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7Gen Food System

This vision is the first generation food system plan, a part of the 7Gen plan to achieve maximum prosperity for the Sicangu Lakota.

Photo of Matthew Wilson
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Written by

Lead Applicant Organization Name

Sicangu Community Development Corporation

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Small company (under 50 employees)

If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you.

Rosebud Economic Development Corporation (REDCO), Small Company; Tatanka Funds, Small Company.

Website of Legally Registered Entity

www.sicangucdc.org

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • 1-3 years

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?

Mission, South Dakota

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?

United States of America

Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

The Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota, covers an area of approximately 915,000 acres, or about 3,702 km^2.

What country is your selected Place located in?

United States of America

Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

The Rosebud Indian Reservation in south central South Dakota, home of the Sicangu Lakota Oyate, is an area rich in culture and history. Sicangu people have inhabited this Place for generations, developing deep and complex relationships with the land. Lakota culture and spirituality recognizes the interconnectedness and interdependence of all things - earth, plants, animals, and humans. In order to be a good relative, great care and respect is taken in everything that is done. Traditionally, Lakota did not own land or claim it as their own, instead recognizing the inherent right and responsibility of all relatives, be they human or not, to collectively care for it.

The Sicangu are one of the bands that make up the Oceti Sakowin (7 Council Fires), whose traditional territory spanned from western Minnesota to Wyoming, south into Nebraska and north all the way into Canada. Lakota bands, like the Sicangu, lived nomadically across the Great Plains, following the herds of buffalo that were their physical, cultural, and spiritual source of sustenance. The modern day Rosebud Reservation was the result of the colonial process that sought to wrest land away from Lakota people, who were forced to sign treaties that restricted access to their traditional land base, effectively destroying the traditional food system. Decades of broken treaties continued to shrink the Sicangu land base.

We at Sicangu CDC are are of this Place, the Rosebud Reservation, that we call home. We are a tribally led 501c3 serving our community on the Rosebud Reservation, whose mission is to empower our people, strengthen our families, and rebuild community. We are deeply passionate about food and the process of transformative systems change for the betterment of our people. We have deep family ties to this Place, both historically and in the present day. Our ancestors are buried here, and we hope our great-great children will remain here long after we leave this life. 

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

The Rosebud Indian Reservation, located primarily in Todd County, is the home of the Sicangu Lakota Oyate, also known as the Rosebud Sioux Tribe (RST). The original boundaries of Rosebud include approximately 915,000 acres spanning five counties in south central South Dakota, representing 15% of the Great Plains Region.

According to the Tribal Enrollment Department, 85% of all enrolled RST tribal members live within the reservation boundaries. 44% of those living on the reservation are 19 years of age and younger. Over the last 49 years, the population of Todd County has increased 66%, from 6,058 to 10,065, a growth trend expected to continue into the future.

Todd county has 223 farms operating 880,043 acres. Only one of these farms is cited as producing any vegetables, with top farm products in 2017 being cattle, corn, other grains, soybeans, and wheat. Only 15 of these farms were cited as making any direct sales; most farm commodities are sold to distant buyers. Rosebud is a food desert; with only three grocery stores serving an area nearly twice the size of Rhode Island, most tribal members are living in a state of food insecurity. Due to insufficient access to healthy foods, tribal members suffer from extremely high rates of diet-related diseases. This is a national trend, with American Indians statistically significantly more likely to be obese, experience heart disease, or develop Type II diabetes than non-native counterparts. This stems from when the Lakota were forced at gunpoint to adopt a Western diet full of white flour and sugar and access to traditional foods was restricted to foster a sense of dependence. To this day, diets high in fat, sugar, and processed foods, are still typical of a majority of the population; a legacy of the early reservation period.

The Sicangu Lakota are traditionally hunters and gatherers; a traditional diet would consist of lean meats such as bison, deer, elk, and pronghorn; wild berries such as chokecherries, juneberries, buffaloberries, and wild plums; foraged roots like prairie turnip and wild onions; and wild teas like field mint and bergamot. A traditional Lakota diet was packed with modern day “superfoods.”

In discussions with community members regarding the food system on Rosebud, a return to traditional practices was brought up not only as a desired change but as necessary to strengthen Sicangu identity and culture. While traditional practices surrounding food have changed in many ways over the last fifty years, let alone the past hundred and fifty years, there are a number of community members and entrepreneurs that are committed to reimagining and revitalizing a local foods system. Despite a variety of challenges, these individuals are courageously working towards building sovereignty through food for the Sicangu Lakota.

What is the approximate size of your Place, in square kilometers? (New question, not required)

3702

What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?

29028

Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

Current challenges:

The current food system on Rosebud is rooted in the colonial process of establishing the reservation, which intentionally destroyed traditional foodways to cultivate dependence. This shifted Lakota away from a nutritionally dense diet of wild foods and game, erased rich food-based cultural and spiritual customs, and forced dependence upon the government for basic needs. 

This has continued into the modern day: with an estimated 83% unemployment rate, many tribal members depend on federal food aid programs such as SNAP/EBT, WIC or Commodity Supplemental Food Program for survival. With only three full-service grocery stores and limited dining options serving over 20,000 people, there is a shortage of food access infrastructure. Start-up costs for individual agricultural business are often prohibitive in area with systematically low access to capital. On a macro level, there is limited capital available to support food and agriculture entrepreneurs, testing out new growing methods, and localizing food delivery and distribution, all of which would significantly reshape the food system.

57% of farms on Rosebud receive subsidies to raise commodity crops, not to feed the local population. In 2017, farmers lost $6.4 million on production, about half what it would cost to feed all Todd County residents for a year. The majority of food available in local grocery stores is sourced through regional chains that rely on mass-produced foods, with stores having little incentive or option to source food locally. Additionally, most of this food is produced using conventional agricultural practices that damage the environment, harm biodiversity, contribute to species decline and extinction, contribute to global warming, and is inhumane in its treatment of animals. 


Future Challenges:

Access to capital for food innovation and systems transformation will continue to be a major challenge, as will creating sustainable funding sources for new innovation and profitable agricultural/food based ventures. Changing climate and weather patterns will create challenges as new water events increase and traditional growing seasons shift.

Producing quantities of food sufficient to feed a nation requires specific knowledge, skills, and technologies. This type of industry expertise is rarely taught in classes and is often passed down through families, creating an additional challenge for aspiring producers. The same principle applies to hunting and growing or foraging for food: historically, that knowledge was passed along from generation to generation, but there currently exists a “generational gap” which puts us at risk of losing traditional wisdom.

Overhauling the food system and changing the collective mindset around food requires a multi-dimensional approach that relies on partnerships and cooperation. Partnerships between disconnected tribal entities and community businesses and organizations have proven difficult to develop and will remain a challenge.

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

Our vision addresses these challenges to our current and future food system by exercising our rights to land, water, and regulatory control, and re-allocating our resources from conventional agricultural practices to a regenerative system that creates economic opportunities for tribal members, increases the accessibility of locally produced, nutrient-dense foods, and re-establishes the Lakota as primary stewards of the land. 

