A High Impact Food Partner & Project in Indian Country
Looking back over the last 12 months, food sovereignty has been a major focus in sustainable community development across Indian country. Increasing the availability of healthy, locally produced foods on the reservations has also been a leading focus for Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA). In 2015, PWNA was excited to support numerous community-led health and nutrition initiatives under our Community Investment Projects service.
We would like to share how one of our health and nutrition partners – Kunsi’s Garden at Enemy Swim Day School on the Lake Traverse Reservation in northeast South Dakota – made a significant impact in 2015.
The Kunsi’s Garden project began in 2006 as a learning garden, supporting math, literacy, science and nutrition education through project-based learning in a culturally responsive environment for preschool through eighth grade students. The garden was named in honor of a respected Dakota elder who loved sharing her passion for plant life with children.
Kunsi is the Dakota word for grandmother – and grandmotherly love permeates throughout Kunsi’s Garden. It is most evident in how the project leader, Ellen Robertson, interacts with students, staff and fellow volunteers. A certified South Dakota Master Gardener, Ellen also serves as Administrative Assistant for Enemy Swim Day School.
As a cancer survivor, Ellen knows firsthand how good nutrition and time spent gardening can benefit emotional, mental, physical and spiritual health. She passionately shares this knowledge with the students at Kunsi’s Garden.
Supported during the 2015 growing season by a small coalition of nonprofits including Partnership With Native Americans and Sisseton Wahpeton College Extension, along with community volunteers, Kunsi’s Garden expanded from six up to 18 full days of summer gardening activities. Each day offered eight 50-minute sessions with hands-on learning for the 187 science, math and nutrition students enrolled at the school. In addition, Ellen was able create temporary job opportunities for two adult garden volunteers who assisted during the summer classes.
With this in mind, and gardening season behind us, we want to acknowledge Kunsi’s Garden at Enemy Swim Day School as a high-impact food partner of the year and we are looking forward to our continuing partnership in 2016.
How you can help spread the word about food sovereignty on the reservations:
- Tell your friends and family about realities on the reservations such as food insecurity, health disparities and lack of local jobs. Visit nativepartnership.org and www.ictmn.com to learn more.
- Help feed Native American families by buying Native-made or Native-sold goods and services. Seek out Native offerings online and locally through artisans and vendors at pow wows, museums, etc.
- Write to your local news station asking for more coverage about food challenges on the reservations and how to help.
- Raise awareness of reservation realities by sending a letter to your local grocer to help address immediate needs on the reservations.