Interview with an Indigenous Farmer: Angie Comeaux

Name: Angie Comeaux
Location: Florala, Alabama
Education/background: Nurse, trained clinical herbal practitioner, farmer
Farm name: Hvrvnrvcukwv Ueki-honecv (Hummingbird Springs) Farm
Tribal affiliation: Mvskoke, Chahta, Aniyvwiya

Angie Comeaux is standing near a body of water wearing a shirt that says "Indigenous Women resistance colonialisma nd patriarchy since 1492." She is holding a basket of foraged plants.
Angie Comeaux

What led to your passion for indigenous foods?
As a nurse, I could see how much of an impact food and nutrition have on our bodies and healing. Since time immemorial, Indigenous people have grown and developed alongside the foods and medicines that they ate, all the way down to a molecular level. Our bodies are adapted and thrive on our traditional foods. Our food is medicine.

Why do you think it’s important to make traditional foods accessible for Natives?
Health disparities between Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island began to emerge after colonization. From the purposeful introduction of foreign disease to forcing children to attend boarding schools to the removal of Indigenous people from their homelands, the United States government disrupted the lives of Indigenous people and demolished traditional foodways. Removal from our traditional lands resulted in profound losses of sovereignty. There was a widespread, pronounced change from traditional diets to store-bought, western foods in Indigenous communities. These changes were comprised of the separation of Indigenous peoples from their traditional hunting grounds and gathering areas as well as confinement into condensed areas. Reduced hunting and gathering activities also resulted in increasingly sedentary lifestyles.

The resulting health disparities are clear. Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island experience certain cancers such as kidney, liver, and stomach cancer, at higher rates than non-Hispanic white individuals. Indigenous people of Turtle Island also face higher rates of obesity and diabetes than the general population, among other health disparities. Nearly 400 million Indigenous people (5% of the global population) face significant health disparities compared with their non-Indigenous counterparts.

What is the importance of an indigenous diet for a healthy lifestyle?
Historically, there has not been a lot of research available on outcomes when modern Indigenous populations switch to a traditional diet. However, as Indigenous people are becoming sharply aware of the health disparities we face, more scientific research is being conducted.

One example is that of a small study that Dr. Martin Reinhardt conducted and published: “The decolonized diet project”. The decolonizing diet project (DDP) (approved by IRB: project # HS11-415) is an exploratory multi-dimensional study of the relationships between people and Indigenous foods of the Great Lakes region. It was intended to connect, or reconnect, humans with foods that are indigenous to the Great Lakes region and that were part of Indigenous people’s diets prior to colonization, and to provide food-related data for tribal communities and others that are working toward the revitalization of Indigenous cultures.

In this project, there were 25 voluntary research subjects. During the course of the trial, between 25%-100% of their daily diet consisted of Indigenous foods from the Great Lakes Region. They adhered to an exercise regimen based on pre-colonial physical activities or their equivalents. The participants ate and exercised according to this plan for one year and used multiple forms of media to record their experiences, including a written journal, photos, and video/audio, and got regularly scheduled health checks. Based on a statistical analysis of group data, the decolonized diet project participants were able to report that research subjects experienced significant: reductions in weight, girth, and BMI. Individuals also experienced noteworthy or significant reductions in blood pressure, cholesterol, reductions in blood glucose levels.

Science is finally catching up to what Indigenous peoples have known all along: our food is medicine.

What ways are you involved in the education, restoration and accessibility of traditional Native foods?
I am a founding member of both Bvlbancha Collective and Okla Hina Ikhish Holo, two Indigenous Southeastern femme and non-binary collectives working in mutual aid, medicine and food sovereignty, and rebuilding ancestral trade routes. I am on the board of directors for the Alabama Sustainable Agricultural Network, a grassroots network of farmers, consumers, and agriculture-related organizations, all committed to promoting sustainable agriculture in Alabama. I am a trained clinical herbal practitioner. I am a member of the Seed Saver’s Exchange ADAPT seed trials, as well as a student in the inaugural cohort of the Ira Wallace Seed School’s Introduction to Ethical Seed Farming.

Most importantly, I am the founder of Hvrvnrvcukwv Ueki-honecv (Hummingbird Springs) Farm, a fallow 120-year-old peanut farm that myself, my partner, and community are transitioning into an Indigenous food forest. The goal at Hvrvnrvcukwv Ueki-honecv Farm is to fully reclaim and resurrect Indigenous agricultural practices that have been sleeping and to welcome those practices back to their homelands. I am responsible to multiple, deeply interdependent communities committed to collective liberation which are rooted in the principles of Indigenous sovereignty, Black liberation, resilience against climate abuse, and resisting the toxic force of capitalism.

The mission of Hvrvnrvcukwv Ueki-honecv is to show what Indigenous sovereignty truly looks like, to be a living example of what prioritizing community care and the needs of the land can achieve, and to show that when we listen to the land and the land’s original stewards we can not only heal our communities but thrive. Some of our goals include building an intentional community centering Southeastern Indigenous and BIPOC folks where housing and food are secure, building and implementing a timeshare model to support systems of living outside of capitalism, calling home and protecting endangered and at-risk species, and resurrecting traditional lifeways that have long been sleeping for our people and for the land.

It is necessary that we bring the songs, the language, and the lifeways back home. We must build our future in right relationship with the land and with one another. In that respect, Hvrvnrvcukwv Ueki-honecv is committed to radical ancestral lifeways rooted in collective liberation, working towards a world free of capitalism, colonialism, racism, anti-blackness, gendered and sexuality-based oppression, and all forms of exploitation against any living beings. Our goals stop short of nothing but radical joy, freedom from all oppression, and deep healing of the natural world.

How can community members be involved and support the cause of restoring and protecting indigenous food systems?
Entire parts of Indigenous culture are centered around food. Indigenous people have ceremonies, myths, protocols, and stories for how we gather, hunt, grow, and prepare our foods. Through colonization, forced assimilation, and genocide, a lot of the connection to our foods has been lost. I think the biggest factor and way that community members can become involved in restoring and protecting Indigenous food systems is to begin to develop a relationship with the land, and in turn the plants and the animals that we eat. Indigenous people learned and developed those ceremonies, myths, protocols, and stories from observing the land around us. Most people (Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike) are disconnected from their food sources. When you begin to have an intimate relationship with your food and where your food comes from, it has a ripple effect. You care about the environment in which your food grows. You realize all of the contaminants and pollutants that can affect your food sources. You begin to have a better understanding of nature and all the other parts of it, and better understand your place in the universe. When you begin to have a better understanding of yourself and your place in the Universe, you begin to respect yourself and nature, and want to improve the things that you are putting into your body, and into the Earth.

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