The Rosebud Sioux Tribe (RST) owns and controls nearly 1 million acres of land spread across 5 counties. Over 50,000 acres is farmland and over 500,000 is rangeland. Most acreage is leased to non-Indian farmers and ranchers who utilize extractive agricultural practices and reap the bulk of the economic benefit. RST has direct access to the Ogallala Aquifer and have rights to the Missouri River. Furthermore, the RST has environmental regulatory authority over their lands. Additional surrounding acreage is available for purchase to put under RST ownership and control. The Sicangu Oyate possesses the necessary land, water, and regulatory control to create a regenerative agricultural system able to provide for their complete food needs while simultaneously making significant contributions to regional food systems. The development and transition to a comprehensive regenerative food system will happen within 1 generation (25 years), but can happen within 10 years provided strategic accelerators of money, people, and technical assistance.

While the current state of the food system on Rosebud is not close to where we hope it will one day be, there have been great strides in recent years that are beginning to start a grassroots movement. The Food Sovereignty Initiative (one initiative run by the Sicangu Community Development Corporation) manages multiple garden plots, offers internships and fellowships, runs a weekly farmers market (with a travelling mobile market), has piloted a program to support food entrepreneurs, and continues to increase its influence each year. Additionally, Sinte Gleska University operates a greenhouse and students at Sapa Un Academy are fueled by freshly prepared meals using local ingredients when possible. 

Once the majority of our food is being grown, processed, and sold on Rosebud by tribal entrepreneurs to tribal members, and knowledge of traditional foodways is revived, many of the challenges such as dependence on government food programs as well as diet-related health issues will be solved. By keeping food dollars in the local economy, there will be more resources available for local entrepreneurs, and more community members able to financially support small-scale agricultural businesses. 

As our work and our partnerships continue to grow, we are ready to begin scaling our regenerative systems by investing in people, developing new systems, and financing new land acquisition to convert conventional harmful agricultural operations to multiple bottom line systems benefiting people and planet.

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

Food is medicine. Lakotas have always understood this, as evidenced by the role that food plays in our ceremonies and prayer. In the future, we will return to a society in which food and our food system heals and unites our people. We will be completely self-sufficient – practicing true food sovereignty – and meet our dietary needs through sustainable, organic farming and agriculture.


Healing

The relationship that the Sicangu people have with food will be changed from one driven by convenience and cost, to one that facilitates healing – both physically and spiritually. Our diets will be rich in nutrient-dense plant-based sources and ethically sourced bison and other wild game – similar to what our ancestors ate – and will lead to a reduction in diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and cancer. Returning to traditional indigenous foods will facilitate a sense of connection to our Lakota identity.


Locally-sourced

Our future Sicangu relatives will be able to get all of their food from the local operations of tribal citizens. Each family will have a garden, schools will operate community gardens and greenhouses, and large-scale producers will sell to local markets. Institutions will partner with local growers to provide healthy and sustainable meals for students, employees, and community meals. Consumers will be able to go to a local market to choose from various locally sourced dining options, and new options will come into existence thanks to partnerships that promote food entrepreneurship.


Uniting

While food will be a centerpiece of our community, so too, will community be a centerpiece of our food. Throughout the summer and fall, outdoor farmer’s markets in each community will have grown into a major event at which people spend time together, build relationships, and discuss ideas. Additionally, a multi-use space that contains an indoor farmer’s market as well as a local restaurant start-up hub will be a popular gathering place where people come together around food. 

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

Local Solutions to Global Problems:

Our Vision takes place under the broad 7Gen Plan, a 175 year strategic plan for Sicangu health and prosperity. The plan charts out systems development in key key areas such as food and water, education, land, technology, and healthcare. 

The plan is implemented through 3 sister organizations working under a shared mission: 

As Lakota we believe we are all related and it is our duty to create a better world for

future generations.

- At Rosebud Economic Development Corporation (REDCO) we do this by developing amazing leaders who run great organizations.

- At Tatanka Fund CDFI we do this by promoting individual asset building through small business and homeownership.

- Sicangu Community Development Corporation (Sicangu CDC) we do this by empowering people, strengthening families, and building community – Lakota style.


The Food Sovereignty Initiative is one of four initiatives of Sicangu CDC, working at the individual, family, and community levels to spark food system transformation. This work includes a 1-acre production and teaching market farm, a teaching greenhouse, hosting one of the largest farmers’ markets in the state of South Dakota, a traditional foods program, and an intern program to develop individual producers. The Initiative has also worked with communities to plant over 800 fruit trees, host multiple buffalo harvests in partnership with local schools, and lead youth cooking classes with the local Boys and Girls clubs.


The Tatanka Fund is focused on assisting producers. Over the last year and half the Tatanka Fund has worked with the Lakota Fund, a sister CDFI, to make $750,000 in agricultural loans to Rosebud based producers. Tatanka Fund is poised to become a major player in the agricultural lending space, and is prepared to deploy $60,000 in support of emerging small-scale producers. 


REDCO’s Rosebud Farm Co., currently operates a 400 acre organic farm and is in the process of transitioning 1,441 acres of center pivot irrigated farmland to certified organic farmland, which will be completed in 2022. The long-term goal is to place 10,000+ acres of RST farmland in organic production while developing value added products in order to support individual producers. Additionally, REDCO is also developing a 27,000 acre regenerative buffalo sanctuary in partnership with the World Wildlife Fund. Long term goals include developing a meat processing facility, developing a Rosebud branded product (grass fed, hormone free, humanely harvested meat), and support individual producers.


Our efforts focus on creating ecosystems for regenerative prosperity. We develop individuals, families, communities and our nation. Family and community scale work ensures an organic, grassroots movement to drive long term change; at the same time we are creating macro changes using nation owned enterprises to create systems that one producer is unable to accomplish on their own.


The 7Gen plan lays out how the Sicangu Lakota Oyate will be thriving 175 years into the future; it also breaks down the vision of these goals for each of the seven generations along the way.


Generation 1 - Food System Goals by 2050:


  1. All food that is produced within the boundaries of Rosebud is organic.
    By converting all of the nearly 1 million acres of farmland belonging to the Sicangu Oyate to organic, we will ensure that the health of the land and our non-human relatives are taken into account in our seven generation plan. Conventional agriculture practices are stripping the land of its nutrients and its soil structure, threatening its ability to continue to support life for generations to come. In order to achieve our vision, tribal food codes will be developed that address agricultural production methods as well as where local grocery stores and institutions source their produce. 


  1. Schools provide freshly prepared meals using local and traditional ingredients whenever possible.
    We have to ensure our people are eating fresh, nutrient-dense foods starting at a young age. Children familiar with fresh foods are more likely to make healthy choices as adults. School mealplans will include locally-grown produce and meats as well as traditional ingredients such as bison, chokecherries, and tinpsila (prairie turnip). By “feeding their DNA” with foods that were consumed by their ancestors, they will be healthier physically and will strengthen connections to their identity, culture, and community. Tribal food codes will support food entrepreneurs and the local economy by requiring schools and other institutions to source foods locally. This will increase sales for small-scale producers, which will allow more community members to support themselves and their families by becoming food entrepreneurs. 


