with the WIK internship.  

Matte 00:02:10 Yeah. And so for those who don't know, um, our WIK internship Waicahya Icagapi Kte um, which is, um, ‘They Will Grow into Producers,’ it's our beginning farmer and rancher program. Um, so Foster, what, what made you, um, become interested in that internship?  

Foster 00:02:28 Yeah, so I, I wanted to come back to this, to this, um, to the Food Sovereignty Initiative. You know, I've had a lot of great experiences here. I learned like everything, I learned so much and just the simple exposure to what tribal food sovereignty is like really changed my life and my perception of the world, like what it means to be food sovereign, but to also like be food sovereign in an indigenous manner, like from an indigenous perspective. Yeah. So that was really eye opening for me. And now, you know, I'm taking that into my own practice of, you know, foraging, um, hunting, fishing, you know, doing it in a culturally respective manner. And, you know, just taking the time to learn about a lot of different things and even gardening, gardening, you know, the common store, vegetables like tomatoes and stuff, but also a three sisters indigenous seeds. That's something that I'm really interested in and trying to get into more as I'm learning. Um, I thought this internship would be another perfect learning opportunity for me. And, you know, I can learn more beyond what I was already exposed to and I am, I'm learning so much more like with the chickens and ducks up here at the garden. I don't know anything about chickens and ducks, but I'm learning a little bit about them. They're fun.  

Matte 00:04:08 Yeah, for sure. So if someone were to ask you like maybe, you know, your little brother, what does food sovereignty mean to you? How would you explain that to him?  

Foster 00:04:23 I always have trouble with this question, but I think for this food sovereignty, you know, that's, that's its own thing and an indigenous and tribal food sovereignty is another, or, you know, food sovereignty by itself. That's, that's just having your own food, growing your own, um, harvesting your own, you know, not having so much dependency on, um, stores and big companies. Um, but indigenous food sovereignty is something different, entirely different because you're focusing on the, the epistemology of the peoples, you know, for a Lakota peoples, you're focusing on our relationship with the Buffalo nation, plant nation, you know, other four legged relatives. And you're doing that in a culturally respective manner. You know, you're, you're just focusing on the prayer in it. And I think that's something that's that I'm trying to focus more on. Cause you know, gardening is, is a skill that takes a lot to master, but I think this indigenous side is, is a lifelong journey that you just have to practice every single day. So that's, that's kinda what I'm focusing on is that distinction because people, I don't think people are aware of that. And I want to raise awareness of that because that's, that's important because that's who we are as a people in that, you know, that just strengthens our tribal sovereignty as well.  

So if I were to tell my little brother that he'd probably be a little confused, but I would just say, you know, just practice your culture, you know, and, and learn, just learn everything you can about it and watch, you know, observe what others are doing and ask questions. That's what I would say.  

Matte 00:06:32 Yeah. Awesome. That's a good response. What about your, your thoughts are, your perspective around food? How has that changed over time? Um, you know, from like high school and to, you know, now where you're kind of doing more of the, you know, gardening right now and working with chickens, how has that changed over time?  

Foster 00:06:50 In high school, you know, I, I would have known nothing about any of this. I wouldn't have even a clue. You know, I learned, I knew some, like I knew the health disparities that we face and, you know, in high school I stopped drinking pop. Like just what do they call it? Cold turkey. I just stopped cold turkey. And I still haven't drank pop since then. But I think just the simple act like that, um, was a good start. You know, I didn't know too much about, I knew what chokecherries were, you know, wild plums, stuff like that. 

Matte Yeah. 

Foster You know, I loved to eat deer meat and buffalo, but I never did that sort of stuff myself. I just kind of ate you know, what relatives had. Um, but now I know like I can do this myself. I've learned the skills, develop the skills and understanding to do that on my own. And it's crazy. Cause you, you don't realize how much, you know, until someone asks you something and you, you can explain it to them and teach them. And that's, that's a really humbling experience too. That's something I probably wouldn't have experienced when I was younger, but now that I'm older and have these experiences of working here and, you know, taking it into my own life and going out on my own foraging and asking questions from other people that, that's an experience in itself, that's really humbling because now I know like there's so much more out there that we don't know that we could be learning and it's, it's just astonishing what, what we know what we've always known, and what's, we're starting to like learn again from like, what's been taught to us as not good things, but they really are good things. Like, yesterday I made dandelion, um, tea and coffee, but my whole life, I was always told dandelions are nothing but weeds, but they’re actually like super healthy, you know, benefits to dandelions, you know, things like that, that, that's growth. Like that's a whole shift in mindset. That's something that's really crazy to think about now because it's like, what else is something that's beneficial to our health, but they're telling us is, you know, weeds, whatever weed it is.  

