No space or native habitat touched by colonialism was spared the effects of this bio-invasion. Indigenous plants and animals were diminished by the violence and displacement associated with the arrival of European colonizers and their biotic baggage. Cattle displaced bison; sheep replaced native deer; wheat displaced maize and amaranth.
Europeans and others benefited from the arrival of the crops of Native America including amaranth, agave, avocado, bean, bell pepper, cashew, cassava, chili, cocoa (for chocolate) corn, guava, peanut, potato, pumpkin, tomato, vanilla, wild rice, and many more.
A demographic catastrophe resulted and native populations declined by 70 to 98 percent. This was caused by genocide through war, enslavement and forced labor, introduced disease (smallpox, measles), and widespread hunger and malnutrition. Many people were worked or starved to death in mines, plantations, and sweatshops.
Historical trauma and native foods
Recently, we have become more aware of the peculiar form of death facing Native peoples as a result of processes that Russel L. Barsch calls ecocide, or death caused by destruction of indigenous ecosystems including the agricultural and food systems of entire cultures and civilizations.
Research demonstrates that access to traditional foods—the nutritional substances a given people co-evolve with over generations of living and adapting to place—is essential to our health. Thus, eating poorly is not a case of persons making “poor personal choices” or engaging in “bad individual behaviors;” it is a matter of systematic discrimination and structural violence when people are denied access to the resources they need to maintain their own indigenous food traditions, cuisines, and diets.
Barsh and Gary Paul Nabhan, and others have documented the devastating effects of nutritional genocide in their studies of Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest and Southwest. The health effects are still being amplified by institutional racism and colonial domination and the ecological wreckage left in the wake of conquest, enclosure, and domination.
This peculiar form of barely visible structural violence proceeds from the destruction of ecosystems and indigenous farming and heritage cuisines. A principal consequence of this form of ecocide are increased morbidity, reduced life spans, and the greater incidence of chronic conditions related to diseases like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes linked to malnutrition, hunger, and culturally inappropriate non-traditional diets.
Trauma studies emerged after the Nazi Holocaust, but the concept was applied to Native American communities for the first time in the 1980s as a result of the work of Maria Yellow Horse Braveheart and her colleagues. The basic idea involves recognition that “Historical trauma is cumulative emotional and psychological wounding over the lifespan and across generations, emanating from massive group trauma. Native Americans have, for over 500 years, endured physical, emotional, social, and spiritual genocide from European and American colonialist policy.”
It is a recurrent form of trauma that affects entire communities because the violence and discrimination is directed at the collective and not just individual members of the culture. The effects of historical trauma include alcoholism and substance abuse, domestic violence and child abuse, malnutrition, obesity, and cardiovascular illness.
Perhaps the most pernicious form of structural violence is that which proceeds through silent erasure. The forced eradication of Native foods, foodways, and farming traditions has caused grave damage to people and the land. But the silent killer of nutricide is being challenged.
Deep food: Healing through heritage cuisine
Native peoples are resilient. We are organizing to reverse the damage produced by centuries of historical trauma and structural violence. Today, we are witnessing the emergence and florescence of a pivotal movement involving the recovery of ancestral food crops, wild plants, and heritage cuisines.
This is what I call “deep food” to distinguish it from the “local” and “slow” food because this is about the recovery of the deeply rooted ancestral foods and food ways of the First Peoples.
This indigenous movement focuses on improving health through heritage cuisines. It also ties together respect for and assertion of treaty rights as civil rights and the restoration of traditional hunting, foraging, and farming methods and principles. An important part of this work involves establishing community gardens, home kitchen gardens, agro-forestry mosaics or “food forest” projects, and many other innovative campaigns. Here are two examples from the Pacific Northwest
READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE HERE: Restoring Heritage Cuisines and Indigenous Agroecosystems to Address Obesity, Malnutrition and Trauma – ICTMN.com.