Meskwaki Food Sovereignty – A Year In Review

The mission of MFS is to secure food sovereignty by seeding, growing, and harvesting Meskwaki indigenous knowledge and life-ways. In line with its mission, the Meskwaki Food Sovereignty Office is providing and fulfilling many services for the tribal community. The growing season faced a couple of natural challenges: a drought and a pandemic. In the Spring of 2021, 28.4 acres of land were allocated for MFS cultural growing use.

In the Spring of 2021, two new employees were brought on. Luke Kapayou, Ancestral Farm Manager and Christina Blackcloud; Meskwaki Food Sovereignty Coordinator. Building on the success of previous work, MFS had a very busy year!

Highlighting the 2021 work of the office, MFS assisted 20 community members by providing tilled plots ranging from 50×50 to 50×100 that is ready to be grown in. Produce was grown from organic seed and in a chemical-free environment. MFS prepared two (2) community plot areas: one behind the casino and the other behind the health clinic. A temporary fence was installed to protect the garden areas from deer and other wildlife.

Transplants and seeds were given away at the Red Earth Gardens location in the spring. The favored event drew 74 people in a new drive-up format. Popular transplants such as tomatoes, flowers, and herbs as well tribal seeds: corn, beans, and squash were available to the community. More tribal seeds were request than transplants! We hope you have saved seeds for next year!

Home garden tilling services reached 58 homes. Several were first time gardens. In conjunction, eighteen (18) individuals reached out for the 1st Time Growers Assistance ranging from planting, cultivating, and harvesting information. MFS embodies the knowledge and experience that an office needs to successfully implement these services. Growing the Growers.

New this year are two beans in our seed library: bebyekotte (red cranberry, pole bean) and bekedewiti (smoky rear, pole bean) and one Kickapoo pumpkin: wiskobi wabikoni (sweet squash). Miles Lasley assisted MFS in growing out seeds. This assistance is very much appreciated as we work towards expanding our inventory and providing the seeds to community. Thank you Miles!

MFS partnered with the Promoting Tribal Economies and Community program to provide an opportunity for individuals to gain experience in the workplace while building upon their skills and talents in an educational, immersed in Meskwaki food system practices and techniques environment. All placements were temporary with a fixed time. Windy Blackcloud and Keya Clairmont began their important work in April 2021. Abby Ironshell joined the team in July. MFS also mentored one (1) summer youth participant. Levi Roberts, Meskwaki Summer Youth Employee, was added to the Food Sovereignty Team in June. Activities included harvesting sage, milkweed, water potatoes, plant and tree identification, fishing, planting, cultivating and harvesting corn, beans, and squash and touring the Tribe’s boundaries among many other every day tasks.

Meskwaki Food Sovereignty focuses on growing the nation through healthy and cultural food. In addition to growing food, MFS is equipping itself to provide expanded, relevant services like hunting, fishing, foraging, and gathering activities to GROW more hunters, fishers, foragers, gatherers collectively encompassed with Meskwaki knowledge and customs.

Soil testing occurred at 6 locations on the Settlement at various locations. Collecting data provides a base to oversee the health of our soil and capture soil trends. The soil samples collected were analyzed by the University of Northern Iowa’s Department of Earth and Environmental Science and AmeriCorp Green Iowa.

The office successfully wrote and gained additional funding through a Native American Agriculture Fund to bring on a Youth Education Coordinator as a means to work closer with the youth. Enhancing our youth outreach while protecting and transferring our traditional foods knowledge to continue traditions is a goal of our office. Avis Bear-Bass began this important role in September 2021. Avis is initiating the Youth Agriculture Club

Operating in a Covid-19 environment, MFS still cooked, provided outreach and held a fun activity with the community. The team provided a traditional meal on Meskwaki Nation Day at the powwow grounds. MFS set up a table during the Meskwaki Health Fair where the team displayed program information and examples of traditional foods. A tallest Meskwaki corn stalk contest was held in August. Congratulations to Denise Wolf! Denise’s corn measured 11’9”.

MFS traveled to the Tribe’s other West Bend property a couple of times to begin planning for activities to occur. The team envisions weekend camps and one day trips. Be ready though, it takes 3 ½ hours to get there!

The Food Sovereignty Team is excited and looking forward to in person activities and are busily planning for next year’s growing season, writing grants, and still…drying squash.

MFS appreciates the volunteer support, donations, and investments and wishes you a Happy and Safe New Year!

CLICK HERE to see photos from the year.