FOOD SECURITY & SOVEREIGNTY
Food Security and Traditional Medicinal Herbal Propagation and Sovereignty in the lower Mississippi River Delta (South Louisiana) with citizens of the Houma Nation and inter-tribal partners from the Bvlbuncha Collective
The matriarchy of the Houma Nation has been suppressed for hundreds of years as colonization and assimilation has attempted to erase women from the decision-making process, silencing rights and equal opportunities for future generations. Since the onset of colonization in the United States, Indigenous women of the Mississippi River Delta have been forced to adapt and compromise their relationships with the water, land, food. However, against all odds and against great challenges, Indigenous women are demonstrating every day that they have unique and essential ideas and skills to offer at this turning point in history, as humanity faces a crisis of survival and must make crucial changes and decisions about how we are living with the Earth and each other.
United Nations studies show that women farmers feed the world, and are central stewards of seeds and agricultural biodiversity. With 80% of biodiversity existing within Indigenous territories, Indigenous women hold vast knowledge and skill gleaned through their traditional role as healers, culture shapers, and caretakers of water and land.
The Indigenous Women & Femme-led Food Sovereignty Program uplifts Indigenous women to secure and grow food and medicinal herbs for their communities and support a sustainable path toward community resiliency during cascading crises of climate, colonization, and the COVID-19 pandemic. Through Indigenous garden networks, Indigenous women will preserve and propagate plant knowledge, developing sustainability, community and local economies by returning to seeding adaptive practices, rooted in Traditional Ecological Knowledge, and inspiring solutions to modern-day challenges, like climate adaptation.
The network of the WECAN Indigenous Women's Gardens across the United States Gulf South are within the traditional and contemporary territories of the Chata, the Mvskoke, the Biloxi, the Tunica, the Attakapas-Ishak, the United Houma Nation, the Chitimatcha, the Washa, the Chawasha, the Tchopitoulas, the Bayougoula, and upon the lands that were home to the ancestors of the Nations whose names were erased during the early years of European contact. Additionally, these are the adopted homelands of other Nations who found their way to the southeast in search of sovereignty.
The WECAN program areas include the lands of the United Houma Nation in Louisiana as the core hub and spans three states Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama with Indigenous women in the program leading gardens along old Native trade routes.
The Houma Nation and other coastal nations maintained a sense of sovereignty at the ends of bayous, where families survived off the estuary’s abundance and rich soil; but these territories are disappearing at one of the fastest rates on earth, due to a legacy of extractive practices and a changing climate. Developing and supporting local Indigenous food networks is crucial for ensuring the continuation of sacred and long-standing cultural practices connected to food, medicine, and the land.
Houma and inter-tribal women from the Bvlbancha Collective are building a network of medicinal and food gardens, to revitalize traditional ecological practices, and provide food and financial security. The network will also enhance food security practices and strategies to sell produce and products to public markets. Some of the produce, traditional herbs, and materials grown in the gardens and greenhouses will be sold at local markets to support program sustainability and ensure financial independence for the women involved in the program.
Monique Verdin is the WECAN Program Leader for the Indigenous Food Sovereignty Program for the Mississippi River Delta Region. Monique co-coordinates the program with Osprey Orielle Lake, Executive Director of WECAN International. Working closely with Monique on the ground is Tammy Greer, also of the Houma Nation, who will co-lead workshops for the program, and is a keeper of traditional ecological knowledge. Look back for updates as we build the systems necessary for a just and healthy world!