When it comes to cooperation and harmony between the land and the people, Indigenous peoples are the world’s leading experts. Chief Looking Horse, great-grandson of the venerable Chief Sitting Bull, and keeper of the sacred pipe of the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota tribes teaches us of the sacred hoop between time, nature and humans. It is our responsibility as temporary inhabitants of the earth to maintain, strengthen and repair the sacred hoop. To this end, Native leadership and knowledge are a key aspect of RegeNErate Nebraska. We are honored to be joined in partnership by local tribes, including the Winnebago, Ponca and the Omaha Nation, who have commenced local initiatives to increase food sovereignty and quality, while preserving and protecting the soil for future generations.
Former Winnebago Council Member and Sustainable Foods Coordinator for Ho-Chunk, Vincent Bass, reminds us, “regenerative agriculture is actually a Native concept.” He continues, “If the tribe cannot produce its own food with traditional practices, the Winnebago will never be truly sovereign.” This applies to all Nebraskans who understand that we must be the ones in control of our food systems, and this starts with regenerating our relationship to the land and all it provides for us. In this vein, the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska recently launched their own Food Sovereignty Initiative.
The Ponca Tribe is in the process of increasing their bison herd with plans to purchase land in northeastern Nebraska near their original sovereign territory. Additionally, the Ponca envision opening a Tribal health clinic in South Omaha that will incorporate contemporary and holistic approaches to health care. It will also include Tribal programs and services that include cultural and ceremonial activities for all Natives in the Omaha metro area. The clinic will also be utilized as a location to distribute their agricultural products and educate young people about traditional land practices and Indigenous plants. Ponca Cultural Director Dwight Howe states, “Re-identifying Indigenous plants allows for our people, especially our youth, to know who they are and where they come from. And this gives them a sense of direction of where we are going into the future, while reaffirming our sense of place in the sacred circle.” In the Omaha Nation, activities around reclaiming food sovereignty are also taking place including aquaponics, and increasing the planting and use of Indigenous plants seen as sacred and necessary for medicinal purposes, while also increasing pollination, an important natural process vital to growing of food.
We look forward to learning more from Indigenous partners and incorporating their knowledge and approaches as we continue to grow RegeNErate Nebraska statewide.