On “Food Talk with Dani Nierenberg,” journalist Bianca Bosker sits down with Denisa Livingston of the Diné Community Advocacy Alliance to talk about how food plays a role in the Navajo Nation. “Food is something that is holy to us, it is our identity,” says Livingston. “When you strip that, how are we supposed to have agency? How are we supposed to have the power of the food that makes us powerful? The food is medicine, the food is healing to us.”
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According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), 99 percent of the Navajo Nation is a food desert—but Livingston notes that food apartheid more accurately describes their history. “For us, the Dené people, the government sent our people to concentration camps,” says Livingston. “We returned back to salt, sugar, and canned foods… We have nothing but junk food and this is food that never existed in our diet. It never even existed in our language.”
To take back their foodways, the Navajo nation established an unhealthy food tax. “At the end of 2017, we had raised over $4.5 million on Navajo and we had funded over 1,000 health initiatives,” says Livingston. “Every decision that we make, and every conference that we go to, when we move, we move when integrity. Then we know we are making that ethical shift to acknowledge indigenous people.”
“We’re not going to be commercializing our ways,” says Livingston. However, allies can play an important role in increasing awareness responsibly—by creating a genuine relationship. “When I speak on behalf of allyship, we have to talk about the relationship… As we ally together, we need to have that relationship, we need to talk to each other.”
Photo courtesy of Richard Storm, NYPhotoNY