Medicine food: Critical environmental justice studies, Native North American literature, and the movement for food sovereignty

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The notion that people have a sovereign "right to food" is affirmed in an array of international instruments including the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). Indigenous peoples throughout the Americas began formally organizing around the concept of food sovereignty thirty years before the adoption of UNDRIP by convening meetings and summits that called attention to the ideologies and external forces that have been threatening indigenous food systems for hundreds of years. Aware of these hemispheric organizational activities, a number of Native North American poets and novelists began writing poetry and novels that illustrated the historic relationship between indigenous peoples and the foods that are culturally and nutritionally necessary to their survival. In this essay, I read Winona LaDuke's Last Standing Woman and Leslie Marmon Silko's Gardens in the Dunes as "case studies" that contribute to critical environmental justice studies by enhancing understanding of the reasons indigenous communities are organizing around foods such as wild rice and amaranth and creating international documents that position them to take a stand on global debates surrounding biodiversity, trade liberalization, and food sovereignty.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)213-219
Number of pages7
JournalEnvironmental Justice
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2011


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis

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