  1. A year-round farmer’s market will be established, with infrastructure in place to facilitate access for all communities (i.e. food delivery).
    By the year 2050, the Keya Wakpala Farmers’ Market will have grown and evolved into a year-round supplier of fresh produce, and will have incorporated a food hub infrastructure to aggregate and distribute offerings from local farmers and ranchers to ensure greater market access and efficient distribution for local producers. Currently, the main barriers to accessing fresh, local foods are transportation and cost. A year-round farmers market and food hub would address both of these challenges; food hubs ensure that pricing is negotiated across the board with the involvement of all the producers. This model will also include infrastructure for aggregating the produce from all participating local producers through a pick-up route, followed by distribution to each of the 20 reservation communities by stocking at the local stores as well as hosting a mobile farmers’ market on a weekly basis. Addressing access barriers makes fresh foods available to all community members, which will improve diet-related health outcomes. The efficiency of this model will also minimize the environmental impact of food transportation.


  1. Food will be seen as a medicine that not only heals the body, but also promotes and deepens Lakota identity through experiences such as traditional meal preparation, plant identification, and ceremonies.

We will reclaim the understanding that food nourishes us mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. We call this holistic view of health wicozani. Foods produced conventionally are not grown intentionally within holistic systems. As we put food back to the center of our culture, other aspects of our culture will thrive, such as Lakota ceremonies and language. We will relearn the traditional food knowledge that our ancestors used from our elders who hold this knowledge, closing an existing generational gap. 


  1. Food entrepreneurs will have the knowledge, support, funding, and capital to pursue their goals.
    Rosebud will have a thriving food culture of restaurants, food trucks, and other food businesses that source ingredients and products from tribal members. The demand for local and organic foods will bring about more jobs around agriculture and other food enterprises. A food hub and a shared commercial kitchen will be available for entrepreneurs to use which would allow institutions like grocery stores to source value added goods locally. Financial resources would also be available to entrepreneurs. Community Development Financial Institutions such as the emerging Tatanka Funds will provide business planning services and start-up capital for food and agriculture enterprises. Money spent annually on food will stay in the reservation economy because people will no longer have to travel off the reservation to get access these kinds of businesses. 


  1. Students will be taught how to start, tend to, and harvest a garden.
    Gardening skills will be incorporated into the curriculum of each school so that by the time students are adults they will be fully knowledgeable in how to provide fresh food for their families through a home garden plot. Developing these skill sets will also encourage future generations to consider small-scale agriculture as a viable livelihood. An increased number of school and home garden plots will have a positive effect on the diet-related health outcomes of the Sicangu Oyate, and will increase the self-sufficiency of the people; they will no longer have to rely on government food programs in order to feed themselves. We will be addressing the generational gap in knowledge of self-sufficiency practices such as gardening and food preservation by sharing these skills with the youth who, in turn, will use this knowledge to connect with their elders, their parents, their siblings, and eventually with their own children and grandchildren. 


  1. Tribal citizens will be able to make highly informed consumption decisions and will not be prevented from eating healthy due to cost or convenience.

Policies will be in place that incentivize the sale of healthy foods at grocery stores. The Lakota diet will be indigenized which will include more wild ingredients and wild game. There will be a meat processing facility on the reservation that will help support this diet. The increase in wild foods and game will allow for leaner protein options and better complex nutrient absorption. Our people will know where our food comes from. People will either be growing their own food or will sourcing from people they know. As we go back to the way of growing and sourcing food like our ancestors, the variety of foods we eat throughout the year will increase. We will eat with the seasons which will allow us to reconnect with the land and its natural rhythms and cycles. 

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

  • Email

Describe how your Vision developed over the course of the Refinement Phase.

Our process involved a combination of planning sessions with our partners, social media campaigns, and individual interviews with community members. The weekly standing meetings with our partners focused on leading visioning exercises, presenting draft ideas and receiving feedback. During this time, we also sought community input and feedback. 


Our original plan included traveling to the communities located on the reservation to host community roundtables to get both input and feedback. However we had to adjust our plans due to COVID-19 restrictions. Instead of in-person engagement we transitioned to digital.


We launched campaigns on social media platforms to engage our community through polling, surveys, and challenges asking community members to describe their own visions for our food system using videos, photos, or art. Our team interviewed food leaders, elders, and tribal programs. This allowed for more meaningful and detailed input that could not be captured through social media. 

Please provide the names of all organizations you meaningfully partnered with to develop this latest version of your Vision (they contributed at least 10 hours of time to the Vision development during the Refinement Phase).

Rosebud Economic Development Corporation (REDCO), and Tatanka Funds, worked closely with us as partners in developing our Vision. REDCO is the economic arm of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, whose purpose is to generate revenue and create economic opportunity for the Sicangu Lakota Oyate and surrounding communities. Tatanka Funds is an emerging Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), providing support in personal finance, business entrepreneurship, and homeownership. Both met with us weekly for 2-hour partnership meetings during the refinement stage to provide background research and draft feedback. Together our 3 organizations are what we call the “Three Sisters Organizations,” working collectively to create a better world for future generations.

Describe the specific steps you took during the Refinement phase to include different stakeholders to develop your Vision, including a description (age, profile, and total number) of the stakeholders engaged, and how you engaged with each.

Our community engagement strategy consisted of social media campaigns, teleconferencing and phone interviews. To launch our campaign, we shared a video of the SCDC Food Sovereignty Director, Matthew Wilson, explaining the Food System Vision Prize, our Vision for Rosebud, and ways our community can be a part of the discussion. We received feedback through Facebook polls, google surveys, and social media “video challenges”. The challenges were a way for us to ask the wider community on Rosebud about the current food system and what they envision for the food system in 2050. We identified community members to interview whose perspectives we wanted to go deeper with. We were able to conduct interviews of between 30 minutes and two hours with a community government leader, a tribal producer who runs the tribal college greenhouse, an intern in our beginning farmer rancher program, and a regional food systems community organizer based in South Dakota.

Total # of community stakeholders reached through Facebook polls and “challenges”: 147. 

Gender (rounded to nearest whole number)

- 70% Female, n= 103; 

- 30% Male, n= 44. 

Age (rounded to nearest whole number)

- 13-17: 3%

- 18-24: 9%

- 25-34: 25%

- 35-44: 24%

- 45-54: 18%

- 55-64: 12%

- 65+: 9%

Total community stakeholders reached through Google co-visioning survey: 9

This variety of approaches to community co-creation of our vision allowed each individual to contribute in a way that they were most comfortable with and that allowed them to be as candid with their responses as possible. The methods of community outreach that we developed during this process will continue to be used for engaging community members in the development of the 7 Generation Plan for Sicangu prosperity. 

What signals and trends did you draw from to inform your Vision? Please provide data or examples that back up each signal or trend.

Local response to COVID-19 emphasizes self-reliance

Community members have expressed that we cannot rely on grocery stores to be stocked through crises and are emphasizing the need for food sovereignty, through increased interest in our program, gardening and food preservation as trending social media topics, requests for help installing gardens, chicken coops. Spring seed distributions have been enthusiastically received by community presidents.

Focus on local foods, food entrepreneurship on Rosebud is strengthening.

