Food Revolution

2050 Vision: Revitalizing a Local Lakota Food System

Food Revolution
2050 Vision: Revitalizing a Local Lakota Food System

Anpetu waste! In this episode of Food Revolution, SFSI Garden Assistant & WIK intern Karen Moore chats with SFSI Director Matte Wilson about the Sicangu Food Sovereignty Initiative's vision for Rosebud's food system in the year 2050. The SFSI is one of ten finalists recently awarded the Food System Vision Prize from the Rockefeller Foundation. Along with our partners REDCO & Tatanka Funds, the SFSI team spent spring 2020 meeting with Rosebud community members & leaders to develop a vision that is just, equitable, regenerative, and grounded in Lakota culture & values. 

Full show notes & transcription available here.


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(Intro) 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 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 (00:00:32): “The alarm goes off. I open my eyes and start my day as usual. French press coffee made and I'm out the door. Today is the 30th annual Lakota Food Summit. I remember when I attended the 1st summit.Driving to the venue, I see the liveliness of Rosebud on a Saturday morning. People are out buying produce at the farmers market. I see the hot food vendors, and my mind immediately goes to the breakfast burrito stand where the woman makes homemade tortillas and gets her eggs from the vendor a few booths down. I can't stop today, I have something important to do. Pulling up to the venue, I feel honored that I was asked to prepare a dish and be a featured chef. Getting situated in the kitchen, feels so 2nd nature. I put on my custom apron, which has ribbon sewn into it. I feel like I just put on my battle armor, and in a sense, I did. My recipe for the day calls for bison. I open the walk-in cooler and pull out my slab of bison meat, feeling proud that I know this buffalo was raised and processed on Rosebud. 

The dish is done and plated. As people in the conference room take their first bite, I know that the food they are eating is medicine. The bison was raised and harvested in a way that respected its sacrifice. And putting my good thoughts and energy into preparing it, the food now becomes medicine, nourishing not only the body, but the soul. I never thought that I would be where I am today. Being able to cook the foods of my ancestors and being able to say that this is my career. 

Karen (00:02:04)  Anpetu waste. I'm Karen Moore, one of the garden assistants at the Food Sovereignty Initiative’s Three Sisters Farm. The vision you just heard was from Matte Wilson, the SFSI Director, imagining a day in the life of a Sicangu chef in 2050. The SFSI was recently announced as one of the winners of the Rockefeller Foundation's Food System Vision Prize, which asks organizations and communities to create a transformative vision for their food system 30 years from now, and local chefs working with indigenous gradients is a key part of our vision. Today, I'll be talking to Matte about the Food Sovereignty Initiatives collaborative, community-based vision for Rosebud’s food system and how we plan to get there. Hey Matte, thanks for joining me. How's everything going today?  

Matte (00:02:48): I'm pretty good. A little nervous to be doing this interview.  

Karen (00:02:51): You're great. This interview will be amazing, and I'm really excited to talk to you about this today. My first question for you is can you tell me bit about the Food System Vision Prize and what the process was like for the SFSI?

Matte (00:03:04): The Food System Vision Prize is an invitation for organizations across the world to develop a vision of our agenda, a nourishing food system that they aspire to create by the year 2050. Since October 2019, teams around the world have been collaborating to build their own visions. So we submitted a vision during the open submission phase along with other visionaries across the globe, but I think it was about 1300 applicants. We were chosen along with seventy-nine others  to go onto the second round, the semi-finalist round. During that round was a refinement stage where we got to work with our team and reach out to different community members and partnerships to get feedback in terms of what do they see for the future of Rosebud. 

Karen (00:03:47): How did this vision come about? Can you tell me a bit about the work that went into making this a community-based, collaborative vision for Rosebud’s 2050 food system?  

Matte (00:03:56): Yeah, so our vision is called the 7Gen Food System and it envisions a food system for Rosebud that is healthy and independent by 2050. And the 7Gen Plan is part of a larger 7Gen Plan that provides a roadmap for 175 years to reach prosperity. This project sets in motion the first generation of this work in terms of food. We made sure that we reached out to different people who are involved in the food system, which is almost everybody, everybody eats. So we reached out to different elders. During this time was when the pandemic broke out too. So we also had to use social media as a main tool for getting feedback from others. But we also did some interviews with elders, some producers across the reservation, and then some partnerships, across the state. the 7Gen Plan looks at different areas in terms of what we need to be focused on for the future. And food is just one of them. So our plan for the Food System Vision Prize lays out a set of goals and approaches to build a healthy and regenerative food system by the year 2050. So just this first generation, we're hoping to refine what the word regenerative means. It's more sustainable than organic and it leaves the land stronger and healthier by mimicking nature. It's not limited to just soil health, but also the health of our culture and our economy. And regenerative is also based on Lakota and indigenous values and how our relationship is with the earth.  

