More than 250 people from all over the U.S. – representing tribes, Native organizations and businesses, food producers and others – packed the Food Sovereignty Summit held in mid-April in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Registration for the conference had to be discontinued well ahead of the event because attendee capacity had been reached.
The summit was sponsored by First Nations, the Oneida Nation, the Intertribal Agriculture Council and Northeast Wisconsin Technical College. It was held April 15-18, 2013, at the Radisson Hotel & Conference Center.
“We were extremely happy with the turnout – which was actually beyond capacity limits – because it showed very strongly that Native food sovereignty is a significant and rapidly growing issue in Indian Country,” said Raymond Foxworth, First Nations senior program officer and the leader of First Nations’ Native Agriculture and Food Systems Initiative. “It was an impressive coming together of some of the top minds, visionaries and operators in Native food systems work.”
The professional tracks at the conference included Sustainable Agricultural Practices, Community Outreach and Development, and Business Management, Finance and Marketing. Attendees had the option of attending sessions in just one track, or customizing their experience by selecting from any of the sessions. Attendees and presenters shared experiences about food security, food policy, best practices, resources, farm-to-school programs, organic farming, permaculture, entrepreneurship, biofuels, equipment, animal diseases and other issues. Besides the general and breakout sessions, the event featured networking events, educational films, and tours of the Oneida Nation integrated
food system’s cannery, orchard, bison herd, farm, warehouse and retail store.
Food sovereignty is an important issue because Native communities are struggling to fight food-related disease and regain health and good nutrition through traditional diets, regain or retain cultural and agricultural traditions and practices, and stimulate economic development by developing and controlling food systems in their tribes and communities.
“We are pleased to have been involved in the monumental event with our co-organizers,” Raymond added. “The summit allowed attendees to hear and learn from some of the top food-system programs in Indian Country. In the coming months, First Nations will be hosting a number of technical assistance webinars on various topics of interest identified by summit attendees. We hope the webinars, combined with the information provided at the summit, will allow the attendees to use all this information in their communities and continue to develop strong programs to reclaim control of local Native food systems.”
Article and photos by Jackie Francke, First Nations Senior Program Officer