The women at Seeding Sovereignty are constantly producing content to help educate the public on Indigenous and environmental issues. Below is our list of zines, art and other works that is free for all to print and disseminate.
Iowa: Big-Ag’s Sacrifice Zone - An Indigenous Perspective
A Land Decolonization Project Zine Series by Seeding Sovereignty
Written by Christine Nobiss & Art by Jackie Fawn
Published September 27, 2018
During this time of climate crisis, it is imperative that we transform the colonized mind of settler descendant society by pushing Indigenous ideologies onto the world stage. We need to convey the profound and sustainable perspectives of Indigenous communities, cultures, and relationships to the earth by giving Indigenous people the opportunity to investigate, speak, write, photograph, and so much more. In particular, we need to encourage Indigenous women on to the world stage and empower them to convey the sacred feminine that has been violently oppressed.
Seeding Sovereignty's Land Decolonization Project is our contribution to this important process and we have chosen the geographical area of Iowa as our current focus because no other landscape in the country has been biologically altered to the extent that this state has. Iowa is Big-Ag’s sacrifice zone. According to the Iowa Prairie Network, Iowa used to be as biologically diverse as some rainforests in South America but now its diversity is comparable to that of a desert. It is almost an artificial environment where food is grown in soil that needs constant application of fertilizers and other nutrients due to monocropping and heavy crop rotation schedules and that is currently considered the number one contributor to the Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico. With increased clear-cutting, monocropping of shallow root plants, CAFOs, urban sprawl, golf courses (Iowa hosts more golf courses, per capita than any other state), and general development, runoff is greatly increasing into Iowa waterways. To date, Iowa has lost an incredible amount of its topsoil from excessive runoff. The Environmental Working Group has reported that, annually, Iowa loses twice the amount of topsoil than the federal government's estimate. Contained within that run-off is animal waste, herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers, and commercial by-products, which all flows down river. Climate change is also a contributing factor to soil erosion as there is an increase in extreme rainfall events and severe flooding. According to Mark Edwards, retired Iowa DNR Trails Coordinator and environmental activist:
Today, Iowa competes for the very bottom in state parks and public lands. We are known as the most biologically altered state in North America. Roughly 98% of Iowa has been altered for agricultural use, cities, and roads. All our state parks and forests had been logged and heavily grazed. We still fail to realize that these areas are healing landscapes...Iowa has no old-growth forests left. We have less than one-tenth of one percent of the prairies which covered our state and produced our rich soils. Only 10% of Iowa’s remaining prairies and forests lie within the public domain and its limited protection. This makes these parks very, very special not only for people but for the dwindling plants, wildlife, and natural areas…Less than two-tenths of one percent of Iowa’s land is designated and protected as state parks. Almost all parks can be walked across in an hour and you are rarely more than a mile from a road...We continue to make bad choices as farmers converted roughly the size of our state parks or around 50,000 acres of grassland, scrubland and wetlands from 2008 to 2011 to farmland. Urban sprawl has increased 50,000 acres in the last ten years. We have now covered 23.6 million acres, about two-thirds of the state in just two species – corn and soybeans.1 (See Map)
Historically, Iowa is an area where Indigenous genocide and relocation was a severe and vast process due to the desire for the fertile ground which lies between the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. With the influx of settler vigilantes and colonial militias, Iowa was completely taken and over time the result of their colonial-capitalist farming practices has made the land almost unrecognizable. It is now a highly mono-cropped, GMO state where Big-Ag and CAFOs rule the land. Where there used to be tallgrass prairie, oak savanna, wetlands and woodlands there are now rows and rows of genetically modified corn and soy interspersed with CAFO houses, animal waste lagoons, and urban centers.
