Ya’a’teeh! My name is Wynette. I am a psychology and sociology major at Occidental College in Los Angeles, California. I am interning at the Diné Policy Institute at Diné College, a tribal institute located in Tsaile, Arizona on the Navajo Nation.
While applying for the internship, I was not aware that I would be working on a very interesting topic aimed at implementing a food policy into the Navajo tribal government. My internship is research-based and geared toward finding background information about the benefits of local agriculture for the Navajo Nation communities and its impact on health, economic, cultural and other social factors. This internship’s goal is to provide the research information for Diné Policy Institute and Land Grant Office.
I recently became interested in the social relations of the production, distribution, preparation, and consumption of food after taking a course called Sociology of Food in my sophomore year of college. I did not realize the importance of food because it has become a commodity that is taken for granted. In doing this internship, Diné Policy Institute will use the information I find to continue during more in-depth research, both qualitative and quantitative, on the Navajo Nation, about what types of food people buy, where they buy it from, and how far they travel to buy it. The information I find will hopefully identify connecting topics of food, culture, and society by identifying issues related to inequality, racial/ethnic identity, class, work and family, the environment, and cultural change.
As a Diné woman, I am learning a lot about the importance of food to my people and how little healthy food is provided to the community.
Navajos have survived for centuries using agricultural means to feed their family, so it is only fitting that we put it back into our culture and pass on traditional food knowledge to the next generation. Like language, traditional foods and the cultural and spiritual knowledge is slowly being lost. With the implementation of the food policy the Diné Policy Institute hopes to establish, we would like to change the Navajo Nation from a food desert to a community system that provides for itself. Becoming a food sovereign nation is a step that is important to continue the traditions of our people.
Part of my internship requires that I work with the Land Grant Office, a community-based organization that develops and coordinates projects designed to improve agricultural development, livestock development, and environmental resources. Although, I will be working mostly with the Diné Policy Institute, I will also help the Land Grant Office take care of the community garden and other outdoor tasks. I will also be attending some workshops or conferences related to the research paper. This internship will also give me experience in a Diné professional work setting where teamwork is a must, and a chance to work with other bright, well-rounded individuals committed to helping the Diné people.
After graduating I plan to return to the reservation to work before entering graduate school. This internship will help me make connections and assess my goals and ways of helping my people. I have grown up on the reservation and never really noticed the social issues until I moved away. There are many problems on reservations across the country and college students like me should give back to the reservation community in which they grew up. This internship is the beginning of a reciprocal relationship to my reservation and culture.