Feast days are the most important time of the year for my family and community. At Jemez Pueblo, community members gather on the plaza for traditional songs, dances and prayers that are connected to seasonal activities that have been part of our way of life for time immemorial.
Just off the plaza, people open their doors in welcome to friends and visitors alike, who sit down for meals that took days to prepare. It’s the very best home cooking: soups and dishes feature corn posole, chiles and other fruits of the Southwest. Food is central to not only the celebration but also our very cultural lifeways as indigenous people.
That is why I am pleased to see First Nations Development Institute strengthen and expand the Native Agriculture and Food Systems Initiative begun more than a decade ago. Food is essential to healthy, strong tribal nations. Having enough good food to eat – food security – is just one element of food sovereignty. That involves controlling and managing all of the factors that contribute to a sustainable food system.
Land stewardship is a critical element, and historically indigenous peoples were experts at coaxing productivity from even the harshest landscapes. Proper stewardship requires a sustainable relationship with the land based on mutual benefit and respect that withstands generations.
In support of Native food sovereignty and of our many other Native economic and community development initiatives, First Nations embraces the same values of respect, reciprocity and stewardship of resources, be they financial or otherwise. This approach to investment and partnership has served our organization well over 31 years, just as it has worked in my community for centuries. On behalf of the board of directors, I extend my gratitude to you for sharing in our efforts to help more Native American communities make sustainable change.
B. Thomas Vigil (Jicarilla Apache/Jemez Pueblo) Chairman, Board of Directors First Nations Development Institute