Windows into the Lived Experiences and Health Consequences of Food Insecurity on the Cattaraugus Reservation: Implications for Indigenous Peoples’ Food Sovereignty Open Access

McCarter, Abbe (Spring 2019)

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This study examines the causes and consequences of food insecurity on the Cattaraugus reservation of the Seneca Nation of Indians (SNI). Combining applied anthropology and humanistic anthropology approaches, I provide a window into the lived experiences of food insecurity and people’s visions for a better future. Situated as a non-Indigenous scholar committed to building relations with the SNI, I document the ways in which the newly formed SNI Department of Agriculture endeavors to shift the nation’s food landscape and health conditions. This work breaks new ground as a small-scale anthropological partnership with the Seneca Nation of Indians, signaling a new era in anthropological work that puts Indigenous sovereignty and protocol at the center and that is collaborative, responsive, ethical, non-extractive, and about building long-term relations. Part one documents the history of structural oppression among the Seneca Nation of Indians and the resulting food commodity programs across reservations in the US. Part two discusses the extant research which has shown that obesity and diabetes rates are disproportionally high among the SNI and Indigenous populations in the United States. Part three refocuses the narrative back to lived experiences of enrolled SNI members by providing small ‘windows’ into life on the Cattaraugus reservation. Throughout the work, my guiding question is: How can communities effectively return traditional food sovereignty and sustainability back to Indigenous populations? The answers are illustrated through an ethnographic examination of the SNI 's newly formed Department of Agriculture Gakwi:yo:h Farms and data collected through semi-structured interviews (n=16) and a qualitative ‘plate mapping’ exercise (n=30). Thematic analyses of both the interviews and plate maps reveal a marked frustration with the continued problems of food insecurity and diabetes on the Cattaraugus reservation. These findings suggest that the new SNI Department of Agriculture can play a pivotal and innovative role in returning food sovereignty to the SNI. Using applied anthropology and humanistic anthropology approaches, my study concludes with a brief discussion of future collaborative projects which will be proposed to the SNI Department of Agriculture in June 2019. 

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Chapter I – 1

Reason for the study Researcher Positionality, Methods, Ethics, & Stories

Chapter II – 14

History of the Seneca Nation of Indians Seneca Nation of Indians’ Land and Government Relations Over Time Recent Land Disputes and Current Demographics Reason for the Focus on the Cattaraugus Reservation An Introduction to the Cultural Importance of Food to the SNI Food Groups and Programming on the Reservation Today Food Commodities and Assistance Programs History of Commodity Food On Native American Reservations The Obesity and Diabetes Epidemic Health Reports and Disease Rates Diabetes, Defined Food Insecurity Food Landscape Definitions Food Insecurity Today Food Sovereignty Today

Chapter III – Previous Genetic Research & Researcher 45

Chapter IV – 50

Interview Methodology Plate Mapping Methodology

Chapter V – Findings and 66

Food Security Narratives Analysis of a Co-op Feasibility Study Geographical / Area Analysis Cross- Cultural Analyses Diabetes Prevention Program Guidelines

Chapter VI – Proposals and 91

Proposed Programs Larger Structural Considerations Future Directions & Studies - Conclusion 102 107

Appendix A – Interview Analysis Tables  Appendix B – Interview Questions, Facebook postings, Area Maps Appendix C – Plate Maps Analysis, Plate Map pictures with Descriptions 

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