- Increased participation at our farmers market. 2018: 5 most consistent vendors attended 55% of markets; average 6 vendors. 2019: 5 most consistent vendors attended 77% or more of markets; average 8 vendors. This market started 2015 with only 1 or 2 vendors.

- Youth garden curriculum increasing; a teacher built a hydroponics system out of PVC pipes, the Boys and GIrls Club challenged youth to grow seedlings at home.

- A community president has secured greenhouse funding.

- Our summer garden internship employs more young adults than any other program, and the return rate is high - this year, 6/10 of our interns are in their second season.

- REDCO’s Wolakota Buffalo Range will be the largest Native-owned herd in North America. REDCO is partnering with the World Wildlife Fund to maximize the ecological and social impacts.
The Indigenous Food Sovereignty movement, emerging for more than 30 years, has picked up steam in the last decade.

While the concept of food sovereignty was developed by Via Campesina in the 90s, the last ten years have seen an increase in food sovereignty movements worldwide. After Michelle Obama planted the White House garden in 2009, there was a big shift in federal monies available for food sovereignty programs. Janie Hipp pushed this movement at the USDA, and founded the Indigenous Food and Ag initiative at the University of Arkansas in 2013. Indigenous food conferences have been emerging - the Great Lakes Intertribal Food Summit and the Seeds of Native Health conference being two of the first. The 2013 passing of the Traditional Foods Nourishment Act led to traditional foods served at the Alaska Native Medical Center.

Society placing higher importance on garden fresh products, climate change action.

Eco-friendly movements are becoming mainstream. Profit-focused corporations create garden fresh products (ex. Prego), showing market potential and shift. Climate change awareness and attention on the beef industry around sustainability and resource usage are signals that expectation of regenerative practices is on the rise. No KXL pipeline and the Standing Rock movements have been big moments nationally in the past few years, and show that more people are stating “planet over profit.” We have seen the emergence of an urban gardening movement, in which communities with high poverty use growing food to reclaim power and health.

Describe a “Day in the Life” of a key food system actor within your food system in 2050 (e.g., farmer, chef, supply chain actor, food policy actor, etc.).

A day in the life of a Sicangu Chef:

The alarm goes off. I open my eyes and start my day as usual. French press, pressed, and i'm out the door. I get into the car and start to feel nervous. Today, is the 30th annual Lakota Food Summit. I remember when I attended the 1st summit.

Driving to the venue, I see the liveliness of Rosebud on a Saturday morning. People out buying produce at the farmers market. I see the hot food vendors, and my mind immediately goes to the breakfast burrito stand where the woman makes homemade tortillas and gets her eggs from the vendor booths down. I can't stop today, I have something important to do. 

Pulling up to the venue, I feel honored that I was asked to prepare a dish and be a featured chef. I feel even more honored when asked if I could speak about my experiences and what I had gone through to be where I am today. Public speaking still gets the better of me to this day. 

Getting situated in the kitchen, feels so 2nd nature. I put on my custom apron, which has ribbon sewn into it. I feel like I just put on my battle armor, and in a sense, I did. 

My recipe for the day calls for bison . I open the walk-in cooler and pull out my slab of bison meat. I am feeling proud knowing that I know where this buffalo was raised, where it was processed, and now knowing who is preparing. All 3 of which, from Rosebud. 

The dish is done, plated and is now being plated. As people in the ballroom take their first bite, I know that the food they are eating is medicine. The bison was raised, and harvested in a way that respected it. And putting my good thoughts and energy into preparing it, the food now becomes medicine, nourishing not only the body, but the soul. I never thought that I would be where I am today. Being able to cook the foods of my ancestors and being able to say that this is my career. 

Environment | How will your food system of 2050 adapt to climate change and remain resilient?

Our ancestors were the original stewards of this region, and we are guided by ancestral wisdom as we return responsibility of the land and its bounty to our descendants. Regenerative agriculture and circular economy are modern terms for indigenous farming, hunting and gathering techniques; while we utilize these modern frameworks, we acknowledge that this wisdom has existed with the land and its original inhabitants for centuries. In traditional Lakota buffalo harvests, no part of the animal is wasted; the meat is preserved through drying, the hide tanned and used for tipis, the bones for tools and ceremonies. This can be seen as the original circular economy; nothing is wasted. The application of these simple principles to our food system vision has profound implications, especially in the context of our current wasteful food system.

Closed loop principles informed our vision for waste management; principally, by preventing the creation of “waste”. A localized food system will require less packaging for transport; packaging that is used will be sourced from compostable textiles, cutting down on plastic and styrofoam. A localized food system allows for more communication; seasonal planning sessions between cooks and their food suppliers will ensure that only the amount needed is produced, cutting down food waste. Another key milestone is establishing commercial composting. These facilities will take packaging and food waste from individuals and institutions and convert it to organic materials and biofertilizer for tribal producers, thereby reducing the carbon footprint of our food system.

While closing the loop on our economy mitigates further environmental harm, regenerative practices will restore health, biodiversity, and resiliency to the land. Cover cropping, low/no-till methods, diverse crops, compost and biofertilizers, and rotational grazing will steadily improve soil health. In the short-term, increasing water retention, allowing our food system to be resilient against increasingly erratic regional weather patterns like flooding and drought. In the long-term, carbon cycles will shift back towards a state of balance. Every level of food production will be regenerative, from home gardening to tribally owned buffalo herds and large-scale vegetable production. Carbon sequestration will be measured against emissions, with the goal that each food production site will be carbon positive.

Minimizing carbon emissions through a localized infrastructure will accelerate us towards this goal. Three key milestones are required: 1) A centralized food hub to aggregate and distribute the goods of local producers; 2) Policies that prioritize supplying local goods to stores and institutions; and 3) Local meat processing facilities. Consistent, year-round markets for local producers and infrastructure for processing and distributing to these markets, will make food production a viable livelihood for more tribal members. Our food system will prioritize local foods first, then sourcing regionally what is not produced on Rosebud, only resorting to longer food supply chains for select items. 

Biodiversity among native and cultivated species is a key element of creating a resilient food system. Rotational grazing of buffalo and cattle helps restore soil health and restores native prairie grasses that flourish in tandem with traditional buffalo herds. Native grasses store more carbon in the soil and are more adapted to the local climate than those that are cultivated. Establishing nature areas where native plant and animal species are protected and harvested responsibly is also key to restoring the natural biodiversity of this region. Replacing conventional monocropping with diverse farms will increase our resiliency; if one crop fails, another may thrive. Small-scale farmers have more capacity to adapt their growing methods to changing climate patterns. Establishing a Sicangu seed library, saving those that have grown the best and growing them year after year will increase the resilience of our crops - starting with heirloom varieties that are already adapted to our climate. Many indigenous planting methods naturally emphasize the importance of biodiversity for resilience and soil health; the 3 sisters planting method a classic example.

To achieve a food system in which the health of our land and its inhabitants are centered, mental models need to change, and the land itself is a key to achieving this. Through land-based educational opportunities for young people, the people of Rosebud will grow up tied to the land, both wild and cultivated. Maps and guides to traditional plants, and gatherings to connect the knowledge holders with the next generation, will be integral. These experiences will allow our relatives to redefine “regenerative” in our own terms; defining what it means to be Lakota by healthy choices and a good relationship with the land.

