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How Cherilyn Spears Moved Red Lake Nation to Food Sovereignty

Cherilyn Spears grew up at the Red Lake Nation in north central Minnesota. An enrolled member of the Nation, she has early memories of her family practicing food sovereignty. "My parents and grandparents, aunts, uncles, and neighbors all had gardens. My parents had all of us out there weeding and harvesting. I didn't think of it as food sovereignty - it was [just] what we did every summer. All my grandparents' grandkids spent a lot of time at their fish camp. We ate deer meat, fish, wild rice, and plenty of vegetables all year."

Photo Whitney Ru Photography LLC

Then Spears moved to the Twin Cities to seek employment and attend college. "I tried to feed my kids healthy food, but with all the fast food available and the limited amount of time [I had] while working and going to college, I didn't always cook good food." After ten years in the city, she moved back to Red Lake to be close to family.

Spears worked as the tribe's project coordinator for economic development for nine years. In 2015, the tribe held a community engagement meeting. Questions raised included: "Why are we transporting food here when we have all this land [to grow it]?"

Photo Whitney Ru Photography LLC

Spears was tasked by her supervisor to bring bison to the tribe and to grow hemp and food for the people. For Spears, it was like a dream come true; she had always envisioned a project like this.


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