The University of Arkansas School of Law’s Indigenous Food & Agriculture Initiative held its Native Youth in Food & Agriculture Summer Leadership Summit July 17-26 in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Gen-I Ambassador Kelsey Janway (Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma) attended the conference to learn how she and other Native youth leaders can contribute to food sovereignty in their tribal communities.
The youth summit included a site visit to the Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma, where the tribe’s food systems include growing their own produce, raising and processing their own cattle, and serving these products at tribally-owned enterprises. In addition, Kelsey and others learned to conduct food assessments to find the most common thing community members eat, determine whether or not they have adequate access to fresh food, and use that data to apply for grants that help to achieve their food sovereignty goals.
Summit attendees participated in a Culture Night, which Kelsey says was especially important. “Events like that, where you can dance and sing and honor your ancestors are super important,” she says. “Our ancestors prayed for us to be here. They prayed for us to be the generation that makes it possible for all of us to feed ourselves in 2050 when the world is overpopulated. They prayed for us to be as resilient as we are now.”
Kelsey became part of the National Native Youth Network in April 25, when she and fellow Choctaw Nation Youth Advisory Board members took the Gen-I Challenge to mentor their peers and encourage youth community service. She says that the Network has enabled her to take advantage of valuable leadership opportunities, and has connected her with people who, like her, are working toward change. “Being an Ambassador has been incredible,” she says. “It’s so good to know that I’m not the only young person concerned about the issues.”
Prior to her involvement with the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative, Kelsey hadn’t been significantly involved in her community’s food sovereignty efforts. Now, Kelsey plans to share what she’s learned with her youth council and with tribal leaders to help move her community toward greater food security. For more information on an upcoming food sovereignty summit in your region, click here.