An Offering: Lakota Elders Contributions to the Future of Food Security


  • Joseph Paul Brewer University of Kansas
  • Mary Kate Dennis University of Kansas


Food Security, Gardening, Lakota, Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, American Indians, Elders, Indigenous Methodologies


Food security in American Indian communities is an understudied and often viewed through a deficiency model when the narrative is shaped by non-Indigenous voices, examining the food system and diet through the lens of poverty or through a historic lens narrowly focused on the dwindling traditional food source. To address this gap in scholarship, a qualitative study explored the narratives related to food and food production with 25 Lakota elders living on the Pine Ridge Indian reservation. Findings derived via thematic analysis illustrate the experiences of the elders across their lifespans including their early beginnings on the family homestead, gardening and food preservation throughout their adulthoods. Implications include programing that would transmit the cultural and traditional knowledge of gardening between generations which leads to learning skills, cultural lifeways and community health implications.


Anderson, T. L., & Lueck, D. (1992). Land tenure and agricultural productivity on Indian reservations. The Journal of Law & Economics, 35(2), 427-454.

Barnhardt, R. (2005). Indigenous knowledge systems and Alaska Native ways of knowing. Anthropology & education quarterly, 36(1), 8-23.

Battiste, M., & Youngblood, J. (2000). Protecting Indigenous knowledge and heritage: A global challenge. Vancouver: UBC Press.

Bauer, K. W., Widome, R., Himes, J. H., Smyth, M., Rock, B. H., Hannan, P. J., & Story, M. (2012). High food insecurity and its correlates among families living on a rural American Indian reservation. American journal of public health, 102(7), 1346-1352.

Berkes, F. 1999. Sacred Ecology. United Kingdom: Taylor & Francis.

Bickel, G., Nord, M., Price, C., Hamilton, W., & Cook, J. (2000). Guide to measuring household food security. US Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service, Office of Analysis, Nutrition, and Evaluation. Retrieved:

Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3(2), 77-101.

Brewer, J. P., & Stock, P. V. (2016). Beyond extension: Strengthening the federally recognized tribal extension program (FRTEP). Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 6 (3), 91-101.

Bureau of Indian Affairs (2016). Pine Ridge Agency. Retrieved:

/RegionalOffices/ GreatPlains/WeAre/Agencies/PineRidge/index.htm

Cadieux, K. V., & Slocum, R. (2015). What does it mean to do food justice? Journal of political ecology, 22, 1-26.

Calloway, C. G. (2015). First peoples: A documentary survey of American Indian history. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s Press.

Cajete, G. (1999). Look to the mountain: An ecology of indigenous education. Durango, Colorado: Kivaki Press.

Cajete, G. (1999). A people's ecology: Explorations in sustainable living. Santa Fe, New Mexico: Clear Light Publishers

Coleman-Jensen, A., Gregory, C., & Singh, A. (2015). Household food security in the United States in 2013. USDA-ERS Economic Research Report, September 2015.

Cornell, S. (1990). The return of the native: American Indian political resurgence. United Kingdom: Oxford University Press.

Council of Canadian Academies. (2014). Aboriginal Food Security in Northern Canada: An Assessment of the State of Knowledge, Ottawa, ON. The Expert Panel on the State of Knowledge of Food Security in Northern Canada, Council of Canadian Academies

DeMallie, R. J. (1978). Pine ridge economy: cultural and historical perspectives. American Indian economic development, 237-312.

Dennis, M. K., & Brewer, J. P. (2016). Rearing Generations: Lakota Grandparents’ Commitment to Family and Community. Journal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology, 1-19.

Fleming, J., & Ledogar, R. J. (2008). Resilience, an evolving concept: A review of literature relevant to Aboriginal research. Pimatisiwin, 6(2), 7-23.

Glover, V. (2010). Keeping Heart on Pine Ridge: family ties, warrior culture, commodity foods, rez dogs, and the Sacred. Summertown, TN: Native Voices Books.

Godfray, H. C. J., Beddington, J. R., Crute, I. R., Haddad, L., Lawrence, D., Muir, J. F. & Toulmin, C. (2010). Food security: the challenge of feeding 9 billion people. Science, 327(5967), 812-818.

Gundersen, C. (2008). Measuring the extent, depth, and severity of food insecurity: an application to American Indians in the USA. Journal of Population Economics, 21(1), 191-215.

