Tahlequah Daily Press

Local News

April 14, 2014

Developing food security, sovereignty

TAHLEQUAH — When the Cherokees rebuilt their nation 150 years ago following the Trail of Tears, they immediately went to work re-establishing a government, along with higher education and court systems.

Stacy Leeds, Cherokee citizen and dean of the College of Law at the University of Arkansas, said that while history reveres the Cherokee judges, scholars and lawmakers of the time, most Cherokee citizens were farmers.

Leeds gave a presentation Friday about tribal governance, land use, food and agriculture police and economic development during the 42nd annual Symposium of the American Indian at Northeastern State University. The luncheon was hosted by the NSU Chapter of American Indian Students in Science and Engineering, and Leeds offered the AISES students food for thought about where their careers could be going.

 “My intent today is, I see a trend where I think the skills of future AISES students will be front and center,” said Leeds.

Leeds explained briefly the history of the Cherokees after removal, and talked about how they immediately went about establishing a government, a seminary and a court system to handle infrastructure and commerce, and trade with outside entities.

“By if you study what was really going on locally, most people weren’t lawyers or judges,” said Leeds. “My family, like most Cherokees, didn’t have many graduates of the seminary, as the education system was still for the elite. So what did they do? Most of them farmed. We were absolutely excellent at making our own living, feeding ourselves and taking care of our communities.”

Leeds explained many tribes were not as fortunate. They often were removed to U.S. government-controlled reservations, where local tribal government control did not exist.

Over time, the Cherokee government helped establish an infrastructure for its farmers to help regulate the supply of goods, including ports of commerce, security for the highways and loans for farmers.

“We had a host of business and land laws to help economic development,” said Leeds. “We owned our land in fee, meaning the federal government had no control over what we did with it. What changed? The federal government wanted to do away with the tribe.”

Leeds explained that as a result of this desire, the federal government abolished tribal courts; forced a radical change in property law through the land allotment system that was open to taxation and regulation; and abolished the tribe’s higher education system when Indian Territory became Oklahoma.

“One allotment myth that circulated at the time is that the federal government wanted to parcel the land out to teach Indians to be efficient landowners,” Leeds said.

At the time, she said, many farmers owned acreages far in excess of the 180-acre allotments being doled out by the U.S. government.

“As a result, agriculture production declined,” said Leeds. “And I’m standing on a campus governed by the state, rather than the department of education of the Cherokee Nation.”

Leeds pointed to the trend for Native Americans to pay closer attention to food sources, mentioning that many people are making a concentrated effort to buy fresh and local as a healthier choice.

“So, how does AISES fit in?” asked Leeds. “Tribal governments are making tremendous strides in self-governance, setting up infrastructure for economic success and providing revenue streams that guide us toward self-sufficiency. Most of that has come from gaming. I can look across Indian Country at the professional people running gaming and would put them up against any professional in the industry. What we need now is a second level of professionals in food production. We really need Indian agriculture economic people, people involved in water quality, and biotechnology, etc. Engineers are key to our future food sovereignty.”

Leeds pointed out that if you take a map of U.S. food deserts – places where people do not have access to a supermarket or grocery store within a mile of their homes – and superimpose it over a map of Indian Country, you’ll find Indian Country is one big food desert.

“So the question becomes, how are we going to get food to our people, or get people to our food?” said Leeds. “What’s interesting is that according to 2012 agriculture Census data, there are 80,000 Indian agriculture producers, which is the single fastest-growing demographic. We have 12,000 Native American youth involved in Future Farmers of American, and 60,000 Native American youth involved in 4-H. What can we do to support them? What can we do to create a professional class to provide infrastructure? We need professionals in food safety, ag engineering, nutrition analysis and supply-chain management. I know it’s a lot to digest, but we need to investigate how to be a sustainable food tribe. I think it’s a very exciting thing to think about.”


Text Only
Local News
  • ts-Tax-free-main.jpg Shopper's delight

    Tax-free weekend coming up Aug. 1-3, just in time for back-to-school savings

    Attention, shoppers: Oklahoma’s Tax-Free Weekend is coming up, beginning at 12:01 a.m., Friday, Aug. 1.