Big-Agriculture—Corporate Theft of Already Stolen Land
What is Big-Ag? The Pesticide Action Network states that “industrial agriculture treats the farm as a factory, with "inputs" (pesticides, fertilizers) and "outputs" (crops). The end-objective is to increase yields while controlling costs — usually by exploiting economies of scale (i.e. "monocropping"), and by replacing solar energy and manual labor with machines and petro-chemical inputs.”2 Farming in this capacity is a result of colonial-capitalist thinking which has roots in Christianity and the belief that god gave man dominion over the earth. This dogma influenced the doctrine of discovery, which is a concept that gave Christian explorers the right to lay claim to land that they “discovered”. In America, the doctrine of discovery was later expressed as manifest destiny, a similar ideology that drove 19th-century U.S. territorial expansion. Manifest destiny was a justification to annihilate and “civilize” the Indian in order to lay claim to their land. It recognized the fundamental desire for land expansion through ethnic cleansing and slavery. Thus, this country was founded at the point of a gun by the actions of settler vigilantes and colonial militias with a maniacal lust for Indian killing and the control of Black people all for the sake of free real estate and cheap labor. In the process, they enforced an individualistic, capitalistic agrarian culture across the continent. Agriculture was even considered the solution to the Indian problem, as Sarah Carter, in her book Lost Harvest writes,
Agriculture was seen as the solution to the at-best peculiar and at worst deplorable characteristics and idiosyncrasies which the Indians tenaciously and perversely cherished. The Indian had to be taught to make his living from the soil. No other occupation could so assuredly dispossess the Indian of his nomadic habits and the uncertainties of the chase, and fix upon him the values of a permanent abode and the security of a margin of surplus. Agriculture would teach an appreciation of private property and impart a will to own and master nature...Farming a piece of land would promote an independent spirit and foster competition, qualities which would erode the tribal unit. Agriculture would nurture habits of industry and diligence.3
Though the Indigenous population of Turtle Island resisted policies that attacked their cultural traditions, many nations adapted to the enforced agrarian lifestyle and even excelled at it. However, austere government policy and settler racism soon ruined their farming accomplishments and the fault was put on their inability to overcome their innate, “savage” instincts. However, if settler descendants paid any attention to Indigenous wisdom on this matter we might not be facing climate change and environmental collapse. A quote by Smoholla, Nimiipuu, and founder of the Dreamer Religion, that was often used to substantiate the racist notion that Indians could not farm can also be used today in a different context concerning the success of no-till farming; a method used by small, organic, environmentally conscious farmers. Smoholla said,
My young men shall never work. Men who work cannot dream, and wisdom comes to us in dreams. You asked me to plow the ground. Shall I take a knife and tear my mother's breast? Then when I die she will take me to her bosom to rest. You ask me to dig for stone. Shall I dig under her skin for her bones? Then when I die I cannot enter her body to be born again. You ask me to cut grass and make hay and sell it and be rich like white men. But how dare I cut off my mother’s hair?4
Not only was Smoholla speaking about the damage that would occur through the use of the plow but he verbalized the damage that would take place to the land and the people by colonial-capitalist farming methods. According to The World Bank, in most regions of the world, over seventy percent of freshwater is used for agriculture and in the US the EPA estimates that the same industry is responsible for seventy-five percent of water-quality problems in our lakes, rivers, and streams. Also, over 260 million acres of forest has been cleared to make room for mostly GMO mono-cropped fields. As reported in the Des Moines Register, “last year , an estimated 97 percent of soybeans and 95 percent of corn grown in Iowa were from biotech seeds, figures that were both higher than the national average.”5 However, since that report there has been a slow increase in non-GMO farming in Iowa. Not only is the land and water affected by Big-Ag’s runoff, but CAFOs are highly responsible for increased air pollution because, according to the EPA, animal waste contributes 50% to 85% of US ammonia emissions. Furthermore, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), “The livestock industry's contribution to greenhouse gases come from direct sources, including methane emitted from the animals belching and their manure, but also from indirect sources, including land conversion and deforestation linked to growing feed.”6 Iowa is a prime example of direct source emissions, as it is host to 23 million hogs, plus almost half of it’s corn production is used as the main energy ingredient in livestock feed while the other half of all corn produced ends up as ethanol “In short, the corn crop is highly productive, but the corn system is aligned to feed cars and animals instead of feeding people.”7
For most First Nations, wealth was seen as an ability to give gifts and provide for the people. It was a completely different perspective that offended settlers to the point that, in Canada, the government banned potlatch ceremonies (giveaways) and the people were forced to carry out their ceremonies underground. This is an important part of North American Indigenous culture to know because it explains how an Indigenous-led regenerative economy can help us curb the onslaught of climate change and end social injustice caused by colonial-capitalism. This ideology can help us better understand how to interact with the land and fight corporate conglomerates that are destroying the earth on which they carry out their unhealthy and inhumane commercial farming practices.
