Farm to table, elder to youth: Achieving food sovereignty, and passing on traditions

How Oklahoma’s Sac and Fox Nation is working to keep its agricultural traditions alive

Not only did gardens yield fresh produce last fall, but they provided a “glimmer of hope” for tribal members of Sac and Fox Nation in Stroud, OK.

The Tribe was ahead of its time in beginning its efforts to achieve food sovereignty in spring of 2019, as 2020 certainly highlighted the need for self-sufficiency in times of scarce supply. Historically, Sac and Fox would look to neighboring tribes to provide ceremonial items and key crops.

“The last year has been a perfect example of why we can’t rely on convenience in times of need,” says Andy Warrior, land and cattle manager with Sac and Fox Nation. “There have been shortages of food, and there are still shortages—we need to become more self-sufficient.”

Warrior expanded his portfolio from land and cattle management to planting gardens in and around the community in 2019 at the request of Sac and Fox Nation committee member Robert Williamson to get back into agriculture. What started with one corn crop has since multiplied to a comprehensive greenhouse and garden planting program.

“The whole program has progressively grown to where we are. We’ve really started to establish ourselves enough by showing that we can grow some produce,” says Warrior.

In 2019, Warrior planted three gardens in the Sac and Fox community. In 2020, he completed 10 in the midst of a global pandemic.

Greenhouses have started to offer new ways for Warrior and his team to get crops to Tribal members, by offering starter plants that members can take home to their own gardens

Made up of approximately 4,000 tribal members, Sac and Fox Nation is located halfway between Oklahoma City and Tulsa, OK, spanning across Pottawatomie, Lincoln, and Payne counties.

As part of our commitment to improving lives in communities near our operations and projects, Enbridge gave $8,000 to Sac and Fox Nation’s food sovereignty program in 2020, which helped purchase two greenhouses and potting for community members.

Warrior knows the program is a success when members become interested in tending a garden in their own backyard, at which time he and his team are at the ready to provide the machinery, landscaping and planting know-how for community members to get started.

While the program is helping feed the community and offering hands-on projects to Tribal members, it’s also bridging a gap between generations.

“Our elders all grew up growing produce and having their gardens be their grocery store,” says Warrior. “We want to preserve this agricultural trait in our culture and make sure it’s passed along to our Tribal youth.”

And at the end of the day, there’s nothing like biting into the “fruits” of one’s labor.

“From the day I plant the seed in the ground to the day my produce has been harvested and is ready to eat—it’s an indescribable, rewarding feeling.”