Diets | How will your food system of 2050 address malnutrition in all its forms (undernutrition, micronutrient deficiency, metabolic disease) for the people living there?

Wild harvested venison and fowl; foraged greens, timpsila (prairie turnip), berries, and herbs; local, regeneratively raised bison, cattle, poultry, eggs, and pork; and cultivated fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. These are the pantry staples found in the homes of Sicangu Lakota families in 2050. Shifting from a diet high in processed, colonized foods to one based on whole plants, regeneratively raised meat, and wild game will be key in eradicating malnutrition on the Rosebud Indian Reservation. Building a local food system that prioritizes access to these foods for all residents will be vital in eliminating diet-related illnesses. 

Lack of access to healthy foods impedes Sicangu Lakota families from eating a nutritious diet. Fourteen percent of Todd County residents have limited access to healthy foods, compared to six percent across the U.S. (RST Community Health Profile, 2018). Seventeen percent of adults in the county have been diagnosed with diabetes, compared to nine percent in South Dakota and ten percent nationwide (ibid). Metabolic diseases like diabetes and heart disease have been linked to diets high in processed foods (https://www.physiciansweekly.com/ultra-processed-foods-linked-to/). Such foods are usually the cheapest and most readily available on the reservation. By increasing access to healthy foods, the percentage of the Rosebud population with metabolic disease will decline through 2050. 

Key factors hampering food access are transportation, price, and education (State of Food Sovereignty report, p. 11 - 18). Lack of reliable transportation prevents families from remote communities from regularly visiting grocery stores. A mobile grocery store will eliminate the transportation barrier to food access. The mobile grocery will also address the issue of price. The mission of the mobile grocery store is twofold: to increase access to nourishing foods and create economic opportunity for tribal food entrepreneurs. To achieve both goals, we will prioritize financial sustainability over profitability in order to fairly compensate local food producers while keeping prices low.

Empowering small-scale producers to grow food for their community will also increase food access. Each community will be home to a community garden of at least three acres to serve as an experiential, educational gathering space. Knowledge sharing will empower community members to plant home gardens and teach them the skills to preserve food. Community members will also share knowledge on traditional foods and harvesting methods to preserve Lakota culture and ensure that all of our relatives can access the same nutritious wild foods that nourished our ancestors.

A food hub will allow small-scale producers to aggregate and efficiently distribute local foods to both families and institutions. By prioritizing a farm-to-institution model, we will tap into already existing networks to expand access to these foods. These institutions include schools, hospitals, grocery stores, the commodity food program, child care facilities, and the RST Elderly Nutrition program. Many of the programs listed are already providing thousands of meals each month to community members across the Rosebud Reservation. The Boys and Girls Club alone provides 4,000 meals to kids each month in the summer and approximately 2,200 meals per month during the school year in 2020. 

Tapping into the Sicangu CDC’s existing partnerships with institutions already providing food to community members serves a twofold purpose. Addressing the issue of access will lower instances of malnutrition. Incorporating institutions into a local food distribution network will allow families to introduce nutritious foods to their children at young ages, starting with mothers and infants. Food prescriptions and nutrition information will be provided to all expectant mothers and mothers of young children at all Rosebud area health centers to reduce childhood malnutrition. A food prescription program offered through Indian Health Services to all patients under the age of eighteen that meet health and income requirements will result in decreased risk for diet-related illnesses, including Type II diabetes, by enabling families to incorporate more healthy foods into their diets. Strengthening partnerships with institutions, particularly schools, will be key to implementing curriculum on growing and preparing food. 

Government will play a vital role in realizing this food system. By 2050, the Sicangu CDC and our partners will have worked with RST Tribal Council to pass legislation that supports local producers and promotes Lakota food culture. Establishing a tribal food code is an essential first step in this process. Additionally, the South Dakota state and U.S. federal governments will also play a role, particularly in re-designing policy to support small-scale, local food producers in place of (or in addition to) large commodity crop growers via reallocation of federal subsidies.

Economics | Where and what will the jobs be that support living wages in your future food system of 2050, and how will these jobs impact gender equality?

All of the resources for a thriving local economy are already present on Rosebud - water and land access, organic inputs for regenerative agriculture, an available workforce, social and cultural connections, as well as regional opportunities to not only keep the food dollars on Rosebud but to also bring in more from regions that are maxing out their own local resources - Rapid City, Sioux Falls, Denver, Minneapolis. What we need is the infrastructure and seed money to support beginning producers and food entrepreneurs, as well as investment in larger-scale farming and ranching operations by the tribe in order to feed our people locally.

In order to achieve this, we will capitalize on the existing systems while simultaneously creating new ones. This will look like funneling federal food subsidy dollars such as SNAP/EBT as well as available grant money towards local foods to lay the groundwork for needed infrastructure while we make plans to divest from federal food subsidies. More markets need to be opened up for local producers, such as supplying food to the schools, hospital, and tribal programs. A centralized food hub to aggregate and distribute available local goods to the institutions will break down many infrastructure barriers for tribal producers to enter the market. Allowing more producers to enter the market will mean that small scale, home based ag will be a viable option for family income. It fits well with the community lifestyle that we are accustomed to traditionally, and strengthens community ties. The system will be gender inclusive, with these opportunities open to anyone - it will even allow single mothers to earn an income at home without sacrificing time with their children. 

Our envisioned food system will foster a strong and resilient local economy by building in diverse economic and employment opportunities. We will begin by increasing the number of tribal producers on Rosebud through micro-loan programs available to beginning producers and food entrepreneurs to capture for the local economy more of the food dollars that are currently leaving the reservation. More local businesses will correlate to employment opportunities for tribal members; not only will business ownership be more possible but employment as well, with local employers providing a living wage to all their employees - something that cannot currently be said of the restaurant and grocery chains that exist on Rosebud.

The localized infrastructure will also create more jobs - from the commercial composting site to the tribally owned farms and ranches, community gardens, and the meat processing facilities. This will allow for a return to specialized trades - with opportunities for people to become butchers, bakers, and more. The thriving local foods scene will also enhance the opportunity for agritourism - visitors can come and see the buffalo herds, nature reserves, and regenerative gardens, and stay to enjoy the local cuisines. 

The changes proposed in our Vision will be centered around smallholder farms, through infrastructure, tribal policy, and micro-loans for beginning producers. Producers will be supported in capturing more local food dollars through financial literacy and business planning resources provided in tandem with the micro-loans. Tribal policy will prioritize locally produced foods over those imported from the surrounding region; global food imports will be limited to a select few items such as coffee, coconuts, and avocado. Regional and global exports will primarily be invested back into the local foods economy by subsidizing the cost of small and community scale farming as well as trainings and structures that support the system. Our trade will be focused on equitable trade with other indigenous communities in order to revive a modern day trade route system.

In order to ensure that the local food system provides food across seasons, policy and education will help to shift us back towards seasonal eating habits. The increase in seasonal production will be supported by commercial kitchen facilities where we can freeze dry, dehydrate, and can foods to be consumed through the winter months. Traditional food preservation knowledge will be preserved and shared. Season extension models such as greenhouses will also be utilized. 

