Five Years Building Tribal Food Security: What we’ve done, what’s next

AFRI Food Security Team members. Stormy Staats photo.

Recently, the Klamath Basin Tribal Food Security Project held our fifth and final all-team meeting, hosted by the Klamath Tribes near Chiloquin, Oregon. These annual meetings bring together Food Security staff from the Karuk, Yurok and Klamath Tribes, the Mid Klamath Watershed Council (MKWC), UC Berkeley, UC Extension, and the USDA Forest Service to share information about our programs in different river locations, exchange ideas and get advice, and celebrate project milestones in the effort to build more food security in the Basin.

On Day 1, after a warm welcome from Klamath Tribes Chairman Don Gentry, we shared updates from project sites in the Upper, Mid and Lower Klamath River Basin. Recent milestones include:

  • Launch of the Karuk Tribe’s new Píkyav Field Institute, which houses programs designed to support culturally relevant, academically challenging, and traditionally holistic environmental education benefiting Tribal and non-Tribal students in the Karuk Tribal Service Area.
  • Completion of the Klamath Tribes’ 4th community greenhouse, located at Hilyard Tribal Elder Housing in Klamath Falls.
  • Post-burn acorn harvesting with Yurok and Karuk families that showed improved acorn quality and collecting efficiency.
  • Workshops on Traditional Pit Oven Baking, Chicken Tractor Fabrication, Salmon Smokehouse Building, Seed Saving and much more.
  • Over 200 new heirloom fruit trees, grafted and cared for by MKWC and Karuk Food Security crews, now ready to plant (want one? Talk to Heather Campbell at MKWC!)
  • Karuk Tribe’s Nanu’ávaha: K-12 Native Food System Curriculum, now with 52 lessons focused on cultural foods, traditions, and language that meet state education standards and are being piloted in mid-Klamath schools.
  • 7 new Tribal Master Gardeners trained and supporting community gardening in the Upper Basin.
  • 78 students graduated from Klamath Tribes’ 5- week Seed to Supper classes.
  • New Karuk and Yurok Tribal Herbaria housing collections of culturally and regionally important plants used for food, fiber and medicine, that can help answer future questions about environmental change.
  • Building strategic partnerships and developing new approaches to elk management and elk habitat revitalization in Karuk aboriginal territory.
  • Mid Klamath Foodshed Facebook page has 723 members exchanging food-related information.
  • A total of 914 workshops, activities and events reached 10,504 people (including many repeat participants) over 4 years!

We reflected on the enduring impact we expect our programs to have, and aspects of the work worth expanding on in the future. Some ideas for the future include:

  • Opening a Native Plant Nursery for restoration projects
  • Starting a culinary arts and catering “school” for Native youth
  • Developing a Tribal farm or ranch
  • Expanding the Herbaria to use as land management research tools
  • Sharing our findings in policy briefs to influence decision-makers
  • Continuing to share out long-term results and new activities in our newsletter
  • Organizing Food Security conferences to share our successes and lessons learned
  • Planning UC Cooperative Extension workshops to provide training statewide in building successful partnerships between UCCE and Tribes.

(Want to be part of this discussion? It’s not too late to take our survey! You can also contact your local Food Security Coordinator with your ideas.)

We also took a first look at Basin-wide findings compiled by the UC Berkeley Food Security team from the unique Tribal Food System Assessment conducted over two of the project’s five years with the help and input of all three Tribal communities. Analysis of 711 surveys, 20 focus groups and 112 one-on-one interviews show clear trends in the barriers Tribal people face in getting enough fresh, healthy and culturally appropriate food, along with their desires for better food access. We discussed possible uses of the data including advocating for policy changes to address some of the top barriers reported by Tribal communities. A full report from the Food System Assessment will be available later this year – stay tuned for community gatherings where we will share out more about what we’ve learned.

Wocus seeds. Edith Friedman photo.

On Day 2, Klamath Tribes Food Security Coordinator Perri McDaniel led a tour of the local watershed. At Agency Lake, Tribal Chairman Don Gentry explained the Tribe’s work to restore the wetlands of Upper Klamath Lake, including successful reintroduction of wocus (the Klamath and Modoc word for yellow pond lily, Nuphar polysepalum) to one of the most polluted water bodies in the world. A visit to the Klamath’s origins at Spring Creek, the confluence of Spring Creek and the Williamson River, and the Wood River rounded out the tour.

We spent the morning of Day 3 evaluating our own experience as staff of the Klamath Basin Tribal Food Security Project. Many of us have been working together for five years or even longer, and the Food Security Project means a lot to us! We hope to have the opportunity to work together again in the future. In the meantime, Food Security events continue through July and August – see the current newsletter calendar for details. We hope you’ll join us soon.