Indigenous peoples protect an extraordinary variety of plant and animal species, as well as traditional knowledge, food, and languages that are at risk of extinction. On the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples 2023, the Slow Food Indigenous Peoples’ Network will launch the “Decolonize Your Food” campaign to support Indigenous communities in preserving their food heritage for our common future.
The colonization of Indigenous food
Indigenous peoples’ communities are not only guardians of biodiversity but also the custodians of traditional knowledge and foods. But their livelihoods and their food cultures are now under threat from land grabbing, violations of their rights, climate change and unsustainable agricultural practices. In addition to these visible causes, a less conspicuous food-related colonization is underway, whereby Indigenous peoples are singled out and their knowledge and foods taken away from them, without their consent and without any recognition of, or benefit to, the communities involved.
Another aspect of food colonization is the increasing dominance of industrial and globalized foods, which are increasingly replacing local traditional ones. The mass media and public policies promote the consumption and production of such foods, leading to food insecurity, the homogenization of diets and the loss of flavors, knowledge, celebrations, local economies and identities. All of which is having a notable impact on Indigenous youth.
Decolonize Your Food: defending the heritage of Indigenous peoples
“Our foods connect us with our communities, relatives and ancestors,“ says Dalì Nolasco Cruz, an Indigenous woman and a member of the Slow Food International Board. “They are our culture, our knowledge, our life – our identity. Which is why it is crucial to ensure that the food of Indigenous peoples continues to be respected, protected and celebrated as an integral part of our global culinary landscape”.
Through the “Decolonize Your Food” campaign, the Slow Food Indigenous Peoples’ Network aims to raise awareness of ongoing efforts to protect Indigenous foods from extinction, encouraging people to discover the Indigenous origins of everyday foods and uncover the territories and communities where they are still produced”.
The campaign will showcase the innovative strategies – such as reclaiming traditional lands, reviving heirloom varieties and embracing sustainable land management techniques – employed by Indigenous communities. These community-led initiatives are an inspiration for food activists worldwide and emphasize the power of local and traditional knowledge. By learning about them, Individuals gain a deeper appreciation of the work Indigenous peoples are doing to safeguard food and cultural diversity.
A journey of awareness across continents
“Recognizing Indigenous peoples,” says Carlo Petrini, the founder of Slow Food “also means decolonizing our thinking: we need to free our spirits from any idea of domination, the power of money and greed. We need to shift gears by recognizing that Indigenous peoples hold the key to a more sustainable approach to life. For this is where the answer to feeding the planet lies, where true democracy, the participation of all for the common good, is activated”.
In a tour of the world through Indigenous foods representative of the communities in the Slow Food Indigenous Peoples’ network, the campaign will seek not only to aid reflection and encourage change in our lifestyles and mindsets, but will also allow people to travel across continents and find out more about the fascinating Slow Food Indigenous Peoples’ network, which spans 86 countries and comprises over 370 communities that protect and promote their own food heritages.
Worth mentioning is the case of Mexico, where, thanks to a nationwide campaign the foods the local Slow Food Indigenous Peoples’ network is working hard to safeguard will inspire other Indigenous peoples to share and defend their own foods. Not to mention Slow Food Uganda, whose “My Food My Identity” campaign is raising awareness among local people of Indigenous foods as powerful alternatives in ensuring food sovereignty and valuable support in the fight against climate change.
To support the campaign, explore social media resources (on Facebook and Instagram) and find out more about Indigenous food traditions, resistance against food colonization and the importance of decolonizing our food systems and mindsets. Using #Decolonizeyourfood and sharing knowledge with friends, family and communities are a way of spreading awareness. While advocating policy changes that protect biodiversity and recognize the rights and contributions of Indigenous peoples is a way of making a difference.