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Native American Dakota Tribes Fighting High Prices, Poor Food Quality

There’s only one grocery store on the reservation, says Lisa Hope-Heth, but she refuses to shop there

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Tribal Dakota people riding horses, courtesy: Wikimedia commons
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South Dakota, March 25: South Dakota’s Crow Creek Indian Reservation is home to the descendants of the Dakota people, who thrived in Minnesota before they were forced onto the reservation in the 1860s. Crow Creek sits in the center of the state along the Missouri River, and its more than 1,000 square kilometers stretch across three of the poorest counties in the United States.

There’s only one grocery store on the reservation, says Lisa Hope-Heth, but she refuses to shop there.

“A lot of the prices are too high. Some of the meat is not always fresh. And the bread – you know how in some larger stores when bread doesn’t sell and it gets stale, they take it off the shelf? I sometimes think that we get that bread.”

She once worked as a meat cutter, so she knows old hamburger when she sees it. She also recognizes when meat that has been sitting on the shelf too long is reground with slightly fresher meat, then repackaged and put back on the shelf for sale.

When Hope-Heth needs groceries, she must either drive 40 kilometers south to the town of Chamberlain or 100 kilometers northwest to Pierre.

“For people that do not have vehicles, they don’t have that choice,” she said. “They have to go to the local places. If they want to go farther, they have to hire somebody to take them. And they’ll either have to pay $50 for gas for the ride or pay in EBTs and groceries.”

EBTs, she explains, are electronic benefits transfers. The U.S. government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program provides food benefits to low-income individuals and families. These are transferred electronically and accessed via a plastic credit card.

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On Crow Creek and elsewhere in Indian Country, EBTs are used like currency to pay for favors or services. And this means that beneficiaries often run out of food money before the month is up.

In 2014, in an effort to eliminate food insecurity among First Peoples, the First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) began a year-long study on food pricing. They recruited volunteers to monitor prices of basic food commodities such as milk, bread, ground beef and eggs on eight reservations across the country.

“What we found was that the price of food was higher, which is a funny thing, since reservation communities have much lower income and are much more likely to be in poverty,” said A-dae Romero-Briones, an associate director of research and policy for Native Agriculture at FNDI.

At the time of the study, for example, a gallon (3.79 liters) of milk was priced an average of $3.76 in urban centers across America, but one South Dakota grocery store, was charging a dollar more. Similarly, a store in New Mexico was charging Cochiti Pueblo people nearly $1.50 more than the national average price for a loaf of bread.

“We are now in the process of trying to figure out why this is,” Romero-Briones said. “Price tells us a whole lot of different things about the market. The cost of shipping food to remote areas is one likely culprit.”

That may, in part, explain the dearth of fresh fruits and vegetables on Crow Creek.

“You can usually find potatoes, apples or tomatoes,” said Tally Monteau-Colombe, executive director of Hunkpati Investment, a nonprofit group that works to eliminate poverty on Crow Creek. “That’s what they call ‘fresh food.’” Everything else comes in cans.

The Crow Creek tribe, with help from the U.S Department of Health and Human Services’ Indian Health Service, provides diabetic tribal members $10 vouchers every month to buy vegetables.

“But if they have to pay $4.39 for a pound (.45 kg) of tomatoes, that $10 doesn’t go far,” Monteau-Columbe said.

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‘Weapon of health destruction’

When Native Americans were driven from their homelands, they lost control of healthful and complex food systems that had sustained them for tens of thousands of years. The U.S. Army provided them with basic commodities — refined wheat flour, salt, sugar and lard, ingredients that were alien to Native diets but went on to become fry bread, a salty, fried dough that is found on reservations across the country, what Romero-Briones calls a “weapon of health destruction.”

“I love the stuff – in moderation, of course. And it speaks to the ingenuity of the grandmas who figured out how to make worthless flour, salt, and lard from commodity baskets into something we now charge $5 or more for at public gatherings,” she said.

Today, at least one third of Native Americans live on reservations and depend on government-issued commodities and inexpensive packaged food, high in fat, salt and chemicals, which has contributed to alarming rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

Alarmed, Crow Creek, like many tribal communities across the country, is now working to regain control of its food supply. Hunkpati last year launched a fresh food initiative on the reservation to get the community to grow its own produce and promote healthier eating.

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“We set up a community garden and orchard, which we hoped would be enough to sustain the community, and hired local youth to take care of the garden,” said Monteau-Columbe.

For a while, the garden thrived, but when funding ran short, they could no longer afford to pay for its upkeep.

“Now it’s defunct. But we still kept the orchard going,” she said.

Today, the tribe is able to harvest its own chokecherries and wild plums, staples of the traditional Dakota diet. Hunkpati has held classes to teach tribe members how to make traditional foods, like wochapi, a thick berry sauce served with game or fry bread, and wasna, a pounded mix of lean dried meat, chokecherries and grains. Portable and packed with protein and natural sugar, it was a mainstay of the original Dakota diet.

The Crow Creek Fresh Food Initiative also provides support to food entrepreneurs and others who want to grow their own food by providing garden kits and plowing and tilling services. It hosts a farmer’s market, selling locally-grown produce at affordable prices, even accepting EBT cards instead of cash. And this summer, thanks to new funding, the group hopes to be able to construct a series of raised-bed vegetable gardens and, if they are really lucky, build a community greenhouse. (VOA)

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The Truth About The Killing Of Khashoggi Will Be Revealed By The Turkish President

Amnesty International called on Saudi Arabia to "immediately produce" Khashoggi's body so an autopsy can be performed.

