Skip to main content
University of Wisconsin–Madison

Wild Turnips for White Corn: Building Tribal Food Sovereignty on the Fort Peck Reservation Using Oral History and Digitally Mapped Trade Networks

Indigenous food sovereignty is about more than just getting healthy, local food into urban Native centers and onto reservations. Indigenous food sovereignty works to rebuild and strengthen communities’ relationships to the land. For centuries, settler colonialism disrupted the culturally and ecologically specific ways Indigenous communities functioned within their food systems. Today, communities across Turtle Island (North America) are building a food sovereignty movement that contributes to economic development, health, ecological sustainability and cultural connection, while creating jobs for Indigenous people to utilize their place-based knowledge. The challenge for many of these activists, however, is to design food sovereignty efforts that do not inadvertently reproduce or exacerbate existing inequalities, but instead help to dismantle structural oppression and build collective agency from within Indigenous foodsheds.

This project will document cultural knowledge of traditional food ways through oral history storytelling and create multiple case studies of successful initiatives that leverage the unique capacities and local ecologies of Indigenous communities. These stories will be broadly shared across Turtle Island via an innovative digital platform created by UW-Madison researchers and Indigenous mapmakers, which will help build a trade-based solidarity economy that connects food sovereignty initiatives and makes their products more accessible to Indigenous people living on and off reservations.

This oral history and digital mapmaking project will inform the development of a long-term community-driven partnership at our core study site, the Fort Peck Reservation in Montana, which struggles with high rates of poverty, diabetes, and lack of access to healthy food. UW-Madison researchers will contribute to an ongoing community-led initiative that includes building a greenhouse and processing site for drying and storing wild turnips and other traditional foods. Youth will be employed through farm internships and the food will be sold at local market stands and delivered to elders.


Jennifer Gaddis
Assistant Professor Civil Society and Community Studies

Kasey Keeler
Assistant Professor Civil Society and Community Studies and American Indian Studies

Becca Dower, MS
Graduate Student, Civil Society and Community Research

Kendra Teague
Community Collaborator, Program Officer for the American Indian College Fund

Coco Villaluz
Community Collaborator, Senior Community Development Manager for ClearWay Minnesota

Dionne Zoanni
Indigenous Mapmaker

Taylor Elder
Indigenous Mapmaker