Settler Colonial Food Movements?

Check out this short essay by Scott Morgensen on settler desires for indigenous lands… he implicates permaculture, New Age spirituality, and other “alternative” settler cultures in the desire to appropriate indigenous land and cultures.  He also gets challenged by another settler who replies to his post, arguing for the importance of connecting to land and place. Morgensen’s clarification: “If you practice your life in a directly accountable relationship to the Indigenous nation whose stolen land you occupy, then your effort to learn and live an indigenous relationship to that land may be in line with the work of Indigenous decolonization. You would only know if this is so if the people whose stolen lands you occupy tell you so. You can’t determine this for yourself, because you are the colonizer.”

I’ve been working through these issues myself, especially now that I’m back in school researching food sovereignty and other alternative food movements in North America. I haven’t gone very far yet, but what’s immediately clear is the intense lack of writing and thinking about the relationship between settler food movements and colonialism. There’s some writing about indigenous food sovereignty, and ‘food justice’ tends to address institutional racism, but very little (actually pretty much nothing) that I’ve read has sought to address the challenge that Morgensen is raising here to settler alternative cultures, including alternative food movements.

With that in mind, if you do know about any alternative settler food movements that are seeking to practice indigenous solidarity and support decolonization struggles, please let me know!  Over the next couple of years, I’m hoping to talk to people doing this work, and try to contribute to conversations between anti-colonial movements, alternative food movements, and other social justice movements.  In my conversations so far, as soon as I mention colonialism, most people tell me about an indigenous food sovereignty project they’ve heard about.  There’s a consistent slippage in relation to food movements, where any mention of colonialism means immediately talking about indigenous food movements.  It’s not that I think those initiatives are unimportant, but part of the reason I’ve chosen to focus on settler food movements is because I consider myself a part of some of these movements, and I’m also part of colonialism as a settler.  In starker terms, colonialism seems to be conceived as an “Indian problem” when it’s considered in the context of food and farming.

I think there are two, complementary questions here:

  1. How is farming and food–both industrial and alternative–tied up with colonialism?  How do contemporary food movements participate and reinforce settler colonialism in North America and how can this be unsettled?
  2. How and where is this already happening?  Where are examples of conscious attempts within the settler food movement to build meaningful alliances with indigenous peoples?  What shape have these efforts taken?

2 thoughts on “Settler Colonial Food Movements?

  1. Leger

    Good questions. I’m currently looking for examples of folks using permaculture design to address social justice issues. I’m especially hungry for examples of people/organizations doing anti-oppression type work using a permaculture framework and/or including anti-opression and decolonization in their permaculture teaching/praxis in a central way. I would love to know if you have found anything inspiring.
    So far the only people I know of who are directly adressing social justice issues through permaculture are the fine folks of Movement Generation and OAEC who came up with Liberation Permaculture.

    1. Nick Montgomery Post author

      Hey, exciting to hear some else is looking into this! I’ve also stumbled on OAEC and MG. The other major example of permaculture and social justice is the permaculture garden at the Unist’ot’en camp. I would love to hear about other things you find; keep in touch!


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