Written by Carina Miller, Warm Springs Community Action Team Research Analyst
Photo provided by Brutis Baez
The Warm Springs community is unique for multiple reasons; a confederation of three separate Tribes that can be broken into dozens of different bands, it is one of two treaty Tribes in Oregon. The Warm Springs reservation is the largest in Oregon and creates distinctive opportunities for agriculture and food systems. Not only is Warm Springs rich in cultural and traditional knowledge passed down through families since time immemorial, but Warm Springs has a long and strong political identity.
People from the Warm Springs community have maintained relationships to the land, animals, and food through tradition and spirituality. This allows us to understand the world differently but our Tribal relationships to food have been disrupted deeply by colonization. Many modern barriers cause a disconnect between these traditional skills and relationships to food and everyday diets and practice.
Many of our families have spent generation after generation hunting, fishing, digging roots and picking berries. As communities and families we continue to hold feasts, celebrations and ceremonies with the changing seasons to honor the first foods that sacrificed themselves for us. Although our relationships on every level have been damaged by colonialism, there is opportunity to decolonize, evolve, and experience metamorphosis, pulling ancient traditions into modern systems.
The Warm Springs Community Action Team and the High Desert Food and Farm Alliance have partnered to create a two-year position for a project focusing on the Warm Springs food system. Using a food system assessment from the First Nations Development Institute as a guideline, WSCAT is collecting information about the existing food system and simultaneously taking community input to reimagine a new one.
The project will analyze data, such as acres of agricultural land available, opportunity for economic development that brings in Tribal values, and assisting us in developing future projects. However, the most important piece will be to start vital conversations about where our community is when it comes to food systems and access to good food, how colonization has impacted us and created often unhealthy and even harmful environments and how we can vision a new food system and value every individual who lives here’s experience and contributions.
We aim to increase awareness about what food systems are here and to expand thinking about how to decolonize our modern day economies, diets, and lives with things like food. We hope to always center community member input, provide educational and empowerment opportunities and partner with organizations to get resources directly to the Warm Springs community members.