Feature

Including Disabled Parents Is Key to Universal Child Care

Last week, Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) introduced the Child Care for Working Families Act, which is intended to improve affordability, access, and quality for child care in the United States. Along with a proposal being floated by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), it’s opening up a much-needed conversation about child care in America that will hopefully extend far beyond this legislation.

One of the most exciting elements of the bill is its explicit callouts of disability, acknowledging the fact that 17 percent of children in America have disabilities and need child care too — but can face barriers to inclusion.

The United States is facing a dual problem of scarcity and unaffordability when it comes to child care. 83 percent of parents with children under age five report difficulty locating affordable child care of sufficient quality in their area. Challenges with paying for child care or finding a suitable provider are pulling parents out of the workforce or leading some people to reconsider parenting altogether.

Common threads in Warren’s Universal Child Care and Murray and Scott’s Early Learning Act and the Child Care for Working Families Act include increasing compensation for child care providers; making child care free or low-cost, depending on income; and investing in quality improvements across the board. But Murray and Scott’s bill is comprehensive and inclusive: It extends services beyond child care centers and into homes and communities, addresses care from birth through age 13 for all children and up to age 18 for disabled children, and invests in full-day, full-year programming to accommodate parents with varying schedules and those who need child care services in the summer.

The disability inclusion in Murray and Scott’s bill — which includes funding for activities such as making sure facilities getting government money are accessible and providing training to staff so they can better serve disabled kids and their parents — builds on the work of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. It positions such funding as a routine part of meeting quality standards — something society tends to view as “special treatment” or a “burden.” Everyone in America deserves access to child care that meets the needs of their children, and that includes disabled children, who can be excluded by inaccessible facilities, poorly trained staff, and other barriers.

As long as child care is under discussion, though, it is worth addressing the fact that disability isn’t an issue limited to children and while these bills are an excellent start, we should also be looking to the future. Disabled children grow up and build families of their own ­— 6.2 percent of parents are disabled, and disability is more common in black and brown parents — and those families, in turn, will need access to child care. Sometimes that means care for disabled children of disabled adults, and sometimes it’s care for nondisabled children of disabled adults.

“You really need [child care providers] to be on your team,” explained Dr. Kara Ayers, Associate Director at the University of Cincinnati Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities. Ayers is the co-founder of the Disabled Parenting Project, which studies the experiences of parents with disabilities. As part of her research, she said she sees issues like inaccessible restrooms and “just one step” entrances — doorways where a single step is all that lies between wheelchair users and entry — are common at the facilities she visits.

Mandated reporters, people legally required to report possible abuse and neglect to the authorities, may have limited experience with disabled parents. Attitudes about disability may lead mandated reporters to be concerned about disabled parents’ capability. This is an issue with doctors, social workers, and teachers, and Dr. Ayers has found that it can appear in child care as well, an issue that raises personal concerns. “If I come in and these people are weirded out,” Ayers added, “one person could decide my daughter is not safe with me and one call could start that process.”

Comprehensive access to child care must be inclusive of disabled parents.

Ayers speaks to a looming worry in the disability community: In every state, it is legal to weigh parental disability when making determinations about whether to remove a child from a home, on the argument that the parent must be “unfit.” According to a 2012 National Council on Disability study, removal rates climb as high as 80 percent in cases of intellectually disabled or mentally ill parents involved in custody fights.

Disabled parents, said Ayers, worry about admitting that they need help or having to explain that services and supports are not a good fit for them, and that hooks directly into the child care conversation — if disabled people are nervous about communicating their needs, it’s challenging to make necessary recommendations.

Comprehensive access to child care, whether accomplished legislatively or through rulemaking, must be inclusive of disabled parents. For example, funds for increasing accessibility could also be used for continuing education classes to familiarize child care providers with the disability community. For disabled parents, adaptive parenting classes –  which teach people how to navigate parenting with a disability with tips on topics like handling a baby while using a wheelchair and using braille-embossed flashcards to teach sighted children to read – could be made more readily available for expecting or newly-disabled parents through expanded funding.

Likewise, parenting equipment should be made more readily available and affordable through existing systems that already connect disabled people with adaptive tools that help them lead independent lives, such as independent living centers, community programs for new parents of all ability levels, Medicaid, and occupational therapy programs.

The United States should also consider what constitutes “activities of daily living,” the tasks that personal assistants can provide for their clients, currently defined by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services using a model followed by many private insurance providers. The agency’s current definition includes things such as toileting, preparing meals, cleaning, and a wide range of other activities — but most parents would argue they should include parenting, too.

