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Traditional Food System Preservation Program gets underway.

Each year, gatherers of indigenous plants traditionally used by the Yankton Sioux report that the food sources have become harder and harder to find. Chokecherry trees, wild plum bushes, medicine herbs, wild berries, vegetables and roots are encroached upon by the development, farming and ranching that overrode wild prairie. Now toxic herbicides and pesticides are used to kill off many medicinal p ants that farmer consider "weeds." Yet indigenous plants provide nutritional foods and medicines compatible with our body systems, and continue to play important parts in Native American ceremonies, as they have for generations.

In order to revive the prevalence of these indigenous plants and sustain the traditions of their use, the Native American Women's Health Education Resource Center is initiating a Traditional Food System Preservation Program. As part of the Program, the Center will plant over 2,000 indigenous fruit trees on the Yankton Sioux Reservation this May.

"By planting these indigenous foods, we will be ensuring that our traditions can be carried out over the next Seven Generations," explained Charon Asetoyer, Executive Director of the Resource Center. "An important aspect of the project is that there will be safe, organically grown food sources that will enhance the health and well-being of our people."

According to a recent radio show on "Native American Calling," 1 in 5 Native American families lack the resources to feed their families each month. By nurturing indigenous plant life that has traditionally sustained us, the Program takes the Resource Center's past garden-promoting activities to the next step and helps address the problem of hunger. Additionally, the Program will develop the community's economic potential. "We're looking at the innovative ways that families will be able to engage in commerce," said Asetoyer.

Elders will offer workshops instructing people about how to make the traditional food products, how to identify indigenous plants, and what purposes they can be used for. For instance, the chokecherry provides a variety of foods such as wojopi, a traditional pudding; dried chokecherry patties used to make the ceremonial food, wasna; cherry juice for Sun Dances; and jam for toast and biscuits. Indigenous wild mint makes chiaka, a medicinal tea that soothes stomach problems or a colicky infant; and soap that helps heal skin rashes. When they have acquired preparation skills, workshop participants will be able to generate revenue by selling or trading products for other goods.

The Resource Center will hold a produce fair during the Fort Randall Wacipi this year, with prizes for contests like best chokecherry jam, wasna, wild plum pie or wild plum jam. Each year contest categories will be expanded, to help encourage families to develop products that can be sold at local outlets. Program participants who want to market their goods will be provided technical assistance in packaging, labeling, distribution and business. The Resource Center also plans to purchase some traditional food products to sell on its website, and give to elders as gifts through its Food Pantry holiday boxes.

As a final component of the Program, the Resource Center will help develop laws to protect indigenous plants on Tribal lands. Even as chemical sprays have killed and contaminated indigenous vegetation, mainstream demand for the plants is high. In fact, many mainstream followers of Indigenous ways repeatedly over-harvest the plants from reservations on all our native lands, including the Yankton Sioux Reservation, without permission or regard for future yields. To combat these problems, the Resource Center will work with the Tribal Government to develop codes and resolutions that restrict the use of harmful herbicides and pesticides on indigenous plants, and regulate who can harvest them.

RELATED ARTICLE: Plants Available through the Project:


Choke cherry

Wild plums




Mongolian cherry




Riverbank grape
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Article Details
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Author:Chew, Amelia
Publication:Wicozanni Wowapi-Good Health Newsletter
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Mar 22, 2002
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