Amanda Whitesinger talks about her ancestral lands

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The traditional relationship between Native Americans and their ancestral lands has played an important role in their health and wellbeing. For many of those who have left the reservation, life in a metropolitan environment can prove challenging. 

Amanda Whitesinger, an Indigenous wellness manager, has found community gardens can provide a valuable resource for Native Americans who have relocated to urban areas.

“A lot of us, myself included, left for our reservation to get an education,” Whitesinger said. “We found a job, but my home, my family, it’s all based back on the Navajo Reservation. And so by having a community garden, I have that sense of community, which is something that’s really big for Native People.”

In addition to providing camaraderie, these gardens offer an opportunity to reconnect with the land while providing a source of traditional foods such as squash, beans, and corn as well as medicinal plants. 

Those who participate in tending these gardens can benefit from the positive effects of not only a healthier diet but also increased physical activity in an outdoor setting. And for the younger generation, community gardens offer a valuable hands-on experience with a chance to learn about the benefits of a traditional relationship to the land.

“They can make their own food,” Whitesinger said. “It doesn’t always have to necessarily come from packages or from the grocery store, and they’re reconnecting. They’re healing essentially by eating the foods our ancestors ate, and that we can do it in an urban setting rather than have to go home and do it.”

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