grant helps Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Native Gardens Project plant
for a healthy future
YATES, N.D. This year was meant to be a planning
period for our new gardens grant, but were in full swing,
said Aubrey Skye, Hunkpapa Lakota, Native Gardens Project coordinator
for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Diabetes Program.
said, Im going to go for it. What better way to
find out what we need? And why wait? Were on the front lines
of the fight against diabetes.
Rocks gardening project is one of 17 tribal entities that
received a grant of about $100,000 per year for five years from
the Centers for Disease Controls Native Diabetes Wellness
who has been gardening on Standing Rock since 2002, called on the
Rapid City office of National Relief Charities, which has self-sufficiency
oriented partnerships on reservations nationwide. Two staffers arrived
with tractors to till 120 family gardens, in sizes ranging up to
30 feet by 50 feet, throughout Standing Rocks 2.3 million
acres in North and South Dakota, along with a one-acre community
garden in the reservations Porcupine District. Skye and his
wife, Linda, built additional easy to tend 4-by-8-foot raised bed
box gardens for elders.
an elder is frail, Skye cares for his or her garden himself, on
top of running an operation that encompasses the weekly Long Soldier
Farmers Market in the reservations capital, Fort Yates, as
well as herb walks, forays to collect traditional Lakota/Dakota
gathered foods and collaborations with groups including Sitting
Bull College, Standing Rock Farms (the tribes commercial agriculture
operation), state fish and game departments, state extension offices,
Slow Food USA and the North Dakota Farmers Market and Growers Association.
also holds public meetings so gardeners can report problems. Mainly,
they have requested fencing to keep out animals and mowing around
the beds to control grasshoppers.
to John Buckley, diabetes program director, the gardening opportunity
was announced to tribal members at reservation district meetings
and through media outlets such as the local newspaper and radio
station. There was no problem finding participants.
here relate to gardening. Weve gardened since we were put
on reservations, and we know it means good food and good exercise.
Thats so important now that diabetes is increasing, along
with todays increased availability of so-called junk and fast
members of all ages became involved in both gardening and collecting
of traditional gathered foods. Charmayne Eagleman, a Standing Rock
elder from Wakpala, South Dakota, recently took children from a
local Boys & Girls Club to harvest tinpsila, or prairie turnips,
a long-time Lakota/Dakota favorite.
hiked a mile south of Porcupine, Skye said. The kids
were so excited to learn to identify the turnips and tag them with
red ribbons for the diggers. I got assigned to be a digger. On the
way back, we rested in the shade of a tree, and Charmayne told us
stories about the turnips. She said they can up and move when you
look away, which is why you must tag them. Upcoming expeditions
will collect wild plums, chokecherries and buffalo berries.
the tinpsila gatherers returned to Porcupine, the kids asked Skye
to teach them to set up a tipi. Sure thing, he told
them; if they did some weeding in the community garden first.
are the bane of the organic gardener, according to Skye. You
can hand pull them in a family-size plot, but eventually Id
like to see an organic operation here thats big enough to
feed the reservation. You cant hand weed big fields, though.
So, I need to explore the latest agricultural techniques, such as
cover crops that become mulch into which you plant food crops. Exciting
new ideas are coming out of places like the Rodale Institute.
far, its been a good, if delayed, growing season in the Dakotas.
Snow flurries lasted into June, but once they were over, the abundant
moisture the Northern Plains received in spring ended a nine-year
drought and helped Standing Rocks gardens take off.
the third week of July, corn was thigh-high; squash was in blossom;
and beans, tomatoes, chili peppers, cucumbers and sunflowers were
flourishing. Most of the seed for the crops came from packets distributed
by National Relief Council.
the harvest starts coming in, Long Soldier Farmers Market will benefit
from a concurrent grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture
that provided Standing Rock elders with about $90 each in vouchers
for fresh fruits and vegetables.
keeps an eye out for potential vendors in addition to the gardeners
he is monitoring for the grant. If Im driving along
and happen to spot a plot, I pull over and invite the owner, Native
or non-Native, to sell at the market.
season will be capped by a late-September harvest festival and wacipi
that will celebrate foodways past and present. Its gratifying
to know that something our grandparents did to survive helps us
to live in a good, healthy way today, Buckley said.