By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
One Feather Staff
The White House is hosting a Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health on Wednesday, Sept. 28, and a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) has been invited to attend. Juanita Wilson, co-chairperson of the Nikwasi Initiative, is excited to learn about food sovereignty issues specifically how it can be addressed in Indian Country.
Information from the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services states that the goal of the conference is, “End hunger and increase healthy eating and physical activity by 2030, so that fewer Americans experience diet-related diseases like diabetes, obesity, and hypertension.”
It continues, “The toll of hunger and these diseases is not distributed equally, disproportionately impacting underserved communities, including communities of color, people living in rural areas, people are differently-abled, older adults, LGBTQI+ people, military families, and military veterans. Lack of access to healthy, safe, and affordable food, and to safe outdoor spaces, contributes to hunger, diet-related diseases, and health disparities.”
“It’s critical for tribes to have voices, and it is even more important for tribes to have administrative-level seats at the table,” said Wilson.
In addition to working with the Nikwasi Initiative, she is a member of the EBCI Public Health and Human Services Healthy Eating Advocacy Team (HEAT). “We have been searching for particular projects to help cement our purpose. I hope to learn what other Indigenous communities are doing that has been successful but also what continues to be challenges for them.”
She added, “In our own community, I believe federal guidelines for the programs we have are dragging so much red tape that we are focused on making sure we don’t get ‘cheated’ by people working the system than we are with figuring out how to help them get ahead.”
Wilson was invited to the Conference through her work with the Nikwasi Initiative “because one of our key goals is to re-awaken Cherokee culture that includes traditional agricultural ways and diets.”
According to information from the Nikwasi Initiative, it “was founded to promote, interpret, and link cultural and historic sites – such as Noquisiyi (alternate word used for Nikwasi) and Cowee mounds – along a Cherokee Cultural Corridor, along with raising awareness and funds to pursue those efforts and exploring more opportunities for collaboration between the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and local communities”.
In 2019, the Franklin Town Council voted to transfer the deed to Nikwasi Mound to the Nikwasi Initiative who has served as its caretakers since.