Concentrated Animal Feed Operations (CAFOs) - Hogs Then and Now
Hidden from big cities, but an immediate threat to rural communities, is over 15,000 concentrated animal feed operations (CAFOs) and producers are rapidly buying more land due to a surge in commercial demand for pork (i.e., China and Mexico). Shockingly, an Iowa Department of Natural Resources study stated that “based on the state's fertilizer needs, that Iowa could support 45,700 concentrated animal feeding operations—four times as many as exist now.”8 There are already 23 million hogs mostly confined to CAFOs, living horrifying lives, that create more than 10 billion gallons of “fertilizer” a year which sits in massive lagoons. Ironically, “Few places are better suited for pork production: Iowa, the nation's top corn producer, has ample feed, 30 million acres of crops that can use the fertilizer that CAFOs create, and a growing number of meatpacking plants to process the animals.” 9
It is believed that people living in the vicinity of these CAFOs are susceptible to elevated rates of childhood asthma and other diseases like MRSA. And though it is said that all of the animal waste in Iowa can be used as fertilizer, the reality is that much of it sits in lagoons because over-application can inundate soil with fecal coliform, nitrogen, phosphates, and heavy metals--all of which is leaching into Iowa waterways This is one of the main reasons why over 750 waterways are impaired in this state and do not meet the Clean Water Act standards. Every year the state beach closures increase due to high levels of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and microcystin — a toxin produced by some forms of blue-green algae which feeds off of nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen and thrives in high temperatures. Furthermore, according to the Iowa DNR Fish Kill database, “over the past decade 4,464,257 fish have been killed by animal waste”. 10
Not only is hog farming having a detrimental impact on the land, air, and water systems of Iowa, but historically this animal is responsible for a lot of the colonized death and destruction that occurred in the Americas. Hogs are not native to this land. They were brought in, initially, by conquistadors who were not concerned with the destruction of local crops and the influx of disease the animals brought. Some scholars believe that hogs are responsible for the initial massive population reduction in Mexico where they quickly spread disease. The French, who came after, have recorded their reaction to the aftermath of this genocide. However, Mexico was not the only part of the Americas hit by the diseases that hogs brought with them. All of the Americas was eventually affected by the influx of these diseases.
Over time, some tribes were forced into swine herding. They were strongarmed out of their Indigenous lifestyles into becoming keepers of their colonizers' livestock. Franciscan monks have records detailing their approval of raising swine and its many benefits. And, yes, some tribes did benefit from raising these animals. However, hogs were either liked or disliked by various tribes. Some embraced them and enjoyed the taste of the meat while others thought they were dirty and/or devastated by the destruction of their crops and indigenous way of life.
These animals are still affecting our health in many ways. Currently, Native Americans have the highest diabetes rate in the country. The rise in this disease is a direct correlation to the rise in obesity. And this statistic holds true for Americans, as a whole, especially as populations, across the board, move into a state of obesity. Americans have been forced into a high meat, sugar, fat and processed food diet due to lack of access to healthier foods. Many inner-city areas, rural towns, and reservations are basically food deserts and because pork is one of America’s largest commercial products, it is often easily accessible and inexpensive. Not only are CAFOs terrible for the surrounding environment and our diets, but the history of this animal on Turtle Island is sad and disturbing. It is time to tell this story to Iowa legislators, like Governor Kim Reynolds, who support the dangerous increase of CAFOs.
