On the Food & Culture of Indigenous Gardens

Episode 122 – Valoree Gagnon & Karena Schmidt – On the Food & Culture of Indigenous Gardens

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The colonizing of America separated Indigenous people from their nourishing “first foods,” plant and animal species that native communities relied upon for subsistence, ceremony and medicine. More than a decade ago, the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC), Michigan Technological University (MTU), and the Western UP Planning and Development Region came together to create a space that celebrated and preserved the knowledge and cultural identity of tribal people living in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. From this collaboration came the Debweyendan Indigenous Garden (DIGs), a place to grow foods and medicines and drive the community toward food sovereignty.

In the latest episode of the Make Meaning Podcast, host Lynne Golodner interviews two important DIGs contributors:  Valoree Gagnon, Assistant Professor in the College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science at Michigan Tech and Director for University-Indigenous Community Partnerships at the Great Lakes Research Center; and Karena Schmidt, an ecologist with the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community Natural Resources Department.

In this episode, Lynne, Val, and Karena discuss: 

  • The creation & growth of DIGs
  • How to define native foods 
  • The importance of food sovereignty 
  • The native communities of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula 
  • How to be an ally to Native Americans
  • Loving the land you come from
  • Finding the foods native to your community
  • Your role in achieving food sovereignty


Links and Resources: 

History of First Foods 

Diabetes & the Native American Diet 

Remote Indigenous Gardens Network 

Debweyendan Indigenous Garden

Keweenaw Bay Indian Community 

KBIC Natural Resources Department 

Michigan Technological University (MTU)

Western UP Planning and Development Region

Great Lakes Research Center 

University of Arizona 

The Seed Keeper

Elizabeth Hoover, Indigenous Food Sovereignty in the United States 

Robin Wall Kimmerer 





Pow Wow

Michigan Tribes 

Keweenaw Peninsula 

Dr. Martin Reinhardt 

Sean Sherman – the Sioux Chief 


Coming up next on the Make Meaning Podcast: Lynne interviews Karen Baum Gordon, co-founder of Strategic Horizons, Inc., and a consultant at McKinsey & Co., about her memoir The Last Letter: A father’s struggle, a daughter’s quest, and the long shadow of the Holocaust, and grappling with a legacy of love, loss and living.

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