While we all have watched what has happened in Minneapolis and in dozens of cities across the country, many of us have struggled between despair, anger, frustration and the need to speak out. We struggle with deep sadness knowing that systemic racism and the perpetuation of invisibility has been a part of this country from its very inception.
As we have for the past 400 years, the Native community will continue to stand with the Black community during this painful time. We know the pain of losing people to brutality and before their time; we know that long ignored generational traumas are inside of us, passed down from ancestors to us today. While the systemic racism impacting us may take different shapes and contours, we understand its legacy and how systems from hundreds of years ago impact us and our children today. Just as the Black community has stood with us during our times of pain, the Native community will continue to stand with you now.
We at the Native American Agriculture Fund (NAAF), will always stand for justice and building a future where our communities can thrive. Our organization exists because Native farmers and ranchers stood up against injustice. NAAF’s goal is to feed, grow and build communities. Our communities cannot grow if we cannot live freely.
As I approach my seventh decade on this earth, I fear we may never heal these deep wounds. But I am a person of hope, so I continue to believe it is possible. I also know that we must publicly acknowledge the brutality, pain and systemic racism that are foundational parts of American history and continue to this day.
What does all of this have to do with food, growing food and feeding people? Everything.
When we treat each other as “less than,” we care less about the children that go hungry.
When we are brutal to our neighbor, we won’t help a neighboring farm when bad weather decimates their crops.
When we lose our compassion for others, our entire food system reflects that change.
Our food system is first and foremost built by food people. This includes countless Black farmers and countless Native farmers. They do the critical work to keep us fed. Coronavirus is teaching us, yet again, that food is essential, and our food people are essential. If we fight for something, then why don’t we all fight for each other?
We all need to understand one basic truth: if we fail to stand up for our Black brothers and sisters and fail to act while we watch them being destroyed, then we destroy ourselves in the process.
Now is the time for strong voices from all corners to stand up and speak up. It is also a time to listen and understand. We must take action to build a better community for all of us, not just a few of us. We must feed each other and care for each other.
The generations that came before us fought for us to be here today. We need to do the same for the ones that come after us. We owe it to our ancestors to build a better community and society for our future generations.
Chokma’shki, Thank you
Janie Simms Hipp