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, delivers a speech at supporters in Istanbul. VOA

Saudi Arabia says Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman spoke Monday by telephone with the son of slain journalist Jamal Khashoggi to express condolences for the killing.

Khashoggi died after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey on October 2.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is vowing to reveal details about the case in a Tuesday speech to his parliament.

He told an Istanbul rally Sunday, “We are looking for justice here and this will be revealed in all its naked truth, not through some ordinary steps.”

Erdogan spoke to U.S. President Donald Trump by telephone Sunday. Turkey’s state-run news agency said both leaders agree the Khashoggi case needs to be “cleared up with all aspects.”

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(FILE)- Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. VOA

Saudi Arabia called Khashoggi’s killing inside its Istanbul consulate “a huge and grave mistake” and vowed those responsible for it would be held accountable.

Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told Fox News Sunday that Saudi agents “did this out of the scope of their authority,” calling it “a rogue operation.”

The top Saudi diplomat offered his condolences to Khashoggi’s family, but disclosed no new information about how the writer was killed, where his body is or if Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — the country’s de facto ruler – was involved.

“There obviously was a tremendous mistake made and what compounded the mistake was the attempt to try to cover up,” al-Jubeir said. “That is unacceptable in any government.”

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Saudi Arabi’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir. VOA

Saudi Arabia claims the 59-year-old Khashoggi was killed October 2 after an argument leading to a fist fight — an explanation that has drawn widespread international scorn and skepticism, including from Trump. After he initially seemed willing to believe Saudi accounts, the president now says “obviously there has been deception, and there has been lies.”

Al-Jubeir said in the Fox television interview, “This is an aberration. This is a mistake and those responsible will be punished for it. We want to make sure that we know what happened and we want to make sure that those responsible be held to account.” Saudi Arabia says it has fired five key officials linked to the death and arrested 18 others.

Critics are questioning how a team of 15 Saudi agents could fly to Istanbul to meet Khashoggi and eventually kill him without the crown prince’s knowledge and consent. But al-Jubeir said, “There were not people closely tied to him,” although news accounts have said that several Saudi security officials close to Mohammed were involved.

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This image taken from CCTV video obtained by the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet and made available on Oct. 9, 2018 claims to show Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. VOA

Khashoggi was living in the U.S. in self-imposed exile, writing columns for The Washington Post that were critical of Mohammed and Saudi Arabia’s intervention in the conflict in Yemen.

Trump told the Post that Saudi Arabia has been an “incredible ally” of the United States for decades and it is possible the crown prince did not order Saudi agents to kill Khashoggi.

“Nobody has told me he is responsible. Nobody has told me he is not responsible,” the U.S. leader said. “We have not reached that point…I would love if he was not responsible.”

Numerous U.S. lawmakers, including Trump’s Republican colleagues, are calling for sanctions against the Saudis. Turkish investigators say Saudi agents tortured Khashoggi, decapitated him and then dismembered his body.

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In a frame from surveillance camera footage taken Oct. 2, 2018, and published Oct. 18, 2018, by Turkish newspaper Sabah, a man identified by Turkish officials as Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, walks toward the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. VOA

Trump told the Post that “something will take place” in response to Khashoggi’s death, but said the United States should not let the incident disrupt a possible $110 billion weapons sale to Riyadh he announced last year.

“It’s the largest order in history,” Trump said. “To give that up would hurt us far more than it hurts them. Then all they’ll do is go to Russia or go to China. All that’s doing is hurting us.”

But one Trump supporter, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, told Fox “I don’t think arms should ever be seen as a jobs program.”

Other U.S. lawmakers voiced skepticism of the Saudi explanation for Khashoggi’s death.

Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told CNN he believes Mohammed bin Salman was responsible, saying, “Yes, I think he did it.”

 

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President Donald Trump talks to reporters about journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance prior to boarding Air Force One for travel to Montana from Joint Base Andrews, Md. VOA

A Trump critic, Democratic California Congressman Adam Schiff, told ABC News, “This ought to be a relationship-altering event for the U.S. and Saudi Arabia that we ought to suspend military sales, we ought to suspend certain security assistance.”

U.S. officials are faced with reconciling the Saudi explanation for Khashoggi’s death and Turkey’s claim an audio recording exists of Khashoggi’s torture and death. Trump denies U.S. officials have heard the audio or read transcripts of it, but the Post quoted sources saying that Central Intelligence Agency officials have listened to the audio. Verification of it would make it difficult to accept the Saudi explanation for Khashoggi’s death.

European leaders and the human rights group Amnesty International expressed skepticism about the Saudi explanation.

Britain, Germany and France issued a joint statement condemning the killing of Khashoggi and said there is an “urgent need for clarification of exactly what happened.” They said the Saudi explanation for the journalist’s death needs to be supported by facts in order to be credible.

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the circumstances around Khashoggi’s death are deeply troubling, and called for a thorough, credible and transparent investigation.

Amnesty International called on Saudi Arabia to “immediately produce” Khashoggi’s body so an autopsy can be performed.

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Amnesty’s director of campaigns for the Middle East, Samah Hadid, said a United Nations investigation would be necessary to avoid a “Saudi whitewash” of the circumstances surrounding Khashoggi’s death. Hadid said such a cover-up may have been done to preserve Saudi Arabia’s international business ties. (VOA)