Food Gathering, First Foods and Food Sovereignty

Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs Elders reflecting on Food Gathering, First Foods and Food Sovereignty

Resource Guide for Educators


This document is a resource for educators, at multiple grade levels, who might want to use First Foods: Roots and Berries with Warm Springs Traditional Gatherers, which features knowledge holders and culture keepers from The Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs discussing food gathering, First Foods and food sovereignty.


Tribal History, Shared History Curriculum Overview:
The Oregon Department of Education (ODE) offers a helpful overview of Tribal History, Shared History, which began as Senate Bill 13. As ODE states:

“Native Americans lived in this state long before it became Oregon. How can we teach youth about Oregon history without including the voice of Oregon’s Native American peoples – both past and present? This general lack of knowledge about Native American people extends to curricula – thus SB 13: Tribal History / Shared History. Currently, ODE includes required teaching about Native Americans in ODE’s Social Studies State Standards. Tribal History / Shared History will create opportunities to expand those requirements across multiple content areas.”

The overview website also offers updates and training opportunities.

A note on terminology: The Tribal History/Shared History Essential Understandings of Native Americans in Oregon notes that “the terms American Indian, Native American, Tribal, First Nations, Native, Indigenous, and Indian are all acceptable in varied settings and can invite important discussion.” It also reminds us that it is “important to be tribally specific whenever possible.” The Burke Museum offers some helpful suggestions for teaching about Native peoples, including suggestions regarding terminology.

Tribal History, Shared History Lesson Plans: 
The lesson plans listed below discuss food gathering, First Foods and food sovereignty:

Guiding Questions:
Our goal with these guiding questions is to encourage students to make connections between the material in the film and the Tribal History/Shared History Essential Understandings of Native Americans in Oregon. We encourage you to adjust these questions to fit your grade level and students. As a part of the discussion, it may be helpful to review the Essential Understanding with your students. We also encourage you to refer to Essential Understandings frequently and to ground your lessons in them.

  • Essential Understanding 7: Language.
    1. The film begins with Radine “Deanie” Johnson singing, and later you hear Valerie Switzler introduce herself in the Kiksht language. What are some of the reasons that it is significant for members of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs to sing and speak in Native languages, such as Kiksht?
  • Essential Understanding 5: Identity. As this Essential Understanding reminds us, “Identity defines one’s understanding of who he or she is. Native American identities are alive, vibrant, and diverse. There is no singular Native American identity.”
    1. Radine Johnson reflects on the ways that she expresses her Wasq’u identity through food gathering. How does she do this?
    2. Why is it important to keep in mind that “there is no singular Native American identity?” How can this idea shape the way we talk about groups of people and identities?
    3. What does it mean for identities to be “alive, vibrant, and diverse?” How does this relate to your identity and how you understand yourself?
  • Essential Understanding 2: Sovereignty. The Essential Understanding reminds us that “Regardless of federal policy, sovereignty is inherent to tribes. The act of being a sovereign is the right to live a life according to traditions and it can be impacted by federal recognition but is not defined by it.”
    1. What are examples of tribes exercising their sovereignty? In what ways is food gathering an expression of sovereignty?
    2. The presence of foods to gather is also linked to land management? How are tribes expressing sovereignty through land management?
    3. As defined by the “trust doctrine,” the “federal government owes obligations to tribes and has a responsibility to fulfill its commitments established through treaties and provisions of the U.S. Constitution.” How did The Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs reserve their right to gather food through the Treaty of 1855? You may find it helpful to refer to Essential Understanding 8: Treaties with the United States.

Additional information on food gathering, First Foods and food sovereignty:

When looking for resources about tribal nations, start by looking at tribes’ websites and the websites of Native-led organizations. Many misconceptions about Native people continue to circulate. It is important to look to Native culture keepers and knowledge holders, tribes and Native-led organizations to learn more about Native people — as much as possible, learn about the history and culture of specific tribes, rather than making generalizations. Before using a resource in the classroom, spend time learning about the people and organizations behind the resource.

  • See the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation’sFirst Foods Upland Vision for an overview of First Foods. This article also discusses the CTUIR’s First Foods Management Framework.
  • The Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission coordinates management policy and provides fisheries technical services for the Yakama, Warm Springs, Umatilla, and Nez Perce tribes. Their mission is “to ensure a unified voice in the overall management of the fishery resources, and as managers, to protect reserved treaty rights through the exercise of the inherent sovereign powers of the tribes.”
  • For a discussion of First Foods and how Plateau Tribes are addressing climate change by focusing on First Foods, see this video on the Columbia River.
  • Learn more about Tribal History, Shared History  by taking the SB13 Tribal History/Shared History Professional Development Courses.
  • An panel discussion broadcast on The Warm Springs Program featuring a discussion of the film Gather, “an intimate portrait of the growing movement amongst Native Americans to reclaim their spiritual, political and cultural identities through food sovereignty, while battling the trauma of centuries of genocide.”
  • For a discussion of the importance of camas, see the Confluence Project article by Mary Rose, Important Foods: Camas.
  • The “Finding Our Roots: Indigenous Foods and the Food Sovereignty Movement in the United States” lesson from the Indian Education Division of the Montana Office of Public Instruction, includes a helpful definition of food sovereignty as well as additional resources.
  • For a discussion of the larger movement for food sovereignty, which includes many community-based organizations, see the U.S. Food Sovereignty Alliance.

Banner photo courtesy of Deanie Johnson.

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