A government-funded personal care assistant “cannot do anything for child care,” said Keith Jones, president of Soul Touchin’ experiences, a community empowerment and policy advocacy group. Jones learned to change diapers with his feet as a new parent worried about being deemed unfit, and commented that it’s ludicrous to ask a personal assistant to “just ignore” a child who clearly needs attention.

As it stands now, Ayers explained, aides may not be allowed to help disabled parents, depending on the terms of their contract. If a baby is crying for attention, they can’t pick them up for a cuddle. If a parent needs help getting a child into a high chair for a meal, they can’t ask their aide for an assist. Explicitly including parenting as an ADL, says Ayers, could help disabled parents and kids alike — and it’s possible to have safeguards for those worried about parents abusing their aides as child care providers.  A regulatory change initiated by CMS could be the most effective way to address this shortcoming.

The growing understanding that child care must be a part of progressive movements is heartening to see, and it’s encouraging that lawmakers like Murray and Scott are exploring disability issues as they develop new policy. Including disability from the start in ambitious proposals like these makes it easier to build on them, creating more equity and justice for the disability community.

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Analysis

The Sprint T-Mobile Merger Could Mean Higher Cell Phone Bills for Low-Income Americans

Sprint and T-Mobile want to turn the big four in America’s wireless market into the big three, merging into a “New T-Mobile.” The two telecom giants tried to pull off the same move in 2014, until regulators made it clear the deal would be blocked to avoid further consolidation in an already heavily concentrated market.

Sensing a Trump-selected Federal Communications Commission Chair would be more open to creating corporate behemoths, and with the threat of “falling behind” on 5G wireless technology in hand, the two firms are taking another crack at the deal. A decision from the FCC is expected sometime this year. (In an attempt to ensure a better result this time, T-Mobile has taken to spending a lot of money at the Trump hotel in D.C.)

The average American is at no less risk from the merger this time around, but if it’s approved the fallout will hit low-income Americans especially hard.

In the words of the economists hired by T-Mobile and Sprint to defend the merger, low-income individuals “more heavily rely on their smartphone for their communications and media consumption,” and therefore will have little choice but to swallow any price increases following the merger. Commenting on the potential impact on low-income individuals at a recent hearing, Phillip Berenbroick of Public Knowledge said the combined firm “will have the power and incentives to raise prices on consumers who are reliant on that connection and have nowhere else to go.”

This is especially concerning given T-Mobile and Sprint’s customers are more likely to be black, Hispanic, and low-income when compared to AT&T or Verizon. In a sense, T-Mobile’s economists were saying the quiet part loud: the “New T-Mobile” would have the ability to raise prices, and knows that they have a vulnerable group of consumers who would be forced to absorb those increases.

Almost all mergers come with worries about whether the merged corporation will increase prices — a concern that is increasingly supported by empirical analysis. Fewer competitors means consumers have fewer alternatives when their provider decides to throw an extra zero on the end of their bill. What’s more, competitors in concentrated markets tend to get cozier with each other, and thus less likely to compete on price in the first place.

Evidence from Austria, the Netherlands and Canada show that the move from four to three firms in the wireless space can lead to drastically higher prices. In Austria, smartphone consumers saw their phone bills rise 50 to 90 percent following the 2012 “four-to-three” merger of H3G Austria and Orange Austria.

The thrust of T-Mobile and Sprint’s argument for the merger is that less is more: They claim that the number of choices for a wireless provider isn’t going down from four to three, but actually going up from two to three. In their telling, T-Mobile and Sprint are the underdogs up against Verizon and AT&T, which hold a combined 70 percent of the wireless market.

But there is a real threat of reduced choice and increased prices that low-income Americans would disproportionately bear.

Although they are smaller players in the overall wireless market, T-Mobile and Sprint play an outsized role in the way many low-income Americans access telecommunications services. The combined firm would hold a 59 percent share of the prepaid wireless market, comprised mainly of low-income Americans unable to qualify for the credit checks required for postpaid plans. This kind of market share would reduce competitive options for the 97 million consumers who depend on prepaid plans and give the “New T-Mobile” immense power in setting prices across the market.

There is currently vigorous price competition for prepaid customers between T-Mobile and Sprint, which would evaporate as soon as the merger was approved. In evaluating the potential harms of the merger, economists submitting comments to the Federal Communications Commission estimated “New T-Mobile” could raise prepaid prices by as much as 15 percent.

