A Regenerative Food System Must Include Native People

Hey Kinship Foodies,

We celebrated Indigenous People’s Day AND International Rural Women’s day last week. As eaters, honoring the land and the people of the land is super important. Let's remember that the majority of human food around the world is grown by womxn smallholder farmers. Many of these farmers are Native. In fact, Indigenous-managed lands have the highest biodiversity on the planet. 

Kanyon goes around the Bay teaching orgs about her native land

Kanyon Sayers-Roods coaches orgs around the Bay about regenerative practices and cultural competency in her native Ohlone land

There’s no textbook definition of “indigenous”, but we like “the people who have been here since time immemorial.” Regenerative land management has also been here since time immemorial, practiced by Native people. 

Building a regenerative food system doesn't make sense without centering Native-led land and ecological knowledge.  Practicing regenerative agriculture using only current today's farming methods is like trying to fly a space shuttle using only the last page of the manual.

For example, Native fire management used planned burns and attracting grazing herds to keep fuel loads down to prevent wildfires - more effectively than we do today. 

Native people are everywhere.

In America, we tend to mythologize Indigenous culture.  In the health and wellness world, we love to copy Native rituals and practices. We burn sage, eat bison, and print tribal patterns on water bottles and yoga mats.  We tell stories about Native Americans who once lived on this land. 

But Native people are still here! Although many can’t afford to live on the land of their ancestry, many remain close by. And they’re capable of telling their own stories.  Let’s acknowledge folks of Ohlone, Miwok, Pomo descent who are still here and never left. Previous generations hid Native ancestry to blend into Black and Latinx communities for safety. Practicing Native religious ceremony was still illegal until 1978. But Native people are still very much here. 

California also has a high population of Native peoples displaced from their ancestral land. Let’s recognize Mayan, Lenca, Nahua-Pipil and migrants from Central America in the Latinx community around us. Their claims to this land predate our borders.

we didn't cross the border

Kincentric ecology includes people on the land

Kincentric ecology is the concept of treating nature as kin, and ourselves as part of nature. This idea exists in many Native cultures. In California, it's not a big mental leap for many of us to care for trees, animals, and the land as people. 

But how often do we view Native people - and each other - as kin? Are we in love with Native culture, but not showing love to Native people? 

As eaters, our food choices are the most direct connection to the land. What is our responsibility to this land, and to the people of this place - as family? 

Our food is connected to the land, and to the people of the land.

What does it mean to honor land justice as conscious eaters?

"There will be many difficult and beautiful steps taken in this journey." - Kanyon Sayers-Rood

Native-owned food brands are few and far between, because of the land costs in the Bay Area. For us and Kinship Foods, it is: “Where are the farmers who care as much about social justice as soil carbon? How can we build a brand around both ecological and social regeneration?” 

We found womxn and queer farmers already answering the same call. We are proud to connect you with farmers who are healing the land while standing up for social justice at the same time. 

Our partner farms:

 Radical Family Farms, Root Down Farm, and Markegard Family Grass-Fed make a living on coastal Miwok, Pomo, and Ohlone ancestral lands. Each of them practice Native land acknowledgment at farm days and public facing events. Doniga Markegard is a wildlife tracker trained by Native elders. Dede Boies and Leslie Wiser are both invested in reclaiming space for growing Native plants and herbs of this place. Each of them hosts sliding scale events where no one is turned away, to create inclusive access to the land for everyone.

Leslie and Sarah performing Miwok and Pomo land acknowledgment on farm day at Radical Family Farms

Anne Marie Sayers with Doniga

We can and must do more. If you know of farms that are Native-owned or working towards land justice, we’d love to hear about them

In kinship,


Follow the Leaders

Kanyon Sayers-Roods: owner of consulting practice educating Bay Area organizations on Native perspectives and cultural competency

Percilla Frizzell: Sacred Generations, a Bay Area nonprofit fighting mass incarceration

Brandon Harrell: @decolonizedmeateater committed to decolonizing the Western hunt. Reconnecting communities with indigenous hunting traditions.

Cafe Ohlone: contemporary Ohlone cuisine

Sogorea Te Land Trust: an urban Indigenous women-led community land trust. Facilitating return of Chochenyo and Karkin Ohlone lands in the SF Bay Area to Indigenous stewardship

Protect Juristac: Organizes efforts to prevent sand and gravel mining on Amah Mutsun sacred land in Santa Clara

Take action: 

  • Include verbal and written land acknowledgment on your own website, emails, signs on your land, or any place you occupy resources. Use Native-land.ca to find out where you are settled.
  • Pay the Shumi land tax if you live in the Bay Area.
  • Buy from Indigenous brands and makers where you can
  • Buy from brands who work with Indigenous community leaders and organizations.

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