American Indian Food Sovereignty (Introduction)

Hello everyone! My name is Colleen Truskey. I am a junior at the College majoring in anthropology with a minor in public health. Thanks to the support of friends, family, and several generous alumni, I can now embark on my honors research project!

This summer I will be working with select American Indian communities to explore indigenous food sovereignty programs. I’ll be taking a critical biocultural approach to the topic, combining my experience with anthropology, history, and public health. This approach treats “environments” as networks of historical, political, and social conditions that are embodied within the very biology of individuals, and I believe research done from this standpoint will better inform discussions (both within and outside of Native communities) surrounding health, nutrition, food, and sovereignty.

There has been work done on these topics in a Native context in the past, but they come from a variety of disciplines (history, law, medicine, sociology, anthropology). In my opinion this work needs to be synthesized, and would be better informed by thorough, “deeper” work done in specific community contexts. My research will (hopefully!) help illuminate the connections between policy, social standing, and health in historically marginalized American Indian communities, and produce new empirical research on ways these communities can address issues related to securing nutritious and culturally appropriate foods.

The fieldwork I have planned will be highly collaborative — it is important to me that I am highly responsive to the needs and preferences of the communities that I will be learning from, so the specific nature of my research questions and methodology will be determined in consultation with host communities. I am currently in talks with several different groups, and will update you as soon as those plans are firmed up.

This is the most ambitious research project I have undertaken thus far — 2+ months of extensive fieldwork, a year of thorough reading, research, and interviews, and a thesis-quality report by this time next year. I am all shades of nervous, doubtful, hopeful, and fired up. Part of me wishes I had designed something a little less intense, but this is the best opportunity I will have for some time to embark on work about a topic that I am passionate about and gain valuable experience with planning and conducting this type of research. In other words, wish me luck!