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  • Writer's pictureRose High Bear

Celebrating Four Years!

Blue Elderberry plant starts surviving the snowfall

We are celebrating our fourth anniversary on May 23. Our team at Elderberry Wisdom Farm is celebrating our fourth year of operations this month. Our film producer, Sam Forencich, has produced a short film to share with our community. You can see it at (also see description below: Meet Our Interns).

Looking back, we recognize that our growth has been dynamic, but not void of issues. First of all, we formed during the COVID-19 Pandemic. It impacted all of our projects and affected all of our people, including our board of directors, our staff, our consultants and our interns. It was painful to witness suffering that stretched across America and the world, but especially losses experienced within our own small Native communities here in the Northwest. We experienced deaths and other personal losses, including the loss of treasured elders, loss of livelihoods, loss of health.

We feel grateful to Great Spirit that we survived. Our spiritual leaders tell us that when we are faced with tests and difficulties, our resilience will grow in proportion to the threats. We have experienced this truth, and are continuing to strengthen our services and cherish our partnerships and accomplishments.

Another issue: We have prepared for over a decade to face climate issues increasingly affecting our communities. They continue to emerge as we speak, threatening our families, our communities and our businesses, especially the unbelievably deadly wildfires swept by the wind in 2020. Some raged within miles of our farm here in Marion County over Labor Day weekend.

In response, our elders provided guidance to move forward with our work. Consultation between indigenous peoples from all over the world, and exemplary leaders of all colors of mankind, reminded us that we will succeed despite drought, floods, winds, fire or any other threat. Acknowledging that the wisdom of our ancestors is still alive and supports us in times of need, our endurance and resilience continues to grow and strengthen our capacity to succeed.

Postponement of the sacred Native ceremonies we hold annually further separated our people from their communities and other sources of strength. They ceased temporarily due to the pandemic, but we are now recovering from the past three years and preparing to dance again starting in May and again in July. We see a bright future where our vision to restore traditional First Foods can help our people provide healthy foods and medicines to our communities.

We are now looking ahead to this fourth anniversary and determining how we can help our communities fulfill multiple needs.

First and foremost is the need for land access. In order for our Native farmers, ranchers and habitat restoration specialists to grow and prosper, we need access to land. When Elderberry Wisdom Farm recently lost our organic farm land lease, we became painfully aware that we cannot succeed without access to farm and ranchland. Multiple partners, including Michelle Week’s Good Rain Farm, Nellie at Oregon Agriculture Trust and Oregon Farm Link team at Friends of Family Farmers, stepped up to help us find new organic farm and ranch land. We are already blessed with options, plus a five-year opportunity to partner with Oregon Tilth and new discussions with the Oregon Food Bank. We will relocate by this fall to our new site where we will continue to offer our experiential service learning to our interns and our community.

Another important need is being fulfilled. We asked our voices to be heard by our colleagues, including the USDA, focusing upon the 2018 Farm Bill. Native agricultural leaders requested support to fulfill needs unique to Indian Country, and our voice was heard. USDA accepted 63 provisions that now assists Indian Country with diverse issues. Native Leaders, including Elderberry Wisdom Farm, have submitted requests to the 2023 Farm Bill trusting that additional support will remove roadblocks and strengthen food sovereignty among tribes and Native communities. Native producers, supported by the Intertribal Agriculture Council, the Native Farm Bill Coalition, and the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative, are asking to grow and provide traditional First Foods that will strengthen health and wellness of our people, and lead to self-determination, and social and economic success.

Much of our success can be attributed not just to our brilliant Native team, a steady group of volunteers, and our partners who have enthusiastically supported our growth by offering to integrate their Western science expertise with our traditional knowledges. We say Pilmayaye, Wopila, Mitakuye Oyasin.

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