By Amy Howe

Homesteading, once a historical practice, has experienced a resurgence in popularity in our culture over the last handful of years. In an era dominated by technology and fast-paced living, homesteading, and other food sovereignty initiatives, represents a return to self-sufficiency and a connection with the land. This lifestyle emphasizes sustainable living, DIY practices and a focus on producing one’s own food and resources.

The importance of homesteading lies in its potential to promote environmental stewardship, personal empowerment and a return to hands-on skills. By growing our own food and embracing sustainable practices, we not only reduce reliance on industrial systems but also forge a deeper connection to the earth. Incorporating homesteading principles into modern culture encourages a more mindful and deliberate approach to daily life, fostering resilience and self-reliance in the face of societal challenges.

The Quapaw Nation, a Native American tribe based in Ottawa County, has been actively involved in food sovereignty initiatives to promote self-sufficiency, cultural preservation and the well-being of its community. 

“The Quapaw Nation started raising bison in 2010 and cattle in 2014. After we established our cattle company, we opened the first USDA-inspected processing facility on tribal land in 2017,” said Michelle Bowden, Quapaw Nation food sovereignty director. “The vision for food sovereignty started gaining steam in 2018 when we were able to open our Quapaw, Oklahoma, farmers market to extend access to local beef and bison as well as bring in vendors to our market to provide live farmers market events that run from May to October.”

Now, Quapaw Nation carries a wide variety of products that include fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs, canned goods such as jams, jellies and pickles, fresh and dry herbs, beef, bison, pork and O-Gah-Pah coffee. The tribe also has vendor products year-round, which includes soaps, tea blends, honey and honey products, jewelry, crafts, bison hides and mounts. The farmers market and food hub are open to the public.

While most items are harvested and created in the Quapaw Nation, many items are sourced within a 50-mile radius of Quapaw.

“We are in the unique position of being on the border of Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri and Arkansas,” said Bowden. “We can bring a variety of vendors and products from outside of the state and still be considered local.”

The Quapaw Nation is always looking toward the future and at ways to increase its homesteading and food sovereignty capabilities within the community. 

“We recently acquired a 28-acre farm to expand our production and varieties,” said Bowden. “We will be installing a wash and pack house on our new farm to provide a clean and sanitary facility to aid in packaging and distribution. We are looking at the possibility for a mobile farm market to bring the market to underserved areas that may lack access to fresh fruits and vegetables. We also would like to host a variety of classes that focus on gardening and nutrition.”

Other Quapaw Nation initiatives that align with food sovereignty include honeybee production, pollinator habitats and rain gardens to aid in recharging ground water and reduce runoff. The tribe is also developing a composting facility that uses farm waste such as manure, coffee chaff from the O-Gah-Pah coffee roaster and food waste. 

These initiatives reflect the Quapaw Nation’s commitment to reclaiming control over its food systems, revitalizing cultural practices and improving the overall health and well-being of the community. Food sovereignty is an essential aspect of Indigenous self-determination and is integral to the preservation of Native American cultures.

A trip to Quapaw during the farmer market months is always encouraged to see just what all is taking place in and around the Quapaw Nation. If you can’t make it to Quapaw, you can find a wealth of information on the Facebook page and website. The Quapaw Nation is dedicated to serving the community and sharing videos and tutorials of past education materials online.