(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University, tribal partners and others have received a $35,483 grant from the Oregon Cultural Trust to initiate the Indigenous Gardens Network – a hub for conversation and coordination around traditional food gathering areas throughout southwestern Oregon.
The Indigenous Gardens Network is intended to restore areas where “first foods” and other culturally significant items can be cultivated, harvested and made accessible to Indigenous people. First foods are plant and animal species that Native Americans traditionally relied upon for subsistence, medicine and ceremonial uses. The network that will be funded by the new Oregon Cultural Trust grant will pull together new and existing resources to address urgent issues such as food security, climate change and Indigenous food sovereignty.
“The Indigenous Gardens Network centers the knowledge and expertise of Native people and communities and approaches all projects with a robust sense of accountability to them,” said Brook Colley, chair of the SOU Native American Studies Program and principal investigator on the OCT grant.
“(The network) will be Indigenous-led, driven by their needs and solutions, and based on mutual respect,” Colley said.
The project is a regional partnership that brings together diverse partners including tribes, educators, conservation organizations and land managers or owners to address barriers to first food access and cultivation. The Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians of Oregon, Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, Vesper Meadow Education Program and other regional partners are joining SOU on the project.
A history of genocide, forced treaties and removal from ancestral lands created a pervasive, detrimental legacy for Indigenous people, many of whom remain displaced from southwestern Oregon. Several tribes from the region were forcibly relocated to Siletz and Grand Ronde reservations during the mid-1800s, and descendants continue to live there as citizens of the Grand Ronde and Siletz tribes.
Many members of those tribes have not re-established the annual food-tending practices of their ancestors for reasons including a lack of access to public and private land, scarcity of financial and human resources, concerns over safety and prejudice, divergence between Indigenous and Western perceptions of land use, and degradation of Indigenous gardens caused by ranching and other industries.
The Oregon Cultural Trust grant will enable the partner organizations to initiate the Indigenous Gardens Network, while additional funding sources will be sought for follow-up efforts. The network will work to re-establish specific first foods, medicines, materials and landscapes in southwestern Oregon, and to engage both private and public partners in supporting tribal access to – and stewardship of – critical cultural resources.
The Indigenous Gardens Network supports tribes and other Native communities in building sustainable food systems that improve health and well-being, strengthen food security and increase their control over Indigenous agriculture and food networks.
The Indigenous Gardens Network is also supported through the SOU Foundation. Those wishing to contribute to this work may make a donation online or contact Brook Colley (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information about the Indigenous Gardens Network. Information on donating to the Oregon Cultural Trust is available on the organization’s website.