Native American Studies Department breaks ground on Food Sovereignty Lab

Bringing back balance to traditional Indigenous food practices

After years of research, planning and proposals, a groundbreaking ceremony for HSU’s Native American Studies Department’s Rou Dalagurr Food Sovereignty Lab was finally held on Oct. 8. The goal of the lab is to study traditional Indigenous food systems and promote Indigenous representation.

The idea for the lab was developed in the fall of 2019 by Cutcha Risling Baldy, Ph.D., the chair of the Native American Studies Department, and her Indigenous natural resources management practices course students. Later on, assistant professor of Native American Studies Kaitlin Reed, Ph.D., came on board as the lab’s co-director.

“The students have been at the heart of literally everything this lab has accomplished so far,” Reed said at the groundbreaking ceremony.

Two of the students instrumental in this project, Cody Henrickson and Carrie Tully, spoke about the journey of the lab’s creation at the ceremony. Henrickson talked about how the community he found at the Native American Studies Department and his personal academic success are nourished by programs like Rou Dalagurr.

“The implementation of programs and spaces like Rou Dalagurr are vital to the well-being and success of Indigenous students,” Henrickson said. “Not only will this lab directly serve to support Indigenous students, but also the school as a whole, our local Tribes and our community.”

Bringing her daughter up to the podium with her, Tully explained that one of the main reasons for creating the lab was for the youth. Tully said that the whole team is excited to pass on these opportunities to the youth because the lab is something that will go on and grow for generations to come.

The lab is located in what many people know as Wiyot Plaza near the Goudi’ni Gallery and the Native American Forum. The name ‘Rou Dalagurr’ means “everyone works” or “work together” in the Wiyot language. Since HSU occupies Wiyot land, Risling Baldy said it was important for the team to name the lab in the Wiyot language.

During the colonization and genocide that Native peoples experienced, Indigenous food practices and other traditions were disrupted and access to healthy traditional foods became restricted. Reed said that this lab is a great stride toward righting the wrongs and injustices that Indigenous peoples experience in their landscapes and in their bodies.

Indigenous food sovereignty goes far beyond the cultivation or preparation of foods. It’s about the environment, climate resiliency, the land, and practicing ceremonies which are connected to the environment and Indigenous foods.

“Indigenous peoples know that all things are interconnected,” Risling Baldy said. “So, food, it is connected to the health of our environment, and that is connected to the health of our people and that is connected to the health of our political systems and our ability to exercise our sovereignty and self-determination.”

Risling Baldy said that it is only through the generosity of community members, alumni, and organizations that they’ve been able to raise enough money to start the remodel of the lab, but the work is not done yet. They are still in need of student volunteers and additional funding.

“I am most looking forward to celebrating with the students and to starting our many dream projects that we already talk about with each other as we are doing the planning work,” Risling Baldy said. “We already have some funding for the start of our internship program so getting students into the community-based work is going to be important for us at the beginning.”

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