Matte 00:09:33 Yeah, exactly. I love that. Um, so jumping back to, um, the internship, what's been your, your favorite part about it and like, what are you looking most forward to?  

Foster 00:09:48 Hm. I, I like the, you know, the things that we're learning, and learning about different healthy soil management, you know, composting, um, starting seeds, you know, I, I tried to start seeds, but didn't really know what I was doing. I just bought some starter plants from the SGU Greenhouse last year, but now, you know, learning how to do things on my own, um, from someone that knows more about it. I like to do that more than, you know, watching YouTube videos and stuff. I say that would be probably my favorite thing is like actually getting my hands dirty out in the field and doing things like that. ‘Cause that's, that's fun, to get away from the screen since we're all on the screen all the time nowadays. 

Matte Yeah. Definitely. 

Foster Actually being outside and being with the plant relatives and the chickens. They’re so much fun.  It's just great experience. And the thing I'm looking forward to most is just seeing everything grow and see some things that are growing now. But I can't wait until it's, you know, later in the summer where we're having the markets and, you know, have the opportunity to share our produce with people and, you know, have them say like, wow, this is really good. And I just like seeing that and seeing people like eat something and then their reaction is really, you know, it makes me happy to see that. So that's what I'm looking forward to the most is like those, um, opportunities to engage with people, again, even if it's like socially distanced, which it will be, but just seeing people and being able to connect again nowadays, you just feel so connected being in isolation and on the screen, it's not the same. 

Matte 00:11:54 Definitely. Totally. Yeah. I think, um, I think gardening can be really hard work and I think what really pays off for, for me anyways, is that being able to see, you know, the people from our community, you know, benefit from, from what we're doing and be able to, you know, buy and eat the produce that we grow. So I'm really excited for the farmer's market. I just want to put this plug in there, that we're starting, you know, two months earlier than we normally would. So, you know, I'm pretty, we're pretty excited about that.   

Foster 00:12:36  It is exciting. There's so much fun.  

Matte 00:12:40 Yeah. I definitely, I, I, I love seeing people too and I think, yeah, the pandemic it's really been really hard for me not being able to see people and, um, having that connection with people. It's a lot different over, um, you know, over Zoom or, um, you know, over like these, you know, live events like that. Um, so I'm really hoping we can get back to doing more of that one day. Um, yeah. So after the internship's done right now, kind of wraps up in the fall. What are your plans, um, afterwards?  

Foster 00:13:22 Yeah, so afterwards, you know, like I said, I'll be graduating next month in a few weeks, and I’m going to take a break this summer, focus on the internship, and I'll be going on to my Master's program in the fall in August, but that's online. I'll be around, um, probably focusing on school and might get a part-time job, but I think definitely taking the time to do, to do my own research on different plants and stuff. ‘Cause I know the majority of my knowledge is on like the summer harvesting and spring. I want to learn more about like the fall, you know, after everything is kind of brown and hard to identify. That's what I want to learn is how to still find stuff, even though it might not look like it's there, but it is, that's something that I really want to learn. So I think that's, that's my next goal and in this journey.  

Matte 00:14:22 Cool. And one of the deliverables for the internship is kind of to develop, a business plan, with a potential for applying, for money through the internship. Do you have an idea of what you think  your enterprise will be focusing on?  

Foster 00:14:41 Yeah, I've been thinking about this and something I really enjoy doing is making teas and drinking teas. So I think that could be something, ‘cause you know, you don't see, there's a few indigenous owned tea businesses, but it's very small and I think experimenting with different tea blends of, you know, what grows here in this region, but also what could be, um, grown in a garden like chamomile and lavender and also like just using ceyaka and now dandelion, um it's, uh, bergamot, you know, I think that would be something cool to just have the different tea blends and being able to package that and sell them and you know, it's all in compostable material. I think that's important is trying to combat climate change, especially with this work, you know, that's important. I think that would be cool. 

Matte Yeah. I love that. Yeah. I, you know, I love tea and coffee, so, you know, I would definitely, I'll definitely buy some tea from you. Yeah, cool. 

Well that was Foster Cournoyer-Hogan. And then this was Food revolution. Catch you next week.   

Outro 00:16:17  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.

Produced by Mairi Creedon

Brought to you by Sicangu Food Sovereignty Initiative of Food Revolution