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Dream of wild health

IN THE COMMUNITY

Garden Warriors at the Four Sisters Farmers Market, left to right, back row: Nicole, Chef Brian Yazzie and Tristan. Bottom: Belen, Zoey and Callista.

Meet St. Croix Ojibwe member Neely M. Snyder, who works as the executive director at Dream of Wild Health.

How did you get involved in Dream of Wild Health? 

Snyder: I’ve always been a huge fan of Dream of Wild Health. I have volunteered at the farm, and was always impressed with the youth leaders doing good work in the community. It is my passion to work toward building stronger, healthier Native communities. 

What is this organization important? 

Dream of Wild Health works to restore health and well-being in the Native community by recovering knowledge of and access to healthy Indigenous foods, medicines and lifeways. This is important to our community because health inequities in Native American communities are the result of intentional efforts to displace Native people from historical land and to erase traditional culture and languages, and replace healthy, indigenous foods with government-rationed commodity foods. This has greatly impacted the spiritual, emotional, physical, and mental health of Native people for generations. Dream of Wild Health is restoring health in the community by: Creating culturally-based opportunities for youth employment, entrepreneurship and leadership; Increasing access to indigenous foods through farm production, sales and distribution; and Community outreach and education around reclaiming cultural traditions, healthy indigenous food, cooking skills, and nutrition. 

Why are gardening and foraging and cooking valuable skills? 

We know that food is medicine. Dream of Wild Health is building mechanisms to improve the health and future of Native people. The creativity, innovation and vision of the Native American community is resulting in changes that are being initiated by young leaders and supported by seasoned elders as we create a future for our children. Dream of Wild Health teaches valuable life lessons and employment skills to youth through various programs and community outreach.

In what ways are you making a difference in the lives of the youth participants?  

Dream of Wild Health’s Native Youth Education and Leadership Programs provide culturally based lessons for youth, ages 8-18, most of whom come from low-income inner-city families. The farm provides a safe and creative learning environment where they learn about organic gardening, healthy foods, and Native traditions while gaining employment and leadership skills. Staff also provide community outreach and education opportunities to youth and families of all ages.

What are participants most surprised about when they go through this program? 

Our younger youth are often afraid to join our program. That is, until they arrive at the farm for programming. The farm provides a safe and creative learning environment where they learn about organic gardening, healthy foods, and Native traditions while gaining employment and leadership skills. They are often surprised at how happy weeding the garden makes them feel. Dream of Wild Health promotes continuation of programming for youth through their teenage years providing additional support and educational opportunities, including internships at the farm.  

Save the date for the Third Annual Indigenous Food Tasting, hosted in partnership with the Indigenous Food Network (IFN), is an event rooted in community, bringing Indigenous chefs, food entrepreneurs, and youth together for a night of tasting our indigenous foods. Join us on Indigenous People’s Day, Monday, Oct. 14 from 5-7 p.m. at the Minneapolis American Indian Center. Meal prepared by The Sioux Chef team, Wildbearies Catering (Elena Terry), Native Food Perspectives (Christina White), and more indigenous chefs to come.

Learn more at dreamofwildhealth.org.

Compiled by Tesha M. Christensen

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