Before being confined to reservations, the Sicangu Lakota were expert hunters and gatherers, enjoying the excellent health of proper nutrition, outdoor exercise and spiritual connectedness with all Mother Earth’s universe. Youth, adults and elders all have meaningful tasks as they fulfilled their roles within the society. With the invasion of the 1880s all was destroyed, survivors becoming dependent on the US Government for food and shelter. These basic circumstances have changed little, perhaps worsened. By the 1900s, alcohol an diabetes are ubiquitous, mal-nutrition is pervasive, there is no employment or tasks available, spirit and self-confidence are broken.
Food gardens are small, located at the house of each youth intern’s family in participating communities (“communities” are the housing clusters or the neighborhoods within the larger clusters). The interns grow plants that are easy to grow and that are known to WIC families, such as potatoes, radishes, onions, tomatoes, turnips and winter squash. After learning during the 1999 season that nutrition education and promotion to kids is essential, interns added crops that kids could eat raw, including sweet peas, bell peppers, carrots and broccoli.
Growing conditions include beginner gardeners, extreme temperatures, about 12” precipitation, windy, grassland soils of clay and sand. Gardens are located at the houses; most of the households are dysfunctional due to alcohol abuse.
With the guidance of an adult of the neighborhood, the interns are developing WIC Markets in their own neighborhood. This second year, the interns developed small beginnings for cash customers and accepting EBT (food stamps). The intern’s garden produce goes to their neighborhood market. WIC recipients obtain it with their coupons; others buy with EBT or cash. The money went to the producer. Permaculture put the money up front, and then did the paperwork to be reimbursed by WIC and EBT.
During the 2000 season, operators were the youth and their adult program assistants in six communities:
– Upper Cut Meat – through youth effort, all eleven houses in this housing cluster had food gardens. Five contributed produce to WIC families. Adult: Estelle Yellow Eyes
– Two Strike – older youth came and went, not dependable, but always returning. Younger youth became deeply interested and responsible. Many WIC families in Two Strike received produce. Adult: Mary Iron
– Southern South Antelope – youth were sporadic, but the program assistant expanded his own garden and brought in several gardeners in the neighboring housing of White Horse. By fall, several youth and many more gardeners were looking forward to next year. Adult: Tom Hacker
– North Antelope – housing “out of control”, the adult started strong with many youth working hard planting trees and preparing garden plots. The adult went on to Tribal Affairs, the youth did the best they could without further guidance. It appears that a good groundwork was laid for 2001. Adult: Bill Brave Bird
– Grass Mountain/West St. Francis – two older teenagers tilled many gardens, promoted gardening and the idea of WIC markets. The Program Assistant (their mother) went back to drinking; the internships gave these youth purpose this summer. They then went into Job Corps. It is reasonable to expect that some of their friends will be interested in 2001. Adult: Rose Bear Robe
– CornCreek/Ideal – these two communities are each some distance from the center of the Reservation. An adult couple, living in CornCreek with family in Ideal did what they could to promote food gardening and involve youth. Not much happened, but they and a few young people are ready to try again next year. Adults: Alberta and Don Old Lodge
Before the invasion of the late 1800’s, the Lakota People were nomadic hunters and gatherers, guided by Mother Earth, practicing the most sustainable methods. After being put on reservations, neither farming nor gardening was begun.
A small “Garden for Health” project was begun in 1995, promoting the practices of natural food gardening (tilling with a fork, fertilizing with manure and mulch), the re-establishment of (wild) fruit thickets and renewal of traditional gathering (chokecherries, plums, buffaloberries). Caring for areas of perennial crops and the traditional practices of sun drying and seed saving were re-introduced. By this grant period (2000 season), many youth were learning from their Elders, and with the same natural methods, were growing small food gardens by their houses, providing in some part for their families, giving away as is traditional, and beginning neighborhood WIC markets.
PROJECT DESCRIPTION AND RESULTS
1) That youth continue to participate in the community shelterbelt, food gardening and other related activities (support to the adult leaders and for their program needs are requested/granted from other funding sources)
2) That youth receive cash remuneration for the participation (this request)
During the winter, with guidance from adult leaders in their communities, youth learned and planned for planting shelterbelts, preparing and caring for their own and elder’s food gardens, and how they would establish and operate neighborhood garden markets. At non-formal classroom classes, facilitated by the Center for Permaculture, three communities which had started in 1999 shared their experiences, and adults, with some of the youth, shared information about snowdrifts/windbreaks/shelterbelts; about soil, gardening, nutrition; about small “farmer’s markets” promotion and recordkeeping.
By spring these plans were put into action, in three communities from 1999, and three new. The “old” communities progressed to established gardens and markets, the “new” communities “went through the motions”, laying a foundation for 2001.
On the Rosebud, where self confidence and health have disintegrated to dependence and hopelessness, and where there is no economic base nor opportunity for self-sufficiency, re-initiating self-supporting home skills is a logical place to begin. The tradition of connectedness to the Earth remains, and youth not yet alcohol or drug addicted, are ready to turn to their Mother Earth for guidance and encouragement.
Other producers, businesspeople, and personnel from public agencies are all scarce on the reservation. However, food gardens, emerging markets and the Youth working and taking responsibility are becoming visible. By mid-summer reservation “professionals” were taking notice and showing interest in promoting and participating in the gardens/markets/youth project as well as other permaculture activities and the non-political actions and infrastructure being established.
