On Friday, February 18, 2022, two members of the NFBC Advisory Council shared testimony with the House Rules and Natural Resources Committees. Carly Hotvedt of the Indigenous Food & Agriculture Initiative, and Lexie Holden of the Intertribal Agriculture Council were asked to share their expertise on ending hunger in America by examining Indigenous nutrition and food systems.
To read their testimonies in their entirety or to watch the recording of this roundtable, please click here. For a recap of their testimonies, continue reading below.
Carly Hotvedt's testimony included an overview of the historical and legal contexts which continue to shape our Tribal communities to this day. She dispelled common myths about Native American agriculture prior to colonization, highlighting the successful Tribal settlements of Cahokia, Spiro Mound, and Chaco Canyon, as examples of how Native producers have always been able to feed their communities, even those as large as 25,000 people.
Turning to post-colonial history, Hotvedt described the effects of forced removal on Tribal communities, such as those of the Trail of Tears and its impact on the Five Tribes in Oklahoma. Such removals resulted in the loss of ancestral or traditional variations of certain crops, of language, and of culture. Forced removal created the allotment system, land fractionation, and interrupted traditional methods of agriculture, all in the name of "progress." These practices have all led to the current rates of food insecurity, poverty, and health ailments which we see across Indian Country today.
Tribal Sovereignty and Self-determination is the solution for hunger in Indian Country. - Carly Hotvedt, IFAI
Lexie Holden focused her testimony on present-day rates of hunger, including the rise in food insecurity we saw for Native American households during the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, rates of food insecurity for American Indian/Alaska Native households were double that of non-AI/AN households. Whereas 1 in 8 Americans faced food insecurity in 2019, 1 in 4 Native Americans were food insecure.
In COVID-19, these rates climbed sharply. Overall food insecurity rates during the pandemic for Native American households without children were around 42% and for families with children, that number leaped to around 51%.
To inspire action and uplift the resiliency of Tribal communities, Holden also shared stories from the IAC's Technical Assistance Network, which was instrumental in keeping Native producers in operation during the pandemic. The TAs work helped Native producers continue to feed their communities, even as the global food supply chain crumpled.
Tribal communities have always been, and continue to be, resilient in the face of adversity. - Lexie Holden, IAC
Overall, suggestions by Hotvedt and Holden for reducing hunger across Indian Country included the following:
Securing a copy of the Native Farm Bill Coalition's forthcoming sequel to the 2017 Regaining our Future report
Expanding 638 Tribal Self Governance Authority to allow more Tribes to source products for the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR) from local and regional Tribal producers
Fully funding Agricultural Resource Management Plan (ARMP) programmatic activity as set out in AIARMA
Enabling Tribal governments to administer all federal nutrition programs
Creating set-aside programs at USDA to increase Tribal producers’ access to credit, land, equipment, crop insurance, and other resources relevant to agriculture production
Removing the restrictions on concurrent usage of the FDPIR and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
Working with Native American data scientists to better count American Indians/Alaska Natives in all federal studies related to nutrition and agriculture
Continuing to make investments in Tribal food economies; a $528 million investment in infrastructure for regional food hubs across Indian Country could create a potential return of over $9.4 billion