A wireless telecommunications market comprised of three giants would be disastrous for low-income consumers.

Beyond their reliance on prepaid wireless plans, low-income individuals are also more likely to rely solely on wireless service for internet. T-Mobile’s hired economists noted that “consumers with higher incomes may be more likely to offload to wi-fi or to consume media … through a broadband connection,” but low-income consumers are more likely to be “cord-cutters,” who are unable to afford multiple modes of connectivity. In 2018, Pew research found that low-income Americans were three times as likely as high-income Americans to own a smartphone while having no home internet connection.

This suggests that while higher-income consumers would be able to shift the type of internet they are using if prices rise, low-income consumers will not have the same option.

The merger is also a threat to the Lifeline Program, which provides access to phone service for nearly 13-million low-income households. Originally introduced in 1985, Lifeline was dramatically expanded and updated during the Obama administration to reflect the importance of wireless connectivity for low-income households. Crucially, Lifeline depends on the willingness of participating carriers to offer the discounted service, which is subsidized by telecom user fees.

As it stands, Sprint is one of the only remaining widespread wireless providers for Lifeline; T-Mobile only offers the program in nine states and Puerto Rico. If the combined entity decides to follow T-Mobile’s lead in its approach to the program, its availability and relevance to low-income Americans could be seriously compromised.

Despite claims to the contrary, the proposed merger of T-Mobile and Sprint has no less potential to be damaging to American consumers than in 2014, when regulators made it clear that such a deal would not be allowed. Evidence suggests a wireless telecommunications market comprised of three giants would be disastrous for low-income consumers at a time when wireless connectivity is increasingly critical for everyday life. An increased phone bill is not simply an inconvenience, but a major barrier to their ability to connect with the world.

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First Person

I Couldn’t Spend Money Like My Classmates. So I Tried To Eat Like Them.

The biggest culture shock I ever experienced was not when I moved from the U.S. to the U.K., but when I moved from the South to Southern California. I was not prepared for the food and everything I didn’t realize it would represent when it came to race, class, and fatphobia — and how much that had permeated my own thinking in ways I never realized.

My earliest memories of food are complex. I remember the rush of adrenaline and the pound of my heartbeat as I yanked daffodils from their cool flowerbeds nestled to the side of what looked like an abandoned house. Selling them to houses on another street, sliding scale, I could afford more than just my standard free lunch when my texture sensitivities made everything available impossible to eat. It also meant not spending an afternoon pushing the “Coin Return” buttons on the vending machines in the recreation center, a less embarrassing way of begging for change.

I remember clearly the free breakfast I had each morning, usually Cinnamon Toast Crunch with chocolate milk out of a small plastic bowl. The vegetables I grew up eating were in cans due to the cost, boiled and buttered because I was Southern.

Food became a symbol of love in certain family rituals, such as the fried bacon, cheese biscuits, eggs, and grits that would line the table every Sunday morning at my great-grandmother’s house. I sought after Lunchables and Hershey bars like Fendi bags. Over-processed foods that are now described as “cheap” were luxuries. Salad was iceberg lettuce that had no flavor until you covered it with ranch dressing.

But then the family I knew fractured, split, and drifted apart, and at 15 I moved to San Diego, California and immediately noticed more than just my usual sense of otherness.

The people talked different. There were no seasons. I was made fun of for saying “y’all” and began to curb the strength of what I thought was a weak Southern accent in comparison to my family. The city I moved to was very wealthy. I found this out awkwardly when I went to a classmate’s house to complete a project on existentialism (ironic) and their pool house was as big as the small apartment I lived in. I had always assumed that because I had a computer, I was “middle class” and this city taught me otherwise.

But the most striking difference? The color of the vegetables that were nothing like the bland, boring isles of pale green that I grew up around, where the fanciest thing about the aisles was the automatic water mister. The vegetables in San Diego had real color. And they crunched when you bit into them.

I, at first, found this repulsive. But my Virgoean craving for self-improvement pushed me to accept the challenge. But food was and is never just food. It is always symbolic.

As I was surrounded by very thin people who did things like “cleanses” and very wealthy classmates who complained they got the wrong color Hummer for Christmas, meanings began to shift. Fried chicken livers no longer represented a quirky side of my Southern upbringing, the way I know haggis is connected to Scotland. Instead they were inextricably linked to poor, fat, uneducated white people.

