ancestral health, food sovereignty, bioregionalism, and practical decolonization


So I’m preparing my presentation for this weekends Real Food Cascadia convergence here in the Volcano Vortex.  We’re making a great big lunch with local bison and root vegetables, and I hear that there might be SALMON at the after party, as we shake our tails to the best underground hip-hop into the wee hours of the night.  And check out my new hoodie!  We’ll have them for sale, along with brightly colored shirts, Cascadian flags, and the usual anti-colonial propaganda.  This will help us pay for our amazing speakers and the super-duper rad venue at the Central Oregon Locavore food education center.  I am so grateful for all the Cascadians here in Bend pulling together and making this convergence a truly collective effort.  I love my friends so much!  The future is ours!

I am a novice public speaker, yet there is so much inspiring work being done in our world towards resiliency and self-determination that all I really want to do is tell a story of what we humans have got going on.  I’ve not been able to keep up with the latest in the Ancestral Health world, missing the Ancestral Health Symposium in Atlanta due to time, money, and distance….you know, that stuff.  But I’ve been steeping myself in the literature for a few years now, and I’m doing my best to distill this essence of the deep and subtle revolution.  Not to mention remind folks that this movement is not exclusive to the white halls of academia.  This is a movement ‘from health-care to self-care’, and it is as grassroots as we make it.  Make no mistake, this is Ancestral Health with a decolonization agenda.  No snake oil here!  Just salmon oil and grass-fed butter.

I’m educating myself further about La Via Campesina and the origins of the modern Food Sovereignty movement.  I’m regretting not picking up Annette Aurelie Desmarais‘ book of that name from the Spartacus table at the Book Fair in Victoria last week.  So it goes.  Perhaps I’ll request it to the Deschutes Public Library.  Food Sovereignty is a very uppity endeavor being birthed by landless peasants like myself, and it feels so good to be connected to a movement that cuts through politics into one of the deepest issues we humans must face: food.  I know I’m not much without it!  What I’m really interested in is how the context of each place must define what Food Sovereignty is for the inhabitants of that place, and this is why the connection to bioregionalism is so promising.  Food Sovereignty will not mean the same thing here in Cascadia as it does in Chiapas or the Sahel, but there seem to be clear principles that translate specifically to each place.  I’m trilled that so many brilliant folks will be descending upon the Upper Deschutes Watershed to learn from each other how to dream this all into reality.


And of course, the connection between food and colonialism is profound, and understanding this relationship (an abusive relationship) is absolutely critical for the practice of decolonization.  The intersection between mental health, nutrition, community autonomy, and the psychology of colonialism is a real dynamo.  There is amazing work being done in this regard.  I have been inspired by Nora Gedgaudas and her work with diet, lifestyle, and mental health in regards to brain function and body-based energy.  I see this tying in directly with the work of Dr. Michael Yellow Bird and what he has termed “neurodecolonization.”  Both Gedgaudas and Yellow Bird emphasize mindfulness practices and utilizing a wonderful human potential called neuroplasticity in order to physically undo the effects of our brain patterns being colonized by both trauma and malnutrition.  The way that diet and mindfulness interact seems to flesh out the concrete reality of our relationship with the food we eat being a profoundly spiritual one.  And it should come as no surprise that all Indigenous cultures view food as an integral aspect of the spirituality of culture.  No doubt this still holds true in dominant society, where we can see what happens when ignorance and profit-driven deception are allowed to create a relationship with food that could be accurately described as “demonic.”
My ancestors were driven from their land during one of the darkest hours of our Nation, when the British Empire used food as a weapon in order to deepen the colonization of my People.  And that is why I live on the others side of the world now!  Yet to this day, the “Irish Potato Famine” is still seen by many to be an unpreventable tragedy rather than the calculated war against my People that it was.  This same colonization of food systems spread across Turtle Island, and Cascadia was one of the last places in the world to have it’s Indigenous food systems suppressed or eradicated.  1847 for the Irish was about 1970 for many of the Indigenous Nations here, yet with fish farms causing wild salmon populations to collapse and more dams in the north being built, 1847 is happening here again as we speak.  And I’ll be damned if they aren’t flying the butcher’s apron to this day in the north.  Anyone notice a pattern?
Here we can see how restoring Indigenous food systems and reconnecting spiritually with the food we eat, and the land from which it comes , is one of the most profound ways to turn theories of decolonization into practice.  In this way, decolonization transforms the experience of daily life.  Our bodies are changed, and our minds are alleviated from the weight of generations of trauma.  All of this is predicated on the restoration of the land.  The rivers and spawning beds, the grasslands that are literally the lungs of the earth (along with the plankton on whom the salmon depend), and the soil that must be living for our bodies to be living.
So how do I put this all into a story that I can tell in a simple way?  That is want I’ve been working at for a while now, and I feel good about what is coming together.  And it’s coming together in “the mythical-sounding, temperate region bordering the West Coasts of Canada and the northern United States,” as some Cascadian’s have recently describe this place.  I don’t think I’ll be able to get much deeper than a solid outline of how all these movements are converging.  However, there is much potential to expand and deepen the scope of this gathering.  Next year we will be including a strong focus on pre-natal nutrition and midwifery.  Also, the plant medicines will be joining the show in a big way.  But this year, we start with the intersection of Ancestral Health and Food Sovereignty in a place, unique in our beautiful world, that has suffered enough and is ready to rush back to life and bring us along for the ride.

One thought on “ancestral health, food sovereignty, bioregionalism, and practical decolonization

  1. Pingback: Understanding Food Sovereignty III – Glenwood Garden

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