Sokaogon Chippewa Community News

Reclaiming the Right to Healthy Food

Love Wisconsin is a digital storytelling project that celebrates our state, our lives, and our shared future.

This is the story Food Sovereignty in the words of Geneva, Mike and Joy of Odanah and Ashland. Photos by Megan Monday.

“When she was younger, my grandma was on our Tribal Council. She’d always take us around with her, to Madeline Island, to Red Cliff, all over. She’s elderly now, and when i moved in with her she wasn’t doing very well. I got worried about her sugar addiction, and about all the medications that she takes. And she wasn’t eating very much, either, so i wanted the stuff she did eat to be really good stuff.”

But the food at the store that she had access to was pretty low quality – sometimes the vegetables were even rotting. She’d tell me to hurry up and use the tomatoes because they would probably go moldy the next day. Like a lot of elders here, my grandma doesn’t have access to a car or a way to get to town, so she’s stuck with what’s at this store.” – Geneva

“I’ve lived on the Bad River Reservation almost all my life. Up here in Northern Wisconsin, we have so much that represents a high quality of life: shorelines, connectivity to water, and natural healthy foods through hunting, fishing, and gathering.

Historically, hunting, fishing, gathering, and all things that go with that subsistence lifestyle were really, really strong in our tribe. It’s really strong in the Ojibwe tribes throughout the region and in the Lake Superior area. Gardening used to be really strong too, but being close to the earth is one of those things that oftentimes get sacrificed by the rigors of work outside the home. In our area, when you have single parents working two, three jobs, or you’ve got two parents working all the time, people get really busy in a hurry. So, some traditions started to fall away.” – Mike

“When I was growing up in Rhinelander in the ‘80s, I didn’t know much at all about the Native people in the area. In school, we were taught about Native American cultures in a general way, and as if they were past tense – extinct. There was a real lack of cultural awareness in the school system. So, incredible as it sounds, I was unaware of the Native people that were here, of course, way before me – and still were all around Wisconsin.

As I’ve grown up and those gaps in knowledge became obvious to me, I’ve really had to step into learning. I see it as a moral crossroads: When I realize I’ve been ignorant, I can choose to further the ignorance, or I can choose to learn from it. Because there were important cultural things that I should have known growing up, but didn’t, I had to start actively seeking out that information.” – Joy

Read the full story here.