By James Skeet, Founder Covenant Pathways and Spirit Farm
I heard a story when I was young, regarding the epic battle between a bear and a badger:
One day a young boy, hunting small game in the thick ponderosa and oak trees, heard the crashing of limbs and the growling of animals nearby. The boy cautiously crept over to investigate. By the time he had discovered the two animals, they had fought to the death, each locked in a bloody embrace. The much smaller badger had blinded the larger bear, his jaws still locked on the snout of the bear. The bear had clawed the badger to death.
This story recently came to mind in light of this global pandemic as indigenous people mourn the losses of relatives, all across our nation and, especially, on the sacred lands of our people. I recall the historical struggles of many native people who did not fear the bullets of the Europeans, but rather feared the diseases spread by the Europeans into the West.
Once again, we are confronted by a foreign disease brought into our lands. This time it is no respecter of persons. And in a show of force, the inequities and injustices, laced hidden in our world, have surfaced. The pandemic has generated the Perfect Storm on the Navajo Nation. Poor health combined with poor food quality is exasperated by corrupt political and health systems. Our ill health, as indigenous people, began with diseases spread by Europeans; continued with low-grade and low-nutrient commodity foods handed out by the federal government and ultimately resulting in diabetes, hypertension, cancer and more.
This Perfect Storm is much like the battle of the bear and the badger. But what was unique and profound was the way the badger was true to his nature and was able to fight to the very end. It is time for the natives to fight as badgers against the bears of unjust systems.
The causalities we see with the Navajo Nation is a gap of inadequacy in our health care and political systems to self-direct and solve our health crisis. Native people do not have the true right to drive their own health and political systems in a way that truly allows creative outcomes.
Let me explain: when you take away an entire people’s way of life by putting them on reservations and expecting them to become a people imagined by a foreign government, they fail. The colonization of our Navajo nation has damaged and hampered our imagination as native people to be self-reliant. As a result, we struggle to do for ourselves, to find our way out of ill health, and to rise above poverty. Consequently, we have become passive recipients to government and faith-based-community handouts.
Our migration at Covenant Pathways and Spirit Farm has led us to this point in time, of utmost importance, to share our ideas about farming, gardening, and ranching in what is happening all around us. During the last 5 years, since my wife and I tossed our corporate jobs to the wind, we have positioned ourselves perfectly to survive the pandemic storms by moving into a self-sufficient lifestyle and, more importantly, towards healing ourselves. We have been transformed and can now challenge the very system and way of life that has been so destructive and inadequate to our purpose in life.
We have growers in New Mexico and Arizona that are looking to us for advice and support. Our work has been to demonstrate and teach techniques that are local and regenerative in nature. We try very hard to tie indigenous cosmology into the picture and to help each farmer re-imagine their way of life and mimic the self-sufficiency of our ancestors. In order to accomplish self-sufficiency in manageable steps, each farmer will realize the potential to break the cycle of outside dependency on governmental handouts.
When growers eat their own food and know from where their foods originate, something in their minds and hearts begin to change and the Native people begin the journey back to their own center. They find their true identity of what it means to be Indigenous. Our job at Spirit Farm is to tickle the DNA hidden in their nature and to resurface a powerful rebirth of regenerative self.
We also see our community desiring to eat healthy, nutrient-dense foods. Meats from grass-fed pigs, turkeys, chickens, sheep, and cattle have higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids that are healing and bring higher levels of nutrition. The omega-3s reduce and balance out the super-high levels of omega-6s that are overly abundant in low-cost affordable meats from the grain-fed animals permeating the market. While omega-6 is healthy when in moderation, too many omega-6 fatty acids cause inflammation and chronic disease. The omegas-3s were once very prevalent in the days of our Navajo history, with sheep as the primary economy and primary meat consumed. In order to get farmers and ranchers to see the potential, we demonstrate regenerative grazing techniques at Spirit Farm, through mob grazing and the use of cover crops. We show our people the possibility, and spark the imagination, to accomplish the desire of their hearts. Our food can become medicine again.
To break the cycle of dependency, we do not need more food with low-levels of nutrition nor more synthetic medications that carry long-term side effects and leave the Indian Health Service unchallenged. Our people have not had a say in how our health sovereignties can be directed or steered. By raising up farmers and ranchers to tackle climate change with regenerative farming techniques, we also make strides to demount from a dependency-based economy and return to a regenerative-economy that helps our indigenous people.
Will you support our vision for the Navajo people?
We have native growers, homesteaders, and ranchers willing to take on the task. The Navajos, because of the pandemic, have become DIY Navajos: Do-It-Yourself natives. Will you support our vision for the Navajo people? DIY Navajos need your support NOW:
- DIY Compost Warriors need stiff wire, chicken wire, pallets and organic material to start thermal composting bins: $60 each.
- DIY Garden Scouts need fencing materials and garden kits with a full supply of Navajo rich compost and mulch: $250
- DIY Chicken Coopers need fencing, coop buildings and labor to set up 5 hens and 1 rooster: $350
- DIY Navajo Pig Cowboys need pig panels, shelter, 2 sows and 1 boar: $500
- DIY Navajo Sheep Farmers need fencing for corral, shelter, 3 ewes, and 1 ram to get them started: $650
We have already provided materials for 18 DIY Garden Scouts and Chicken Coopers this spring and have been amazed with the eagerness and response. Covenant Pathways provides the materials and the DIY Navajos do all the work to start their projects and keep them maintained, supported and mentored by Garden Headmen and Headwomen who have been trained in Soil Life Farming.