Our food system will be supported at an overarching tribal level to create systems that people can plug into, rather than the current system of ‘independent bootstrap farming.’ Producers will be able to depend on the tribe for a decent living wage in case of a tough year, but without becoming dependent on it - the local market opportunities and trade routes will ensure that diversified farming operations and value-added goods will be sufficient to make a living.

Culture | How will your 2050 food system ensure that the cultural, spiritual and community traditions and/or practices in your Place flourish?

Food is medicine; we know this to be true in 2020, but in 2050, our lives will be intentionally structured to uphold the values inherent in that statement. Food will continue to be a means of building and bringing together communities; communities comprised of gardeners, foragers, restaurant and home cooks, farmers, ranchers, food entrepreneurs, and everyone else - because we all have to eat! These communities will foster connections across generations and ensure that cultural and spiritual traditions (often one and the same, or intricately intertwined) continue to ground the Sicangu Lakota Oyate for the next seven generations. Our food system will be healing, connecting, and empowering, guided by a deep care for Unci Maka (grandmother Earth) and an understanding that all beings are our relatives. 

Our food culture will foster a love and commitment to developing and supporting local and regional foodways. It will be inclusive; the annual Rosebud local food summit will bring together cooks and producers each year to collaborate on planting plans, menus, and distribution methods. Culinary trainings for institution cooks will increase their confidence in using fresh and traditional ingredients. Inclusivity extends to all individuals, regardless of gender, race, sexual identity and orientation, religion, or income level. Lakota women have always played a key role in our food systems, both before and after colonization. In conversations with our Elders about their food experiences during childhood, many shared stories of self-sufficiency made possible by family gardens (including chickens for natural pest control and eggs), foraging for everything from chokecherries to timpsila (prairie turnip), and hunting and butchering wild game (SoFS report, Past Experiences around Food, p. 5 - 10). Grandmothers were vital contributors to family and community survival: in the words of Tina Martinez, of the Spotted Calf and Spotted War Bonnet Tiospayes of St. Francis and Spring Creek communities, “My grandmother was very hardworking, very involved with the community, and helping feed families. If somebody didn’t have something she was ready to be there for them. So I’ve kinda picked up on some of those things that matter to her and started believing that I could do the same thing…. I saw my relatives struggling and I felt like I could help in feeding them.” 

Women still play a vital role in our local food system, and through expanded opportunities and intentional mentorship, we will continue to ensure that they remain so, both through their income generating activities as well as in the traditionally unpaid caring economy as gardeners, foragers, and food preservers. Both participants in the SFSI’s Beginning Farmer Rancher internship program are women, and both have plans to become food producers. Out of the four small-scale food producers who operated booths at our 2019 farmers’ market, all are helmed by women. In addition to empowering women to launch their own food businesses, our food system will empower a community based food movement. All individuals, regardless of their gender identity, will be empowered to bring Lakota culture to life while cultivating community flourishment through sharing of traditional foods knowledge. Communities will also flourish through access to affordable, healthy, nourishing, and culturally appropriate foods that reaffirm Lakota identity. Traditional foods will be easily accessible and prepared not only for ceremonies, but will once again be enjoyed on a regular basis.  

This cultural revival around local and traditional foods will incorporate youth, at every step of the way and from a young age, in order to enable them to thrive by eating nutritious foods and simultaneously ensure longevity of our food system for the next seven generations. The “Food as Medicine” curriculum that will be adapted by all schools on or near the Rosebud Reservation, as well as incorporating experience gardening, cooking, hunting, butchering, and food preservation into the learning experience, will be key to ensuring all youth grow up empowered to feed themselves. Lakota language, spirituality, and culture will be incorporated into all food related activities, as these areas of life naturally intersect and any separation between them is arbitrarily academic. Expanded educational opportunities, such as dual credit enrollment in local area high schools and Sinte Gleska University, the local tribal college to earn a certificate in Local Foods Systems, will also be made available to students. By ensuring that the food system we develop holds space and respect for all, particularly our youth, we will ensure that our 2050 food system respects and encourages the cultural, spiritual, and community traditions of the Sicangu Lakota Oyate to flourish.

Technology | What technological advances are needed to transform your food system into one that meets your goals and embodies the values of your Vision in 2050?

Increased access and infrastructure are the two key technological advances needed to transform our local food system. In an amendment to Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 2016, the U.N. established the internet as a human right, stating “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” Lack of access to the internet is still a key factor inhibiting food access on the Rosebud Reservation.

 In the future, as app based food ordering and food delivery options become more prevalent in rural areas like ours, lack of internet access will compound the issue of poor food access. As COVID-19 has taught us, shortening the links in the food system between producer and consumer is vital to safeguard food security. Already, local grocery stores are suffering shortages and price increases due to quivers throughout the entirety of their lengthy supply chains. Developing digital and physical infrastructure that allows tribal producers to choose the sales method that works best for them, be that a food hub, direct sales online, farmers’ market, CSA, or a combination, will allow all players - institutional buyers, producers, and households -  to connect with one another. Access to the internet is also essential in ensuring access to the financial banking system, a lack of which prevents Natives from becoming food producers. Alex Romero Frederick, an Oglala Lakota entrepreneur who raises cattle regeneratively on her ranch in Okreek, South Dakota, notes access to capital as a primary barrier for Native producers (https://www.sicangucdc.org/post/rez-raised-beef-regenerative-grazing-on-the-rosebud-indian-reservation). In order to expand financial opportunities for tribal producers, access to financial institutions and services, including online banking, will be crucial. 

Technological advances in vaccine development, as well as in humane livestock production will also be necessary to build food sovereignty and security. Unless we significantly alter our current relationship to the animals that feed us, viral diseases like COVID-19 will continue to arise and spread, as seventy-five percent of all new emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic in origin (https://www.cdc.gov/onehealth/basics/zoonotic-diseases.html). Treating all wamakaskan (our animal relatives, translated from Lakota as ‘living beings of the Earth’) humanely is also a key value and goal of technological adaptations into our food system. Technology that manages the health and welfare of animals has potential to improve herd management techniques (https://www.nature.com/articles/544s21a). Infrastructure developments, such as a meat locker for buffalo harvesting, will also be necessary for a secure local food system. Technological advancements that improve production and make regenerative practices more cost efficient will be necessary. This technology may be rooted in indigenous ecological knowledge of land management or other practices. It also has the potential to be developed locally, as much of the technology that will be the basis of our food system in 2050 does not yet exist. Developing and producing agricultural technology to support local needs could become the basis for a new local industry. Investment in technological development must be accompanied by investment in education and training around technology, or else the benefits of tech won’t be fully realized. Education may take the form of industry apprenticeships, formal educational programs, or another pathway. 

