This summer, Civil Society and Community Research graduate student Becca Dower is helping the Intertribal Agriculture Council (IAC) develop a tribally-supported agriculture program—or TSA—to distributes Native American produced goods to Native American communities. During this time, she will be conducting preliminary research with funding from SoHE’s Summer Time Academic Research (STAR) Award, supported by the Catherine K. Sheehan Fund. Read her previous posts: 1, 2, 3.
The Dawes Act of 1887 was established by the federal government to divide Native land into individual allotments. This was used as a tool to both colonize and takeover Indian land. For my tribe, this posed a problem for the state of North Dakota where our Turtle Mountain Ojibwe Reservation had more members than land allotments. Some of our tribal members, including parts of my family, were then allotted land off the reservation in western North Dakota. The community of Trenton, North Dakota is still home for much of my family and other Ojibwe people of the Turtle Mountain Tribe.
My family and I drive through the quiet streets of Trenton, telling stories and waving to everyone we see. For every person we pass my uncle explains how we are related. “That’s your cousin,” he says. Or, “she’s a pine martin, like your mom,” referring to our traditional clan system. We stop by the horse track, where every Wednesday night is roping night. Here we can visit and share a meal with a large portion of our community while people practice with their horses. I think about the resilience of Native people. The value of community that is held so strong in our people is in direct conflict with the western individualism at play against us. But here, among a culture of elders, youth, medicines, plants, family and oral tradition we care for ourselves and live as a community.
In this same county, just north of Trenton, sits Williston, North Dakota, the heart of the Bakken region. The Bakken refers to the rock formation of this area that is currently under mass extraction practices for its oil deposits. The recent Standing Rock protests were in response to a pipeline transporting the Bakken’s crude oil. It is hard to watch the oilrigs that are scattered all over this prairie. Every up and down motion reminds me of the depth this machine is reaching into Earth, breaking up the shale rock by pumping it with water laced with chemicals that companies are not required to disclose. While tainting the water itself, the process also threatens underground aquifers and wells used in community homes. Native communities all over Turtle Island are facing threats of mass extraction as land resources are taken in the name of development.
Just as Native communities are not homogeneous, neither are the opinions on moving forward. Caring for future generations and all our relations, paired with great resiliency and community values, will move us forward. We need to move towards green energy solutions in which our understanding, land, animals, people and culture heal and thrive.
Becca Dower is a Civil Society and Community Research (CSCR) graduate student at SoHE. With support from the STAR Award, Becca will spend the summer conducting preliminary data collection in order to understand feasibility and desire for community distribution sites. She’ll then work with community members to establish accessible site locations.
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