Connection to the land is at the heart of Indigenous cultures, not only by providing food, shelter, and medicines for survival, but by being the source of teachings which are the backbone of living a good life, or mino-bimaadiziwin. That connection to the land is fundamental to Ojibwe and Dakota cultural identity.
Shannon Kesner, Tribal Liaison
Since April of 2020
Shannon is a member and life-long resident of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. She holds an A.A. from the Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College, and a B.A. in Biology (plant science focus) and a Master’s in Tribal Natural Resources and Environmental Stewardship (MTRES) from the University of Minnesota Duluth. She worked as the Wetland Specialist for Fond du Lac in the Environmental Department for 9 years.
Her passion for the environment and relationships with plant beings, forged from her culture and professional experience surveying plants and their environments, has led Kesner to become an amateur ethnobotantist (studying how people of a particular culture, or region, use the plants that are native to the area in which they live), herbalist, and wild food harvester. Her concern for food security, alongside that of holistic community healing, led her to teaching as a Master Naturalist Instructor and participating in the Fond du Lac Reservations’ Food Sovereignty Initiative Planning Committee.
“Disconnection with natural resources due to many federal Indian policies has led to the loss of knowledge, contributing to food insecurity, and I see opportunities there. I hope my position with the MDA can help facilitate the elimination of food apartheid in Indian Country,” said Kesner. Food apartheid is described as a human caused systematic separation between the people and access to food, and in this case, it is by way of the loss of knowledge.
“My main focus, or passion, is to accomplish goals that increase awareness of both tribal concerns and potential opportunities regarding food apartheid and food security,” added Kesner. This broad focus includes impacts from agricultural practices on the broader landscape on natural resources both on reservation lands and within ceded territories.
She shares her passion for plants with her three daughters who help her gather.