Pipelines and Abuse of Eminent Domain on Stolen Land
Iowa state legislators have shown little to no interest in the long-term quality of our water and health as, under our prior Governor, Terry Branstad, the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline was given a green light even with massive protest from Iowans who pointed out that the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) abused eminent domain and mismanaged the permit they authorized for the pipeline. Many farmers were affected by this abuse of eminent domain and, right now, the easement where the pipeline sits is largely a no-grow zone. Currently, there is a court case in Iowa where nine landowners and the Sierra Club have sued the IUB over the illicit use of eminent domain and lack of an environmental impact survey. Oral arguments were heard on September 12, 2018, and an answer will be delivered by the Iowa Supreme Court in the next few weeks to months.
According to Carolyn Raffensperger, Lawyer for the Science and Environmental Health Network, “The two cases are asking for different things. The landowners are asking to have the decision about eminent domain reversed but are not challenging the IUB permit directly. The Sierra Club is challenging DAPL’s permit.”11 Thus, in Iowa, the fight is far from over and many are determined to protect the environment from the catastrophe of an oil spill from a pipeline as large as DAPL, which transports almost 500,000 barrels a day. Ironically, the carcinogenic compounds that would be released by an oil spill are already regularly applied to many crops in Iowa through the use of pesticides and herbicides. As of today, some 900 active chemical pesticides are used to manufacture 40,000 commercial preparations. Active ingredients were once distilled from natural substances; now they are largely synthesized in a laboratory. Almost all are hydrocarbons derived from petroleum...Liquid pesticides have traditionally used kerosene or some other petroleum distillate as a carrier, though water has recently begun to replace kerosene.”12
The abuse of eminent domain cannot be discussed without recognizing the genocide of Indigenous people and the colonization of their land. It must always be noted that the land that was taken by DAPL in Iowa rests upon a stratified history of the people that came before. As Lance Foster, Tribal Historic Preservation Officer of the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska, has written, “Tribes with deep history in Iowa are the Iowa (Ioway), Otoe, Omaha, Ponca, Hochunk (also known as Winnebago), Meskwaki, Sauk (the previous two also called the Sac and Fox), Dakota, Yankton (the previous two also known as Sioux) and Illini. The Potawatomi also settled in Iowa for a time during Indian Removal. The only tribe to now remain as a nation in Iowa is the Meskwaki with a settlement near Tama. The Omaha and Hochunk still own lands here.”13 For Indigenous people, the fact that there was a lack of proper archeological surveys was and is still distressing.
Citizens of the Ihanktowan (Yankton) First Nation came to Iowa to intervene in Lyon county when a sacred site was discovered. Besides this, there was no further work done to preserve sacred sites. According to State Archaeologist, John Doershuk, the vast majority of land in Iowa is privately owned. This means, that there is little that the Army Corp of Engineers or the Native American Graves and Reparations Act (NAGPRA) can do here. This is disappointing because Iowa was where the idea for NAGPRA was born through the work of Maria Pearson, Ihanktowan, who is considered the founding Mother of this act. Iowa has its own laws concerning the protection of Native American sacred sites, however, in the case of DAPL, these important laws were only loosely applied and, till this day, many who fought to protect sacred sites during construction of the pipeline have no idea what was destroyed.
Seeding Sovereignty's Iowa Land Decolonization Project
Environmental ignorance and financial corruption run deep in the Iowa government and it’s up to the local farmers, environmentalists, concerned citizens and invested sovereign First Nations to stop to it. As John Doershuk, State Archeologist has stated, “There are twenty-six tribes we currently work with that have an interest in and connection to Iowa. Many of those tribes don’t live here anymore, but still feel that this is their historical homeland and that the features found here are an active part of their culture today.”14 These nations have been involved in more than just archeological protection--many have helped throughout the years to protect the integrity of Iowa's land and in the fight for social justice.