Society links fatness to ignorance and stupidity.

Society links fatness to ignorance and stupidity. The comic image of the white poor, the people I came from, is always fat and eating “unhealthy” foods with the same voracity that they hate gays or illegal immigrants. I didn’t want to be one of them. I couldn’t spend like my classmates, so I instead tried to eat like them. Kale represented cleanliness, in both mind and body, and I wanted to fill the gap I shoved between myself and my Southern heritage with Jamba Juices. My intimate connection to poverty grew more and more obvious, like a pox mark, and I thought the best way to shed this image was to shed pounds.

I viewed fat and grease in foods as pathogens of a poor, white and ignorant outlook that would infect me if I consumed them. That’s when my obsession with becoming healthier to disassociate myself from the poverty and fatness of my background in the same way I now masked my Southern accent in class became just that: an actual obsession. It’s a lot easier to motivate yourself to diet obsessively if you believe it will lead you to a better mind as well as a better body. And when people believe that being poor and fat goes hand-in-hand with being a racist, you’re even more motivated to do an extra crunch.

Weight is a perfect poison for anxiety because the results are never immediate and simply avoiding eating altogether is not a lifelong, sustainable option. I used to count the number of chews — 20 — I took with each bite to make sure that I never choked. Now I counted every single possible calorie. In the process, food and life became joyless.

I can’t tell you when my moment of clarity came and, in truth, I still struggle to shed the idea that thinness represents health. Perhaps it was realizing when my now more academic way of speaking made people read me as “nicer” than others. The jokes white liberals make about “hillbilly” incest and inbreeding right in front of me because they assume I’m one of them feel like daggers in my back.

There are and probably will continue to be a lot of poor, fat, racist white people. There are also thin, wealthy, white racist people. When I stopped distancing myself from the trappings — namely food — of Southern culture, I realized that being poor has given me an understanding of life and the way the world works that no amount of kombucha will give a Goop fanatic. And that those white people who draw fat white people as racist and ignorant are dissociating themselves from their own white supremacy. They are not actually addressing anti-Blackness as they continue to ignore the systemic causes of poverty.

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First Person

I Paid 118 Percent on a Payday Loan. The Administration Is Canceling Efforts to Rein Them In.

There was a moment in my life where it felt as if everything that could go wrong went wrong — and all at the same time.

I had just started a new job. My household went from two incomes to just one, and we were definitely starting to feel it. The mortgage was due, all of the regular household bills and responsibilities were still there, and my son still needed money to cover school and sports expenses.

I managed to use the remainder of my savings to pay everything, but I was still $500 short for my mortgage payment. I was stressed out, trying my best to make ends meet and keep some normalcy in my son’s life. I knew I had a paycheck coming, but it would not arrive in time to avoid all of the late fees and the credit hit for being 30 days late on my mortgage.

I reached out to my bank to see if I could get a small loan and was denied due to not having a high enough credit score. I had one credit card with a very small limit, but it was pretty much maxed out, so I couldn’t take out a cash advance.

I also didn’t want to borrow money from my friends and family because that would be admitting all was not well in my household. Also, I had no desire to answer the many questions that would come if I asked to borrow that much money.

While driving my mom to one of her doctor’s appointments, I saw a large green sign that seemed to be the answer to my problems: Fast cash now, no credit checks, walk out with up to $500 today.

It seemed worth exploring so I went in and asked what was needed. I was told all I needed was an active checking account, a copy of my bank statement, and proof of employment. I could get all those things with no problems.

After retrieving the necessary items, I went back, filled out the application, signed on the dotted line, and walked out of the door with $500 cash in my hand about 30 minutes later.

I felt as though my problems had been solved. I had the amount necessary to finish covering that month’s necessary expenses. I had a paycheck coming and I would be able to cover the payment on the loan. Crisis over, right?

That feeling lasted all of two weeks. I quickly realized that although I had a paycheck coming, my household’s financial situation was the same. We were still solely depending on my income, and the amount of our bills covering essentials hadn’t changed. So not only did I still have to continue paying for those things, now I had a loan payment to cover as well.

I had actually added to the expense pile.

Recently, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — which is supposed to be the nation’s consumer watchdog — proposed removing a rule that would require lenders of payday, car title, and other high-cost installment loans to verify the borrower’s ability to pay back the loan. This is something every other lending institution does, engaging in credit checks, verifying income, and assessing if the borrower can actually pay. My experience, and those of others I’ve spoken with, shows why such a rule is so key.

