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Wednesday, April 22 • 2:20pm - 2:40pm
Decline of Traditional Food Systems in Cherokee, North Carolina

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Environmental anthropology examines the relationship between humans and the environment, emphasizing the idea that culture is partly the outward expression of a need to maintain homeostasis. According to this view, cultures develop over the course of generations in part to maintain ecological balance through sustainable resource use. The traditional food production system of the Cherokee Indians, which has sustained the Cherokee people for thousands of years, exemplifies the importance of cultural tradition in ensuring the long-term survival of a population. In the years since Western contact, however, a shift in Cherokee food ways has accelerated, threatening not only a rich cultural tradition, but also the food security of the Cherokee community, the crop biodiversity of southern Appalachian agroecosystems, and the ability of an increasingly tenuous global food system to provide for an expanding population. Geographic displacement, forced acculturation, and a culturally appropriative tourist industry, all products of an institutionalized system of racial oppression, are identified as three significant modern barriers to traditional agricultural practice in Cherokee. The environmental detriments that stem from this agricultural decline thus substantiate the idea that culture and environment are closely intertwined, and that sudden upheaval of a deeply rooted indigenous society will inevitably disrupt the delicate environmental equilibrium had been previously sustained by traditional culture and generations of collective ecological knowledge.


Wednesday April 22, 2015 2:20pm - 2:40pm PDT
014 Zeis Hall

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