In Iowa, there are few but mighty First Nation programs, Indigenous organizations, and individuals that are doing environmental and social justice work. For instance, the Meskwaki Nation recently started Red Earth Gardens, an organic CSA dedicated to growing the food of their Meskwaki ancestors (i.e., heirloom seeds, etc.) to better the health of their people. There are also individuals like Frank LaMere, Winnebago, who is trying to get Indian Health Services in Iowa (because there is none) in order to heal our people. He is often heard saying that we cannot heal our people if we cannot heal ourselves. There is also the Native American Coalition of the Quad Cities, the UIOWA Native American Student Association, Sage Sisters of Solidarity, the UIOWA Native Spaces Project and Indigenous Iowa--all of which are doing work in a state that is only host to about 14,000 Native American people. Seeding Sovereignty’s Land Decolonization Project wants to bring these groups and the First Nations with ties to Iowa together to take a more cohesive stand against environmental degradation in Iowa. Indigenous people have been resisting the assault to our land for a very long time but we need to start standing up for the land outside of "Indian country" and challenge the status quo in places where Indigenous voices are rarely heard. Seeding Sovereignty has also paired with allies such as Bold Iowa, Iowa CCI, 100 Grannies, The National Family Farm Coalition, Midwest Telegraph, The Poor People's Campaign, The Women’s March, etc., in order to raise awareness on Indigenous issues in Iowa and the world. The desired impact is to provide a voice to a population segment of this society that desperately needs to be heard at this point in time.
1. Mark Edwards. Trails Funding Important to Iowa's Parks. Iowa Chapter Sierra Club, July 2017. www.sierraclub.org/iowa/july-2017-newsletter Accessed June 10, 2018
2. The Lynchpin of Industrial Ag. Pesticide Action Network. www.panna.org/pesticides-big-picture/lynchpin-industrial-ag Accessed September 20, 2018
3. Sarah Carter. Lost Harvest: Prairie Indian Reserve Farmers and Government Policy. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1990. Page 18.
4. Sarah Carter. Ibid.
5. Christopher Doering. Farmers Turn to GMO-Free Crops to Boost Income. Des Moines Register, March 2018. www.desmoinesregister.com/story/money/agriculture/2015/04/18/non-gmo-farming/25951693/ Accessed September 24, 2018
6. Georgina Agustin. Factory Farms Put Climate at Risk, Experts Say in Urging Health Officials to Speak Out. Inside Climate News. www.google.com/amp/s/insideclimatenews.org/news/22052017/factory-farms-cafos-threaten-climate-change-world-heath-organization%3famp Accessed September 21, 2018
7. Jonathan Foley. It’s Time to Rethink America’s Corn System. Scientific American, March 2013. www.scientificamerican.com/article/time-to-rethink-corn Accessed September 25, 2018
8. Carol Hunter. Which Iowa Leader has Courage to take on Big Pork? Des Moines Register, March 2018. www.desmoinesregister.com/story/opinion/editorials/2018/03/22/cafo-iowa-reynolds-hogs-big-pork/448567002/ Accessed June 10, 2018
9. Donnelle Eller. Iowa could support 45,700 livestock confinements, but should it? Des Moines Register, March 2018. www.desmoinesregister.com/story/money/agriculture/2018/03/08/iowa-can-support-47-500-cafos-but-should/371440002/ Accessed June 10, 2018
10. Brian Bienkowski. My Number One Concern is Water”: As Hog Farms Grow in Size and Number, so do Iowa Water Problems. Environmental Health News, November 2017. www.ehn.org/water-pollution-hog-farming-2504466831.html Accessed June 10, 2018
11. Carolyn Raffensperger. Personal Correspondence. Summer 2017
12. Pesticide. How Products are Made.
www.madehow.com/Volume-1/Pesticide.html#ixzz5RgVgFnGK Accessed September 21, 2018