When my paycheck hit the bank, the payday loan people were right there to take their cut. I managed what was left of my check and paid my bills. I needed to get this loan paid as soon as possible.

In order to pay the loan back quickly and not fall behind any of my regular expenses, I picked up a temporary second job. This meant less time at home being an engaged parent to my son, and I constantly felt tired and drained. I feel as though I missed a chunk of my and my son’s life working seven days a week and only being at home to sleep.

Granted, I could have gotten a second loan or rolled the first loan over, meaning paying an additional fee to delay paying back the original loan. I did not consider this option because it would not solve the problem. If the first loan was causing a strain on my finances, I definitely didn’t need to add to the debt. I just wanted to be done with it as quickly as possible.

Fortunately, I paid back my loan before the due date to avoid the additional interest and fees. I avoided the devastation that many others have experienced as the result of taking out these loans.

Doing the math, I discovered that I paid approximately 118 percent on that $500 loan.

In the 2018 election, Colorado passed Proposition 111, which put a 36 percent cap on the amount of interest and fees that payday lenders can charge borrowers. While working on the campaign for Proposition 111, I talked with others who had taken out multiple payday loans to assist with covering living expenses. In 2016, Colorado payday loan customers paid an average interest rate of 129 percent, costing them $119 in interest and fees. Nationally, more than 75 percent of payday loan fees come from borrowers who use 10 or more loans per year.

Doing the math, I discovered that I paid approximately 118 percent on that $500 loan. Had I realized that the interest and fees added to this amount, I would not have taken out this loan. I would have tried to negotiate and make payment arrangements, especially because my situation was temporary.

Most of the people I spoke with during the campaign were not able to pay their loans back and the results were devastating: Closed bank accounts because payday lenders continue to run checks through the account many times, resulting in ridiculous overdraft fees. Embarrassing collection calls to places of employment and family. Damage to credit scores. Garnishment of wages. The end result for many was filing for bankruptcy in order to stop the bleeding.

Many may think that payday lenders are offering assistance to those who cannot obtain financial assistance through traditional means such as bank loans, credit card cash advances, asking employers for pay advances, or loans from friends and family. In reality, these loans are predatory in nature. Payday lenders work to exploit hard-working people at their most vulnerable moments.

The CFPB’s provisions were established to protect borrowers from the harmful practices of payday lenders. Many people are living paycheck to paycheck, not because they can’t manage their money properly or are living an extravagant lifestyle, but because they simply had a temporary setback or an unplanned emergency. Seeking out a loan or financial assistance to get a moment of relief should not end in financial disaster.

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Feature

How One Tribe Is Fighting for Their Food Culture in the Face of Climate Change

As in many tribal communities, the Swinomish relationship with the environment is complex. The Northwest coastal tribe not only uses the land for food, medicine, and material goods, but many cultural traditions like ceremonies are land-based.

The federal government has long attempted to sever tribes from the land — their source of knowledge, culture, and health. Through war and forced relocation, tribes were physically removed. Policies such as the 1887 General Allotment Act forced many to adopt sedentary lifestyles and use Western agricultural techniques. And contemporary legal restrictions on centuries old fishing, hunting, and gathering techniques means that tribes are still limited in how they can gather foods and medicines.

Food sovereignty — efforts to re-create local, sustainable, and traditional food systems that prioritize community need over profits — has been one of the major ways tribal communities are combating disparities driven by colonial policies. Food sovereignty looks different in every tribe, as it is based on community need and tribal tradition, and it isn’t just about food. Swinomish efforts have focused on the impacts of climate change, which is already threatening their community health.

History led many reservations to become food insecure, and federal support is limited. Hundreds of tribes utilize the Federal Distribution Program on Indian Reservations — which since 1973 has distributed bulk food items to rural Native Americans who don’t have access to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program-eligible stores — but the food often doesn’t meet basic dietary standards and sometimes arrives spoiled.

Loss of land and traditional foods has caused myriad health problems in tribal communities. Native Americans have the highest rates of diabetes of any racial group, as well as disproportionately higher rates of cancer, heart disease, and stroke. Mental wellbeing has also been impacted: Some scholars argue that colonial violence like displacement and spiritual disconnection from the land has led to cross-generational trauma and unresolved grief for Native individuals and communities.

Climate change is making this worse.