    July 28, 2014 2 Photos

  • ballard-amanda.jpg Woman pleads no contest to molestation

    A Tahlequah woman accused of having more than 20 sexual encounters with a 13-year-old boy has pleaded no contest in exchange for a 15-year prison sentence, though 10 years have been suspended.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • svw-arch-society.jpg Archaeologist: Spiro Mounds may have been ancient music haven

    People gathered from across the country at the “center of the universe,” bringing with them different styles of music and instruments, each thought to have its own power and importance.
    This could be the description of a modern music festival, but to Jim Rees, it is a picture of the Spiro Mounds 1,000 years before Columbus came to the Americas.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Two headed for trial for conspiracy to kill judge and others

    Two of the four people accused of conspiring to kill a Cherokee County judge and several other targets were bound over for trial Friday following a preliminary hearing in Tahlequah.

    July 28, 2014

  • Woman accused in embezzlement sought for arrest

    Court officials have issued a bench warrant for a woman who previously pleaded to embezzling more than $40,000 while she worked for Tahlequah attorney Park Medearis.

    July 28, 2014

  • CN, UKB battle over trust land application

    Two Tahlequah-based tribes presented oral arguments Friday in a protracted fight over a land-in-trust application.

    Over the course of five hours, attorneys for the Cherokee Nation, United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians, Cherokee Nation Entertainment and the Department of the Interior made their cases before Northern District Judge Gregory Frizzell in a hearing that was originally scheduled for February.


    July 25, 2014

  • ts-NSU-Main-1-a.jpg No NSU pool, for now

    NSU experiencing delays in fitness center construction

    Earlier this month, Northeastern State University announced it is experiencing delays in the renovation of its fitness center and pool.
    The facility was officially shuttered Sept. 17, 2012, and at the time, the projected completion date for renovation was this fall.

    July 25, 2014 3 Photos

  • jn-Suspect-1.jpg Officials: Images of suspects may help nab church burglars

    Cherokee County investigators hope surveillance footage captured around the Crescent Valley Baptist Church in Woodall helps lead to the suspects accused of breaking into the complex and setting fire to one building this week.
    According to Undersheriff Jason Chennault, cameras captured footage of two suspects on bicycles early Tuesday morning, July 22.

    July 25, 2014 2 Photos

  • svw-movie-night.jpg Local library hosts family movie night

    Nova Foreman and her two daughters were about to leave the Tahlequah Public Library Thursday, when they saw the Family Movie Night flyer.
    The three decided to stay and enjoy a movie they had not yet seen at the free, theater-like event.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • svw-Keys.jpg Grant to fund stepped-up Keys PE program

    Kair Ridenhour’s new office is filled with pedometers.
    Ridenhour officially started his new position as assistant elementary principal at Keys Public Schools on July 1.
    But his other role at the school – that of physical education project coordinator – prompted the influx of pedometers.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo


Do you believe school administrators and college presidents in Oklahoma are paid too much?

Strongly agree.
Somewhat agree.
Somewhat disagree.
Strongly disagree.
     View Results
Tahlequah Daily Press Twitter
Follow us on twitter
AP Video
Raw: 2 Shells Hit Fuel Tank at Gaza Power Plant Raw: Massive Explosions From Airstrikes in Gaza Giant Ketchup Bottle Water Tower Up for Sale Easier Nuclear Construction Promises Fall Short Kerry: Humanitarian Cease-fire Efforts Continue Raw: Corruption Trial Begins for Former Va Gov. The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming UN Security Council Calls for Gaza Cease-fire Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating 13 Struck by Lightning on Calif. Beach Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted Israel, Hamas Trade Fire Despite Truce in Gaza Italy's Nibali Set to Win First Tour De France Raw: Shipwrecked Concordia Completes Last Voyage Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge From Nest Raw: Massive Dust Storm Covers Phoenix 12-hour Cease-fire in Gaza Fighting Begins Raw: Bolivian Dancers Attempt to Break Record Raw: Israel, Palestine Supporters Rally in US Raw: Air Algerie Flight 5017 Wreckage