PABLO — Joshua Brown (Salish, Aaniiih and Nakoda), impressed by the growing momentum of Indian Country’s Food Sovereignty efforts, has dedicated this year to focus his research on what food sovereignty means to the Salish on the Flathead Indian Reservation that will be developed into policy for Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.
Last Thursday Brown, who is studying a Ph.D. in anthropology at the University of Montana and enrolled in the Master of Public Health with a Community Health and Prevention Sciences Concentration, briefed Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Council on his tribal food sovereignty research internship work with the Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board.
Brown’s internship experience thus far has allowed him to attend tribal food sovereignty events and learn from community members about how they are implementing food sovereignty in their communities. Some ideas that are successful in other tribal communities are: gardening, revising resource management agreements, and drafting food policy and codes.
Brown says in addition to learning how other tribal communities are implementing food initiatives, he hopes to gain insights from tribal people about their interests and ideas of possible food sovereignty initiatives within the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Nation. His completion of the research will result in writing food policy with CSKT's input.
The reason Brown is interested in policymaking as it asks the question, ‘What is the impact?’
“For example a food farm or co-op is great; it’s small and it might not last, so if we create policy that can set goals it can transform communities in years to come and hopefully help my grandchildren and your grandchildren to improve their health and make a living in business agriculture,” Brown told CSKT Council.
The three components to Brown’s food sovereignty research is to: learn about food sovereignty across tribal communities (which he has been doing); draft a food policy; and interview Salish people in what food sovereignty means to them.
“It is my goal to share what I find out within our community. There have been past researchers come in and leave - that is not my style,” he said. “I want a dialogue with the community and come back after the research is done and help along the way.”
Brown was also there to gain approval for his Salish Kootenai College Institution Review Board (IRB) application which is part of the research process.
During questions and comments CSKT Dixon Rep. Anita Matt said the recently passed Farm Bill allows people to have input what foods go into the schools and markets. “We have to look more locally,” she said. “We have close to 100 producers here (Flathead Reservation) that their beef is sold off the reservation.” She went on to explain that through the marketing production, processed beef is sent off and sometimes returned to the local area with a diminished value in the food.
She said she has been looking at the marketing and explained that for food to be USDA approved it must be processed. She noticed some of the local beef in a local grocery store came all the way from Seattle, WA to a St. Ignatius market. “What they do is put stuff in it so it doesn’t brown. I would rather see stuff come more locally and finding a way to do that,” said Matt.
She mentioned there is a community garden operating in Dixon that suggests food sovereignty is happening. “There are ideas are out there but each of us need to be taking a piece and going forward,” she added.
Arlee Rep. Shelly Fyant who was not present at the meeting was mentioned to be doing a large work on food sovereignty issues and participating in local farmers markets.
CSKT St. Ignatius Rep. Fred Matt made a motion to approve the food sovereignty Flathead reservation research request and was seconded by CSKT Arlee Rep. Myrna DuMontier; all were in favor with a carried motion.
Brown’s plan after completing his Master’s of Public Health degree is to begin dissertation research focusing on the connections between diet and health, along with the role of individual agency and social structures impacting Salish populations.
Brown says he will explore current social and economic factors influencing contemporary Salish people’s ongoing dietary decisions and the connection with the prevalence of poor health outcomes.
Brown feels that his diverse education in anthropology and public health lends a deeper insight into the connection between socioeconomic factors that influence the diet and health of the Salish people.
“More information will be sought about precontact foods collected in the past and currently to have a better understanding of the vast array of plants, fungi and animals consumed by Salish people. This will include conducting research in SKC collections and interviewing tribal elders,” said Brown.
Brown’s research will develop into a tribal food sovereignty policy draft for CSKT that implements tangible actions to improve access and availability of precontact foods and locally grown foods within their homeland.
CSKT Polson Rep. Charmel Gillin said Brown’s project is a great package of economic development and health and wellness. “It’s an honor to support you,” said Gillin.
Brown says his passion behind the research is focused on diet, nutrition and health being the best strategy for health, economic issues and, “Getting to the root causes.”
CSKT Tribal Council took rounds of thanking Brown for his work and said they look forward to the near future update.
“We will benefit from your work and dedication,” said Fred Matt.