The Rosebud Reservation is also expecting a population of 40,639 individuals in 2050, an increase of thirty four percent over the current population of 30,247.176. In order to be able to grow the 45,641,000 pounds of vegetables needed each year to feed that population, we will need advances in technology that break down barriers for small-scale producers as well as consumers. Establishing commercial composting as a means of reducing waste and providing organic inputs for tribal producers is a key milestone for the year 2030. Other innovations include home garden kits, and freeze dried prepared foods like buffalo soup. Technology that increases the productivity and profitability of small-scale production operations, such as inexpensive but durable and high quality growing season extension models, will also be essential in providing the needed amount of food and increasing the viability of small-scale operations. Other potential developments that small-scale producers in our food system could adapt include devices that monitor vegetable growth, robotic pickers, improved monitoring and maintenance of soil quality to improve carbon sequestration tracking, and use of robots and drones to spot and eradicate pests and disease (https://www.nature.com/articles/544s21a). 

Policy | What types of policies are needed to enable your future food system?

Food and agriculture policies are crucial components of establishing tribal food sovereignty for the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and achieving our 2050 vision. Broad policy will break apart large obstacles in systems and jolt people into action. Precision policy will create economic opportunities. The ability to establish a Tribal Food Code is an advantage we must leverage as a sovereign nation to address challenges of accessibility; mental models; distribution; traditional food regulations; and achieving a critical mass of knowledgeable citizens.

Policy is needed in the following areas: 

1. Prioritizing local and regional foods
Two barriers for tribal producers are sourcing regulations at grocery stores, institutions, and tribal programs; and lack of a market for their products. Policies requiring these entities to prioritize local products first, regional products second, and only sourcing farther away as a last resort, will have economic and environmental implications. These entities’ food budgets will be funneled towards local producers. Incentives such as reciprocal prioritization of services will be offered by the tribe to support compliance. Lowered taxes on healthy and/or local foods, and workplace programs that support healthy eating such as a matching program for employees to  participate in a CSA will enable more tribal members to enter into local food production and entrepreneurship. 


2. Agricultural practices
To ensure that all food and textile production centers the health of the land and its inhabitants, land policies will be required that regulate mandatory regenerative agriculture practices. Support from tribal land management programs around education and implementation of these practices will be offered, including carbon sequestration monitoring.


3. Tribal food codes
Tribal food codes will encompass many policies discussed here, but two specific areas are integral to developing these codes. First, food codes must address local meat processing regulations and allow that meat processed at local facilities and in approved mobile kill units can be sold in grocery stores and sourced by local institutions. Second, food codes must address traditional foods; specifically the prioritization of sourcing traditional ingredients in schools and at the hospital, and through other tribal programs such as the Elderly Nutrition Program. Sourcing traditional foods in these settings will promote the cultural relevance of our food system and ensure that tribal members are empowered to “feed our DNA” with the same foods consumed by our ancestors. 


4. Waste management
Policies establishing and enforcing compost and recycling collection programs for individuals and institutions are key milestones for closing the resource loop and ensuring that we are using our resources wisely.


5. Tribally run subsidized food programs
To reclaim food sovereignty, we need our own programs that ensure access to healthy and culturally appropriate foods. Tribally run subsidy programs will replace SNAP/EBT and the federal commodity food program. Food Prescriptions and “Double Up Food Bucks”, matching healthy food purchases, will break down additional access barriers. Cooking classes will empower recipients to utilize fresh ingredients. Recipients who do not work can earn benefits by volunteering with a garden or healthy food program. With tribally run programs, we will no longer rely on the federal government for assistance, and can source food for these programs locally.

6. Education
Rosebud area school boards must implement “Food as Medicine” curriculum in the schools and dual credit programs with Sinte Gleska University for a Local Food Systems Certification. Training programs for institution cooks to use healthy and traditional ingredients will ensure that sourcing these ingredients is impactful. Prison work and re-entry programs will provide employment and prepare these individuals for starting their own farms or gardens.


7. Preventative health to improve diet-related health outcomes
Policies requiring health centers to provide food prescriptions and nutrition information to patients meeting health and income requirements as well as expectant mothers or mothers of young children will increase the market for healthy foods, ensure that our relatives are receiving adequate nutrition from a young age, and introduce fresh foods when our palates are still developing. Community Health Representatives will incorporate literature on nutrition and healthy foods and connect patients with local food sources.


8. Financing for beginning producers, food entrepreneurs

In order to remove entry barriers, low interest micro-loans, financial planning, and business plan assistance will be available through Tatanka Funds. The tribe will provide scholarships for participation in the Local Food Systems Certification at the tribal university to ensure that the knowledge and a pathway to becoming a small-scale producer or food entrepreneur are accessible.

Describe how these 6 Themes connect with and influence one another in your food system.

Each of the six themes previously detailed in our food system are intricately intertwined. We are unwilling to compromise on regenerative land management, which is essential to sequestering carbon in the soil and safeguarding the local environment against climate change. We anticipate development of technology that will enhance regenerative practices and lower their input and labor costs, as well as farming technology that will allow us to mitigate the impacts of climate change in order to remain resilient. While the food system itself will flourish economically, it will tie into the larger local economy by sparking the development of new industries, such as agricultural manufacturing of technologies that promote regenerative practices. These new industries will create jobs that will bolster the resiliency of the Sicangu Lakota people, allowing our people to stop fighting for survival and finally thrive. Policy will be essential in promoting new technological industries, as well as regenerative land management practices among producers. Policy will also be crucial in establishing a framework that empowers small scale producers and supports food entrepreneurs. Policy support can be in the form of subsidies, as well as infrastructure developments and upkeep that support the local food system, such as a meat locker or incubator training program that provides support and training for all players in the food system. 

Diet and culture are also intricately connected to the other four themes. A cultural revival around traditional Lakota foods provides opportunities to develop industries around those foods, allowing the Rosebud Reservation to potentially become a regional exporter of meat as well as indigenous berries and other crops. As the number of local small-scale producers continues to grow, seed saving and developing a catalogue of indigenous seeds to trade with other tribes across the U.S. has the potential to create jobs as well as create another industry within the food system. This cultural revival around traditional and other nourishing foods, which will not be possible with education incorporated into all levels of society - family, community, and institutions - will be essential in shifting diets to eradicate malnutrition among the Sicangu Lakota Oyate. As a local foods movement builds, our youth will be nourished by local foods throughout their childhood and adolescence, and will be made aware of the potential to become part of the food system as a local producer. Policies to support small scale agriculture and provide support for food education, as well as education around safeguarding the local environment through food production, in schools and in communities will be necessary to generate a food movement that encompasses all our values. 

Describe any trade-offs you may have to make within your system to attain your Vision by 2050.

While we believe all of the values and goals outlined in our Vision are essential to creating a Lakota local foods system for the Sicangu people, there will likely arise limitations that will necessitate trade-offs throughout the years as we work to build this system. In order to fund potential subsidies to small scale producers, the tribe will need to determine a revenue stream that will be able to cover said subsidies. Commercial hemp is a growing industry, and the crop has recently been legalized by the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. However, growing hemp at scale to be able to generate profit to support other initiatives may necessitate a trade-off in land use. Land used to grow hemp and other commercial products will be unable to be used to produce food for local consumption. However, land is an abundant natural resource on the Rosebud Reservation, and it may be that growing hemp now to generate income will allow more land to be managed regeneratively for food production in the future by using that income to offer subsidies to small scale producers. This may delay the shift in diet that is essential to eradicating malnutrition, but will overall be to the benefit of our food system and our people. 