Karen (00:05:26): Can you share some of the vision? In 2050, how will our experiences around food be different than what they are today?  

Matte (00:05:33): In our vision, we identified seven goals, seven ambitious goals that we hope to complete by the year 2050. Goal number one is by 2050, regenerative agriculture will be used for all food production within the boundaries of Rosebud. As Lakota, as we were not traditionally farmers, but rather hunters and gatherers. So one of the ways that we do agriculture is that you should be adding to the earth, not just taking from it. Goal two, all institutions serving Rosebud will utilize local and traditional ingredients. In order to meet this goal, there needs to be an increase in tribal farmers and ranchers. The Sicangu Food Sovereignty Initiative is already working towards this need, and has already launched a year-long beginning farmer and rancher apprenticeship program. Goal three, infrastructure will be in place to facilitate equitable access to nutritious foods for all communities. This goal involves de-centralizing the food system located in the larger communities of Rosebud to the outlying communities.  

(00:06:31) We will do this by creating infrastructure for community members to access food in communities where there are no grocery stores by bringing the grocery store to them. A mobile grocery store is needed to increase food access and address mobility barriers. Goal four, by the year 2050 food will again be seen as medicine that heals the body, mind, and spirit of the Oyate and deepening Lakota identity. This goal involves getting back to the ceremonial aspect of food. From a traditional perspective, whoever prepares the food puts their essence, their soul into it, turning into the food into medicine. This entire process is like a ceremony from harvesting to eating. To meet this goal, it would require changing our mindsets about how we view food, thinking of food more as medicine, rather than a necessity for survival. Educational programs with youth and families are needed to start shifting the narrative and mindset. Programs such as cooking classes in schools, utilizing both traditional and modern foods, will be imperative in order for children to view food in this way. They have to experience what it is like on a regular basis.  

(00:07:38) There needs to be a developed curriculum around traditional food, knowledge, nutrition, and food preparation. This would result in collaboration between schools, health officials, and spiritual leaders. Goal number five, the food system will foster and support sustainable business ventures, making food production and entrepreneurship a viable pathway for job creation and income generation. A major component to me in this goal is the support from Tatanka Funds, an emerging CDFI (community development financial institution), and other systems that support native businesses and entrepreneurs. It is important to know how to grow your own food, but it's also important to know how to market and sell your food that you grow to keep locally produced food in the food system, and to support farmers and ranchers. Tatanka Funds and similar organizations will need to provide business development assistance. Offering services such as financial literacy classes, business planning, and providing low interest startup capital for tribal entrepreneurs.  

(00:08:39) Goal six, youth will be empowered to lead their families back to self determination by knowing how to grow harvest and prepare foods of their choice. This goal involves establishing food sovereignty as part of a regular school curriculum. Young people and families will again have self-determination in their food systems by knowing how to grow, harvest, and prepare foods of their choice. Youth will be given the opportunities to grow in these areas of food, not just basic skills, but any specialty skills. A partnership between the school districts and SGU is needed to create a dual enrollment program. High school students would then be able to earn both high school credit and college credit as well as a food system certification so that the next generation will have the skills and knowledge to create this shift. 

Goal seven, tribal citizens will be empowered to make highly informed consumption decisions. This goal involves a partnership with Indian Health Services and other tribal programs focusing on health. This partnership will create a team with social workers and the nutritionist who can meet the patients and connect them with medical services and education, but also local foods information and training on how to eat and cook. Another aspect of reaching this goal is to develop tribal food subsidies. Current subsidies, such as WIC and EBT, are government funded and controlled. There are more regulations that need to be met in order to connect with any participants to local foods. So therefore a tribally controlled food subsidy program would allow for more increase in local food sales support, families in need, and support local producers.  

Karen (00:10:19): How will the Food System Vision Prize allow us to reach our vision for Rosebud’s food system? And what projects do we have in store?  

Matte (00:10:28): The prize would allow us to leverage and secure future funding opportunities for the sustainability of our organization, as well as funding key projects, such as implementing a food prescription program, a  food leader's program, completing a comprehensive food sovereignty plan and launching the Three Sisters agriculture ecosystem.  

Karen (00:10:47): And finally, do you have anything you'd like to share with our listeners?  

Matte (00:10:51): I just want to say we are extremely excited, this is a great opportunity. Just to let everyone know that we are one of ten finalists worldwide, there are only two others from North America, one from Canada and one from, I believe New York. So the rest of them are spread out across India, and you know, other countries. And it's just a really cool opportunity that, you know, small place like Rosebud was chosen. So we're pretty excited.  

Karen (00:11:22): Awesome. Thank you for sharing this with us today, Matte, and congratulations. 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, where we post weekly blog post on Wednesday mornings. Thanks for tuning in and we'll catch you next time in two weeks. 

Hosting & editing: Karen Moore

Produced by: Mairi Creedon

Brought to you by Sicangu Food Sovereignty Initiative of Food Revolution