Hakansson, C. G. (1997). Allotment at Pine Ridge Reservation: Its Consequences and Alternative Remedies. NDL Rev., 73, 231.

Heart, M. Y. H. B., & DeBruyn, L. M. (1998). The American Indian holocaust: Healing historical unresolved grief. American Indian and Alaska Native Mental Health Research, 8(2), 56.

Henry, L. R., Bear-Little Boy, R., & Dodge, B. (2000). A Summary of Findings of Assessment of Food Concerns, Nutrition Knowledge and Food Security of Oglala Lakota College Students on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Tucson, AZ: Native Peoples Technical Assistance Office.

Holt-Giménez, E., & Wang, Y. (2011). Reform or transformation? The pivotal role of food justice in the US food movement. Race/Ethnicity: Multidisciplinary Global Contexts, 5(1), 83-102.

Hurt, R. D. (1987). Indian agriculture in America: Prehistory to the present. University Press of Kansas

Jewell, B. (2008). The Food That Senators Don’t Eat: Politics And Power In The Pine Ridge Food Economy (Doctoral dissertation, Colorado State University).

Kimmerer, R. (2013). Braiding sweetgrass: Indigenous wisdom, scientific knowledge and the teachings of plants. Canada: Milkweed Editions.

Kovach, M. (2010). Conversation method in Indigenous research. First Peoples Child & Family Review, 5(1), 40-48.

Kovach, M. E. (2009). Indigenous methodologies: Characteristics, conversations, and contexts. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

LaDuke, W. (2005). Recovering the sacred: The power of naming and claiming. New York: South End Press

Lesiak, C. (2007). In the White man's image. WGBH Boston Video.

Marshall, J. (2002). The Lakota way: Stories and lessons for living. New York: Penguin.

Mohawk, J. (2010). Thinking in Indian: a John Mohawk reader. J. Barreiro (Ed.). Golden, Colorado: Fulcrum Publisher

Ohmagari, K., & Berkes, F. (1997). Transmission of indigenous knowledge and bush skills among the Western James Bay Cree women of subarctic Canada. Human Ecology, 25(2), 197-222.

Powers, W. K., & Powers, M. N. (1990). Sacred foods of the Lakota New Jersey: Lakota Books.

Pickering, K., & Jewell, B. (2008). Nature is Relative: Religious Affiliation, Environmental Attitudes, and Political Constraints on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature & Culture, 2(1), 135-158.

Pratt, R. (1892). "Kill the Indian, save the man." In Official Report of the Nineteenth Annual Conference of Charities and Correction,” pp. 46-59.

Urteago, D. (2009). Mighty Pulverizing Engine-The American Indian Probate Reform Act and the Struggle for Group Rights, A. Est. Plan. & Cmty. Prop. LJ, 2, 463.

Ruffin, J. (2011). A renewed commitment to environmental justice in health disparities research. American journal of public health, 101(S1), S12-S14.

Schmidhuber, J., & Tubiello, F. N. (2007). Global food security under climate change. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 104(50), 19703-19708.

Smith, L. T. (2000). Kaupapa Maori research. Reclaiming indigenous voice and vision, 225-247.

Turnbull, D. (2003). Masons, tricksters and cartographers: Comparative studies in the sociology of scientific and indigenous knowledge. United Kingdom: Taylor & Francis.

U.S. Census Bureau (2010). Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates. Retrieved:

U.S. Census Bureau. (2012). American Community Survey, TableB10051C. Retrieved: productview.xhtml?pidACS_12_1YR_B10051C&prodType=table

Wane, N. N. (2000). Indigenous knowledge: Lessons from the elders–A Kenyan case study. Indigenous knowledges in global contexts: Multiple readings of our world, 54-69.

Weiss, R. S. (1995). Learning from strangers: The art and method of qualitative interview studies. New York: The Free Press.

White, L., Stauss, J. J., & Nelson, C. E. (2006). Healthy families on American Indian reservations: A summary of six years of research by Tribal College faculty, staff, and students. American Indian Culture and Research Journal, 30(4), 99-114.

Whyte, K. P., Brewer, J. P., & Johnson, J. T. (2016). Weaving Indigenous science, protocols and sustainability science. Sustainability Science, 11(1), 25-32.

Winters, L. I., & DeBose, H. L. (2003). New faces in a changing America: Multiracial identity in the 21st century. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Wilson, S. (2008). Research is Ceremony – Indigenous Research Methods. Nova Scotia: Fernwood Press.