Resource: Native American Agriculturalist Movements in Oklahoma

By: Randy A. Peppler, Randall S. Ware

January 1, 2017

UCLA American Indian Studies Center

In grassroots efforts, Native American agriculturalists in Oklahoma have been decolonizing their agricultural livelihoods by creating business enterprises and establishing seed saving and food sovereignty initiatives. In part these efforts have been born of, and reveal, ongoing power struggles with government and financial institutions in obtaining agricultural loans and funding, as well as battles with corporate agriculture and government in seeking to preserve culturally important seeds and foods. Attempts to obtain aid nationally, hindered by government officials and bankers hesitant or unwilling to provide it, led in part to the landmark Keepscagle v. Vilsack class action lawsuit involving the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), settled in October 2010. More locally, attempts to obtain fair prices in the marketplace led to creation of Native business enterprises. Local attempts to maintain heirloom seeds, complicated by corporate agriculture's seed control efforts, have led to the creation of a food sovreignty initiative that includes tribal seed saving efforts. As this commentary describes local tribal peoples' organized, prideful acts of resistance to unencumber themselves from control, publicize their plight, and gain support, we trace inquiries and themes bearing on political ecology and identity politics.