13. Lance Foster. Personal Correspondence. Summer 2018.
14. John Doershuk. Protecting Something Sacred. Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, March 2018. www.inhf.org/blog/blog/protecting-something-sacred/ Accessed June 10, 2018
The Second Amendment: A Sacred Covenant of Ethnic Cleansing and Slavery Between the Nation State and Settler Militias
Written by Christine Nobiss & Art by Jackie Fawn
Published March 20, 2018
There is a myth that has infiltrated the core of the American imagination. It is the belief that the Second Amendment is a result of the Revolutionary War, thus, a right to self-defense and to protect the country from any enemies that might arise. It is also believed that if the government fails to protect its citizens, the citizens have the right to revolt. However, the historical context that led to the creation of the Second Amendment is actually based on the process of land annexation and the mitigation of local populations through assimilation, genocide or slavery--much of which took place at the point of a gun. The colonists that built this country ousted the British for many reasons, but fundamentally, “what colonists considered oppressive was any restriction that British authorities put on them in regard to obtaining land.” (Dunbar-Ortiz, Loaded, 24)
The Second Amendment is actually a sacred religiopolitical covenant between the Nation State and the settlers of this continent that recognizes the fundamental ideology of land expansion through ethnic cleansing and slavery. It is nothing more than recognition that this country was founded on the actions of generations of Europeans with a maniacal lust for Indian killing and the control of Black people. Men were expected to bear arms (at one point it was the law) in order to protect themselves, their families, the State and the process of westward expansion. In essence, extreme violence was a god given right and an obligation of the average “citizen” that took on the singular role of a vigilante and that formed into small groups that cleared the way for the rise of the American government. The average citizen was a raider, a ranger, a frontiersmen, a marauder, a pirate and the average colony was a settler militia, an armed household, and a slave patrol.
The Nation State did not create the Second Amendment to protect its citizens from invasion but to allow its citizens to invade. It is written permission to continue on with the doctrine of discovery, manifest destiny, westward expansion, i.e., the work of the white supremacist. As Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz writes, “The astronomical number of firearms owned by US civilians, with the Second Amendment considered a sacred mandate, is also intricately related to militaristic culture and white nationalism. The militias referred to in the second amendment were intended as a means for white people to eliminate Indigenous communities in order to take their land, and for slave patrols to control Black people.” (Dunbar-Ortiz, Loaded, 57)
This violent approach to Indigenous and Black populations is still practiced in current day American society. For instance, Native Americans have the highest police murder rate per ethnic group in the country and the vast majority of these deaths are through the use of a firearm. According to a CNN review of the Center for Diseases Control, “for every 1 million Native Americans, an average of 2.9 of them died annually from 1999 to 2015 as a result of a legal intervention”. For the Black population the number is 2.6, for the Latinx it is 1.7, for Whites it is 0.9 and for Asians it is 0.6. This is a startling statistic because Native Americans only make up 0.9% of the population. However, these deaths are probably under reported just like the other epidemics that Native Americans face, such as missing and murdered women, abuse, rape, stalking, runaway children and violence committed by non-tribal members. According to Matthew Fletcher, director of the Indigenous Law and Policy Center, “The data available likely does not capture all Native American deaths in police encounters due to people of mixed race and a relatively large homeless population that is not on the grid." (CNN)
The notion that there is a rise in gun violence in this country is actually a misunderstanding of history. There was just a period in time in the late 19th and early 20th century where guns were not essential for the coercive control of brown people as the government had created reservation internment camps and implemented Jim Crow laws to segregate “problem populations”. However, the rise of the NRA, gun lobbying and the mass production of automatic weapons tied to a long held gun fetish in the American imagination has given white supremacists updated permission to dust off their ancestors weapon of choice and reenact the violence that this country was founded upon. America is a young country and lacks a distinct culture of its own, but one thing is certain--Americans covet their sacred right to free real estate, cheap labor and the gun, thus, the Second Amendment is but permission to steal, kill and dominate in order to fulfill this expectation.