Another potential area where compromises may have to be made is in the area of economic growth. In the post-1980 era of neoliberal economic thought, free market capitalism has been heralded as the solution to the natural fluctuations of the business cycle and the woes it can create. However, as British economist Kate Raworth details in her 2017 book “Doughnut Economics,” the exponential growth that such a system encourages is incompatible with life on a finite planet such as ours. We are also committed to establishing a food system that is regenerative, that prioritizes the human rights of workers, and that promotes health and wellbeing among all involved, from producers to community members. In order to do so, we will need political action that prioritizes these values, even if those protections come at the expense of short term economic growth. While our food system has the potential to spark side industries, such as agricultural tech manufacturing, we will also need policy to make sure that these industries are also managing their supply chains in a regenerative way. We do not simply want to protect our land and natural resources for our people alone, but hope that in building a food system that empowers the Sicangu Lakota Oyate we will be able to empower others to protect their natural resources as well. Ensuring that any legislation or policy developments promote human dignity may come at the expense of economic growth, at least in the short term. 

3 Years | Describe 3 key milestones that you would need to achieve within the next three years for your Vision to be on track?

The first key milestone is completing a comprehensive plan for food sovereignty on Rosebud. Building on existing reports (ex. Ken Meter report, 2019), we will conduct studies to inform: 1) Policy and infrastructure needs 2) Tribal producer resources 3) Import, export, necessary trade connections. This investment-grade plan will be one aspect of the 7Gen plan to ensure that the Sicangu Lakota Oyate will be thriving 7 generations into the future.

Within three years, the 3 Sisters organizations (REDCO; the Sicangu Community Development Corporation; and Tatanka Funds, an emerging native CDFI), will launch the 3 Sisters Ag Ecosystem, a proof-of-concept of what local food production could look like, while also feeding our people in the immediate. REDCO currently operates a 400 acre organic farm and is transitioning 1,441 acres of farmland from conventional farming to certified organic farmland, which will be complete in 2022. The long-term goal is to convert 10,000+ acres to organic while developing value added products to support individual producers. REDCO is also developing a 27,000 acre regenerative buffalo sanctuary. The long term goal is to develop a meat processing plant, a Rosebud branded product (grass fed, hormone free, humanely harvested meat), and support individual producers.


Launch a Sicangu Community Food Leaders program; 20 graduates within 3 years. The third key milestone will be to provide educational opportunities for passionate and capable people who can drive the tribal food sovereignty movement forward. The Food Leaders program impact will be three-fold: 1) Economic stimulation via employment opportunities; 2) Food value mindset shift; and 3) Food sovereignty leaders to highlight and leverage strengths and resources of their home communities. Participants will gain knowledge on growing, cooking, and preserving food; food policy; local food systems; community organizing; and business planning and will choose a track to specialize in.

10 Years | What progress will you need to make—by 2030—that would set your Vision up to become a reality by 2050?

Our 2050 Vision can be viewed through 7 ambitious, achievable goals. Key results by 2030 are measurable and will ensure that we are on track to reaching our vision.

Regenerative practices used for food production

All production is regenerative; Commercial composting; 50% of meat produced locally; 30% of home use food purchases are local.

Institutions utilize local & traditional ingredients
Trained institution cooks; Local food summits connect cooks, producers; Meat processing facility; Rosebud brand meats supply 40% institutional demand; Food hub infrastructure.

Equitable access to nutritional foods for all communities
Mobile grocery store; Food insecurity decreased 50%; Diabetes decreased 25%; 20 community gardens; Seed library.

Food seen as medicine that heals the body, mind, spirit of the Oyate, deepens Lakota identity
“Food as Medicine” curriculum; Food Prescription Program, nutritional info at health centers; Map/guide for wild harvesting; Food subsidy recipient cooking class.

Food system fosters, supports business ventures; food production, entrepreneurship provide viable livelihood
Tribal producers, entrepreneurs capture 20% of food dollars currently leaving Rosebud; Tribal producers increase 100%; Diverse sales methods for producers; $65,000 in micro-loans annually for producers, food entrepreneurs.

Youth lead families to self-determination by knowing how to grow, harvest, prepare food
Youth Food Leaders program; Lakota immersion summer camp emphasizes healthy/traditional foods; Food Systems Certification dual credit program for high schools/tribal university. 

Tribal citizens make informed consumption decisions, not prevented from eating healthy by cost/convenience

Traditional Lakota societies provide youth health mentoring; Community Health Reps use healthy eating literature for home visits, connect patients with local foods; Youth connected with gardens; Tribal food subsidies.

If awarded the $200,000 prize what would you do with it?

 If awarded the prize, our organization would use a portion of the funds to work towards completing the 7 Generation plan for the Rosebud Reservation. To achieve maximum impact, the Three Sisters – the Rosebud Economic Development Corporation, the Sicangu Community Development Corporation, and Tatanka Funds Community Development Financial Institution – are developing and implementing a 7 Generation Plan that will support change-making and nation-building activities for the next 175 years. 


The prize would allow us to leverage and secure future funding opportunities for the sustainability of our organization as well as funding key projects such as implementing a food leaders program, completing a comprehensive food sovereignty plan for the Rosebud Reservation, and launching the 3 Sisters agriculture ecosystem. 

If you are chosen as a Top Visionary, The Rockefeller Foundation would like to share your Vision widely with a global audience. What would you like the world to learn from your Vision for 2050?

We would like the world to know that if we want to build resilient food systems, the time is now. The time for food sovereignty is now. Due to COVID-19, we are seeing the weaknesses in our current food system - food shortages, price gauging, etc. We need to support our local producers, support small scale agriculture, learn how to grow our own food, and to start thinking regeneratively.  Food sovereignty and regenerative agriculture are new terms, but the concepts are not. Indigenous peoples have lived this way time in memorial. I would like the world to look to indigenous leadership in leading us back to models that are good for both people and planet. 

Please share a visual that communicates the structure and operation of your food system in 2050. Describe the visual.

Our visual is a map of the major players in the food system on Rosebud in the year 2050 and how they will collaborate and interact with one another to create a modern Lakota food system that centers people and planet. 

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Attachments (7)

The Three Sisters Graphic01.jpg

The Three Sisters Strategy is an innovative nation building partnership developed to tackle the enormous challenges and opportunities facing the Sicangu Lakota Oyate. The three partners are distinct organizations with interconnected activities operating under one mission: As Lakota, we believe we are all related, and it is our duty to create a better world for future generations.

7Gen Vision - Climate.pdf

This is a part of REDCO's 7 Generation plan that is in development with the 3 Sisters organizations - REDCO, Sicangu CDC, and Tatanka Funds.

7Gen Vision - Economy.pdf

This is a part of REDCO's 7 Generation plan that is in development with the 3 Sisters organizations - REDCO, Sicangu CDC, and Tatanka Funds.

State of Food Sovereignty.pdf

The State of Food Sovereignty: Stories of Food and Community from the Sicangu Lakota Oyate. Sicangu Community Development Corporation, Food Sovereignty Initiative, 2019.

state of food sovereignty - ken meter.pdf

Sicangu Lakota Oyate Nation Farm & Food Economy report by Ken Meter, Crossroads Resource Center, 2019

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