Indigenous Food Sovereignty in the United States: Restoring Cultural Knowledge, Protecting Environments, and Regaining Health

Centuries of colonization and other factors have disrupted indigenous communities’ ability to control their own food systems. Indigenous Food Sovereignty in the United States explores the meaning and importance of food sovereignty for Native peoples in the United States, and asks whether and how it might be achieved and sustained.

Unprecedented in its focus and scope, this collection addresses nearly every aspect of indigenous food sovereignty, from revitalizing ancestral gardens and traditional ways of hunting, gathering, and seed saving to the difficult realities of racism, treaty abrogation, tribal sociopolitical factionalism, and the entrenched beliefs that processed foods are superior to traditional tribal fare. The contributors include scholar-activists in the fields of ethnobotany, history, anthropology, nutrition, insect ecology, biology, marine environmentalism, and federal Indian law, as well as indigenous seed savers and keepers, cooks, farmers, spearfishers, and community activists. After identifying the challenges involved in revitalizing and maintaining traditional food systems, these writers offer advice and encouragement to those concerned about tribal health, environmental destruction, loss of species habitat, and governmental food control.

Edited by Devon A. Mihesuah and Elizabeth Hoover, with a foreword by Winona LaDuke. Devon Mihesuah joins us on the podcast to talk about Indigenous Food Sovereignty in the United States as well as the newly published revision of her award-winning book, Recovering Our Ancestors’ Gardens: Indigenous Recipes and Guide to Diet and Fitness.

Praise for Indigenous Food Sovereignty in the United States 

“Return and recovery is very much at the heart of this volume. Indigenous food sovereignty argues for rooted and collective continuance. More than about development and conservation—or resilience even—it is about sacredness and intimacy, health and sovereignty, food and identity; and it comes from a place deep within.”

—Virginia D. Nazarea, author of Heirloom Seeds and Their Keepers: Marginality and Memory in the Conservation of Biological Diversity

“This thoughtfully curated collection of essays gives food scholars a vital window on the gorgeous and fierce resilience of indigenous food systems and the activists who work to preserve them against steep odds. It will shape the way we think about indigenous food systems for years to come.”

—Amy Trauger, author of We Want to Live: Making Political Space for Food Sovereignty

Indigenous Food Sovereignty in the United States is a detailed text that effectively conveys hope for the future of Indigenous communities while criticizing colonial practices emphasizing that there are serious repercussions for abandoning tradition, and there is beneficial power in reclaiming Indigenous authority over food and environmental practices.”


About the Editors

Devon A. Mihesuah, a member of the Choctaw Nation, is Cora Lee Beers Price Professor in International Cultural Understanding at the University of Kansas. She has served as Editor of the American Indian Quarterly and is the author of numerous award-winning books, including Choctaw Crime and Punishment, 1884–1887; American Indigenous Women: Decolonization, Empowerment, Activism; Recovering Our Ancestors’ Gardens: Indigenous Recipes and Guide to Diet and Fitness; American Indians: Stereotypes and Realities; and Cultivating the Rosebuds: The Education of Women at the Cherokee Female Seminary, 1851–1909.

Elizabeth Hoover, Manning Associate Professor of American Studies at Brown University, is the author of articles about food sovereignty, environmental health, and environmental reproductive justice, as well as the book The River Is in Us: Fighting Toxics in a Mohawk Community. She is a board member of the Native American Food Sovereignty Alliance and of the Slow Food Turtle Island regional association and has worked with the Mohawk organization Kanenhi:io Ionkwaienthon:hakie.

Winona LaDuke, an Anishinaabe writer and economist from the White Earth reservation in Minnesota, is Executive Director of Honor the Earth, a national Native advocacy and environmental organization, and the author of numerous articles and books.

Additional Resources

Recovering Our Ancestors’ Gardens: Indigenous Recipes and Guide to Diet and Fitness by Devon A. Mihesuah, University of Nebraska Press, 2020.

Winner of the Gourmand International World Cookbook Award, Recovering Our Ancestors’ Gardens is back! Featuring an expanded array of tempting recipes of indigenous ingredients and practical advice about health, fitness, and becoming involved in the burgeoning indigenous food sovereignty movement, the acclaimed Choctaw author and scholar Devon A. Mihesuah draws on the rich indigenous heritages of this continent to offer a helpful guide to a healthier life.

Recovering Our Ancestors’ Gardens features pointed discussions about the causes of the generally poor state of indigenous health today. Diminished health, Mihesuah contends, is a pervasive consequence of colonialism, but by advocating for political, social, economic, and environmental changes, traditional food systems and activities can be reclaimed and made relevant for a healthier lifestyle today.

New recipes feature pawpaw sorbet, dandelion salad, lima bean hummus, cranberry pie with cornmeal crust, grape dumplings, green chile and turkey posole, and blue corn pancakes, among other dishes. Savory, natural, and steeped in the Native traditions of this land, these recipes are sure to delight and satisfy.

This new edition is revised, updated, and contains new information, new chapters, and an extensive curriculum guide that includes objectives, resources, study questions, assignments, and activities for teachers, librarians, food sovereignty activists, and anyone wanting to know more about indigenous foodways.

“Indigenous Eating” on Facebook – Check out the Facebook page Indigenous Eating, created and managed by Devon Mihesuah, celebrating the Indigenous foods of the Western hemisphere. 

Native American Food Sovereignty Alliance – An organization dedicated to restoring the food systems that support Indigenous self-determination, wellness, cultures, values, communities, economies, languages, and families while rebuilding relationships with the land, water, plants, and animals.

Native American Agriculture Fund – NAAF provides grants to eligible organizations for business assistance, agricultural education, technical support, and advocacy services to support Native farmers and ranchers.

Indigenous Seed Keepers Network – Promoting Indigenous culturally diversity for future generations by collecting, growing, and sharing heirloom seeds and plants.