Historically, the Swinomish harvesting calendar revolved around 13 moons. The calendar corresponds to seasonal shifts throughout the year, with each moon bringing a new set of ceremonies and foods to be collected and processed. The first moon of spring, moon when the frog talks, is when herring and smelt are harvested and sitka spruce, red cedar, and Oregon grape roots are collected. In the moon of the sacred time, during the end of December and January, cultural traditions are passed from elders to younger community members.

The seasonal changes associated with each moon are becoming less predictable with climate change. Extreme heat waves in the normally moderate climate stress plants and may stunt root development. Less predictable or extreme tides (whether too high or too low) hamper clam digging and other shorefront gathering.

Public health leaders, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization, recognize that climate change has direct impacts on human health. These impacts may be even more acute for the Washington tribe: the reservation is 90 percent surrounded by water, and salmon, crab, and clam are major sources of food. The sea is of intimate importance.

Yet Western measurements of health and climate impact do not take cultural history, interdependence, and connection to the land and non-human world into consideration, often focusing exclusively on individual, physiological health impacts. For example, a toxicologist may look at pollutants in seafood and advise the Swinomish to eat less. Yet when taking into consideration food security, ceremonial use, and transmission of traditional knowledge, the removal of seafood would be detrimental to Swinomish conceptions of health; climate change is threatening the tribe’s autonomy.

To address this disconnect, in 2003, Dr. Jamie Donatuto, the environmental health analyst for the tribe, set out with elder Larry Campbell to develop indigenous health indicators, which they hoped would bring a more holistic and culturally relevant lens to public health policy, climate change predictions, environmental risk assessment, and the tribe’s food sovereignty work. After interviewing more than 100 community members, they determined the Swinomish health indicators to be: self-determination (healing and restoration, development and trust); cultural use (respect and stewardship, sense of place); natural resource security (quality, access, safety); resilience (self-esteem, identity, sustainability); education (teachings, elders, youth); and community connection (work, sharing, relations).

One of the first challenges they wanted to tackle using these indicators was climate change impacts. After gathering data on predicted storm surge, sea-level rise, sediment movement and more, they led a series of workshops with elders, youth, clam diggers, and fishers, to gauge which beaches they should focus their limited resources on. They identified several that were both culturally significant to the tribe and at high risk for climate impacts, and focused their workshops on traditional foods to contextualize these problems.

Swinomish food sovereignty and climate change adaptation efforts are reflective of national movements in Indigenous reclamation and resistance.

“It’s not about outreach, it’s not unidirectional. It’s about really engaging them,” Donatuto reflected. Now, based on community input, the tribe is developing clam gardens that are more resilient to climate impacts such as sea level rise, storm surge, and possibly ocean acidification. Clam gardens are a traditional way of managing a beach ecosystem to create optimal habitat for clams while ensuring food security for the tribe. Dr. Donatuto’s team also shared community feedback with the Swinomish Senate, who valued their priorities equally to scientific data when constructing the tribe’s climate change adaptation plan.

Beyond policy changes to address climate change impacts, elders were also concerned about a generational disconnect in traditional ecological knowledge. Using the 13 moons as a guide, in 2015 the tribe developed an informal curriculum to educate youth on the lunar calendar and traditional foods. Though it has attracted interest from local schools, Donatuto stressed that it is a land-based, community-led curriculum. The tribe hosts dinners and other events in which elders and educators lead community members outside to learn, for example, tree identification, how to collect tree resin, and how to process it. Participants not only learn about traditional foods, but learn it through traditional methods of knowledge transmission.

Swinomish food sovereignty and climate change adaptation efforts are reflective of national movements in Indigenous reclamation and resistance. Tribes recognize that in many cases, disparities that face Native communities are borne from and exacerbated by systemic colonial and racial violence, including the devaluation of Indigenous knowledge. So how could the same system that produced these disparities be a source of the solution?

Resistance and reclamation take many forms. The White Earth Band of Ojibwe recently recognized the “personhood” rights of wild rice in an effort to thwart oil pipeline construction through their habitat. Some tribal courts are beginning to draw from traditional gender and familial beliefs instead of U.S. federal law in domestic violence, divorce, and custody cases. And studies have found that Native students in schools that teach entirely in tribal languages are often higher performing than their counterparts that attend English-only schools, including on English language standardized tests.

As these and Swinomish efforts reflect: Revitalization of Indigenous knowledge, politics, and land relations is not just about remembering traditions, but solving urgent contemporary issues.

 

 

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