– Bernice Grace, Director of Rosebud WIC – energized to continue WIC-FMCP program
– Rodney Lance, Case Worker at Social Services – now volunteering/participating in trees, garden/markets, renewable energy
– Tim Cournoyer, Director of Rosebud TECRO – seeing gardening/markets as possible employment training
– Connie Bordeaux, Director of Rosebud Elderly Nutrition – will be using this youth/community infrastructure for senior FMNP
This project’s objectives were focused on the youth, that they would continue to participate in planting community shelterbelts, growing food gardens for their families and establish WIC markets – and that they could receive remuneration for their participation. Underlying this was, of course, that shelterbelts would be planted, gardens would grow, WIC families would begin to improve their nutrition with fresh produce that some WIC vender money would stay on the reservation with the gardeners – and that reservation youth would have some (small) job opportunities through which to gain self reliance and actual experience.
Excellent results were achieved in all these facets and although small, they were more and better than we expected.
We have already begun one thing we will do differently for 2001. This fall (2000) we have begun fall garden preparation. This is, of course, an added quality gardening method. As important, it is giving opportunity to new participants, both youth and adult, and is giving “the program” opportunity to see whether the new participants will last. Dropping out during the winter will be much less damaging than dropping out during the summer. We will also add tiller operation/maintenance to our winter classes.
Most importantly we learned that reservation youth are eager to learn and to do – that they need only opportunity and a little incentive/guidance. Sadly, we also learned that there are few adults who are sober and available as models and guides for the youth.
We learned that we were on the right track from last year’s experience, that we need to actively promote and educate the kids about growing and eating vegetables. This year’s using vegetable dolls and coloring books, and planting/giving away foods that need no cooking (radishes, sweet peas, etc.) did in fact increase interest and participation.
Additionally, we learned that youth activities of gardening and marketing can begin to make a difference – but only a small notch into the deep difficulties of the reservation.
We will continue to search for willing and sober adults and support them and their youth in on going Earth related activities in their own neighborhoods. We will not let a high proportion of drop out adults (alcohol) slow our encouragement to youth. We will continue to question the appropriateness of participation by adult leaders who are not also models for the youth. We will be more alert to youth as potential leaders of other youngsters.
Our major barrier is that we must overcome the historical baggage that burdens us and the resulting negative self image and lack of self confidence of both adults and youth of the reservation.
By providing youth with “permission”, opportunities and support to act in today’s world with Lakota values and respect for all of Mother Earth, their self image is improved, self confidence is gained, successes are experienced. This year’s SARE internship allowed movement in this direction.
The disadvantages of implementing a project such as ours is only that it is vulnerable to the discouragement of many small failures within the success of continuing, of commitment to not stopping, of the building of solidarity and dependability.
An advantage is that, while keeping a focus on the big picture, one small steady project does slowly make a difference.
For projects of “people development”, that is, projects that the participants will continue on their own through their new education and experience, the objectives must arise from the participants themselves, in this case a project of youth growing food, establishing markets in their own neighborhoods. This is quite different from a project whose idea comes from outside or whose basic objective is getting something done, for example, a project which pays a team of workers to grow food for a market that would be established by the project. The fully participatory process will be slow, and milestones minimal, but the results will have great stability. Support must be constant for a considerable time.
Youth gardeners received a total of over $2000 in WIC FMNP money. This money was in addition to the value of the produce used at each youth’s home and that given away in traditional Lakota manner. it could be estimated that the value of the home use and the value of the give away were each similar to that sold for WIC coupons, that is:
Total WIC $2000
Total home $2000
Total given away $2000
$6000 money + value generated
It must be remembered as “hard economic data” that this amount was generated within a subsidized program. However, it was money/value that stays on the reservation. As social impact, it provided incentive to continue. Built on this base, there is reasonable certainty that the youth will continue gardening, producing in 2001 some surplus available to subsidized programs such as WIC FMNP, the new USDA Senior FMNP, EBT, as well as outright cash.
Mainly word of mouth through last year’s participating youth and their adults and as part of the monthly WIC “clinics” in which each WIC family is re-certified and receives nutrition education. Project was also announced in both the county weekly (Todd Tribune) and the reservation occasional (Sun Times).
Project events were market days. In each participating community, market day was an “event” announced by word of mouth through the gardeners, the WIC families and the youth. In communities with post offices, announcements were put up.
Project results are demonstrated mainly by youth having continued throughout the season and then receiving payment for the garden produce that they marketed to the WIC families. Again by word of mouth, everyone new of these results. Participating youth had money for school clothes.
Everyone in each of the seven participating communities knew everything that was going on. Number of houses in these communities range from eleven (Upper Cut Meat, Ideal) to some forty (Grass Mountain/West St. Francis). Household occupants average some eight. Statistically it could be said, then, 7 communities of 20 houses of 8 occupants = 1120 people directly involved. All these people, in turn, have family in other communities to whom they communicated information.
Due to reservation politics, many of the participant adults in this project have been turned down in the past for support to the youth in this project. We therefore eschew media coverage of results.
We find we do get coverage in distant reservation or government newsletters because this is a project that is succeeding. An article in the fall 2000 NA FMNPs Newsletter, “FRESH from the Farmer’s Market” gave our youth nice coverage.