Food Sovereignty Lab and Cultural Workspace

By Carrie Tully


I begin by acknowledging that I am on the land of the Wiyot peoples which includes the Wiyot Tribe, Bear River Rancheria and Blue Lake Rancheria.  Arcata is known as Goudi’ni meaning “among the redwoods.”  The persistence of the Wiyot peoples to remain in relationship with these lands despite their attempted genocide, compels me to spread awareness to my community regarding the true history of this space.  I strive to hold myself and others accountable for the continuation of colonial acts which neglect to include the voices and needs of these Tribes, while remembering to lead with compassion. 

I wish to also acknowledge my own white privilege.  As a person of mainly European descent, I recognize that I have lived a simple life compared to my friends and associates of color. I do not get questioned when I enter a store. I do not get stopped at random by police. I don’t get called racist slurs. This is important to recognize in order to address this country’s history: of settler colonialism, of racism, and genocide. 

Providing a comprehensive history of settler colonialism would take a book…or two.  I simply wish to declare that we are still living in a settler colonial state that continues to pursue genocide through a multitude of ways. Particularly, the U.S. government strives to sever Indigenous peoples from their culture, one of the most fundamental aspects of which is food sovereignty.  

 Indigenous peoples have always considered food to be more than a way of sustenance; it is about relationship and reciprocation.  Unfortunately, the relationship many of us have with our food today is lacking that reciprocation. Food has become a commodity…a way to feed ourselves.  But what do we give in return?

This country has worked hard to kill off Indigenous food sources by damming rivers to stop the flow of water, restricting cultural burning, and denying access on state and federal lands for gathering food, medicines and basketry materials. The lost connection between people and their land has made Indigenous peoples sick…homesick for a way of life that was known to their ancestors for thousands of years prior to colonization and genocide.

When we begin to take responsibility for our human and more-than-human community, we can rebuild those relationships. Now, more than ever before, it is integral to be working towards reconnecting to our food and food systems. 

Last Fall the students in Dr. Cutcha Risling Baldy’s NAS 331 course at HSU, Indigenous Natural Resource Management Practices, imagined a research project that would have lasting benefits for our community.  This project was intrinsically interdisciplinary, designed and led by students spanning twelve majors across campus. After interviewing Indigenous students, faculty, staff and community members, we collectively decided that the project which will serve everyone best is a Food Sovereignty Lab and Cultural Workspace (NAS LAB). We envisioned a lab with a commercial kitchen, a Native plants and food garden, and salmon smoking pit that will teach key concepts of food sovereignty, food security, basketry and regalia making. This lab will be able to be utilized by all; not only by our diverse student population, but also by our surrounding communities, tribal nations, and national and international scholars.  It will be a space that builds true connections to one another and to the world.  

Food sovereignty happens at various levels. Individual food sovereignty refers to personal food choices. However, the breadth of the spectrum of choice is defined by the degree to which individuals and communities have access to the foods they desire. Providing access to healthy foods and space for cultural expression clearly supports both human health as well as ecosystem health. 

The concept of food sovereignty directly relates to building individual and community resilience while preparing for climate change. Because of the intense impact of COVID-19, it is clear that there is a deep-rooted need for change. A focus on community-based collaborative education, research, and work is apparent and essential. The NAS LAB will serve to promote and sustain the mental, physical, cultural, and spiritual health of both Native and non-Native students along with community members of all ages.  It is for these reasons that we feel that our project is a vital addition to our university.  

The Food Sovereignty Lab Steering Committee is excited to share with you that we were recently granted the use of the former Hilltop Marketplace across from the BSS building for the use of the NAS LAB.  Our project will be created and shared with our community in order to help restore our relationships to our food, environment, and one another.  

At this time the Food Sovereignty Lab and Cultural Workspace is seeking funding to begin planning and designing the space.  If you have any questions regarding the NAS LAB, please contact Carrie Tully at