WELRP’s Sustainable Communities Initiative reflects our mandate to protect the land, which we inherited from our ancestors. This initiative is about the process of sorting our what is a good value from both Anishinaabeg and European society and restoring our community from this foundation. Our work is both conceptual and on the ground. It is about advocacy, education, and developing the sustainable alternative–Mino bimaadiziwin, the good life.
The Creator has given us many gifts, of which the food that sustains our minds and bodies is at the center. Over the past hundred years, our people have suffered from the loss of these foods; while we continue to garden, hunt, trap, fish, and harvest wild rice, our traditional food production has dropped dramatically. In its place, we have industrialized our food production and place food for poor people at the bottom. Indigenous agriculture has declined sharply, resulting in a massive loss of local seed stocks to Native communities, communities from which much of the world’s food stocks originated (for example, corn, beans, squash, potatoes, and tomatoes). From 1981 to 1994 alone, some 84% of all non-hybrid vegetable varieties in the country were lost.
Our work in our traditional farming program is about the process of restoring our traditional agriculture and nutrition systems. The White Earth Land Recovery Project is one of the largest Anishinaabeg food producers on the continent, producing both food for sale (Native Harvest) and for local consumption to address health and poverty-related issues and the lack of access to traditional Indigenous foods.
The White Earth Land Recovery Project is committed to the biodiversity of Anishinaabeg agriculture and recognizes that restoring varieties of corn, beans, and squash will ensure diversity. We began by growing out an Oneida White Flint corn and now have moved to a Bear Island Flint corn. We are growing out these corn varieties on land that we hold as a project and with the assistance of local farmers on the reservation. We hope to not only save these endangered species, but also to restore the agricultural diversity and wealth of our community with heirloom varieties. These varieties both offer superior nutritional qualities, and with our partnership with Slow Food, will be highly valuable in our value-added work at Native Harvest.