People of Haiti Struggle for Food Sovereignty

In Haiti, and many other parts of the world, indigenous people struggle to maintain independence and the ability to use lands that have been in their families for generations.

Haiti Farmer
A Haitian sugar cane worker cuts cane in field beside a batey on March 01, 2012 in San Pedro, Dominican Republic.(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

by Derrick Broze
April 2, 2013

I have written on the ways our society is marching forward , forgetting  its roots and erasing history in the name of progress. Today I want to look at the struggle for food sovereignty in Haiti and how this relates to the bigger picture. Perhaps from learning about the struggles of indigenous peoples and their respective knowledge we can find a way to make the modern world more free for all people.

On March 22nd the people of Hinchen, Haiti took to the streets to march for the ability to grow and keep enough of their own food to sell at markets and feed their families. According to Chavannes Jean-Baptiste, leader of the Papaye Peasant Movement (MPP), “This is the moment to reconstruct the country, to provide a country for everyone, a Republic of Haiti and not a Republic of Port-au-Prince.”

Nearly six hundred years after Columbus came to the tiny island and met the Taino Indians the region is still dealing with how to stabilize, remain sovereign and fluorish without becoming the pawn of international corporations or interests. Last week the United Nations met to discuss the fate of Haiti.

According to the NY Times:

“The plan envisions a multidonor trust fund managed by the World Bank that pools money for big projects and avoids wasteful redundancy. “

Although the international architects promise to have genuine involvement from the Haitians themselves, it would not be the first time native peoples were robbed of the opportunity to rule themselves. Maybe it’s time we look to the people for answers on how best to “rule” them.

In my personal pursuit of freedom I have found my way to many traditional, native or indigenous teachings. Looking at the information as lessons that have been cast aside or forgotten by our lightning speed modern society, I find many truths in them. One of the painful truths is the many ways modern cultures have abandoned our aboriginal roots and the  important pieces of knowledge held by indigenous people.

By looking into the history of treatment of “primitive” peoples conquered by colonialism we see the mode of thinking that promotes ignorance of past knowledge.  The Eugenics history of America and scientists such as Charles Darwin shines even more light on how native peoples have come to be viewed. Anthropology itself was founded to study people who were deemed primitive.

Edward Taylor, one of the first anthropologists, wrote:

“Savages are exceedingly ignorant as regards both physical and moral knowledge; Judged by our ordinary modern standard of knowledge… much of what they believe must be put down as false.”

Much of modern science and medicine look at indigenous teachings with a great sense of superiority, ego and disdain.

Dr. Lewis E. Mehl wrote on the skewed view modern medicine holds:

“To date, modern biomedicine has tended to  view the world’s traditional medicines with the same jaundiced eye it used in its adolescence to rebel against the Roman Catholic church. Oriental practitioners are tolerated at best, and native healers, whether they are American Indian, Laotian, Mexican or African, are dismissed as uneducated and misinformed, even dangerous”

In his book The Cosmic Serpent, anthropologist Jeremy Narby discusses the blind spot that modern science has for native knowledge. Speaking on Amazonion tribes recipe for Ayahuasca, a plant based hallucinogenic concoction, he writes:

“So here are people without electron microscopes who choose, among some 80,000 Amazonian plant species, the leaves of a bush containing a hallucinogenic brain hormone, which they combine with a vine containing substances that inactivate an enzyme of the digestive tract, which would otherwise block the hallucinogenic effect.

And they do this to modify their consciousness. It is as if they knew about the molecular properties to plants and the art of combining them, and when one asks them how they know these things, they say their knowledge comes directly from hallucinogenic plants.”

But is it only in the areas of medicine that we find traditional routes to be just as important as their modern counter parts?

In an essay entitled,  “What is a shaman?”,  Michael Harner, writes:

“Some of these things may be thought to be rather strange to most people in our culture, such as talking with plants, animals, and all of nature. It sounds neurotic or deranged, of course, from the perspective of western psychology. Nevertheless, our ancestors did it and managed to survived for 3 million years, whereas in the “civilized” countries of the world today, where people don’t talk with the planet and its inhabitants, we are also faced with the possibility of nuclear destruction and ecological catastrophe. From these facts we may draw our own conclusions about which cultural assumptions are the saner.”

I believe by striking a balance between what we have gained with our modern technology and scientific understanding and the teachings of past cultures we are actually moving closer to a free society. It is only with respect to all cultures and ideas that we can truly hope to make progress. Admittedly this is not a quick change, but rather a conscious, personal choice one must make.

By deciding to become aware of our world’s current obstacles we begin the path towards freedom. After educating oneself on a variety of topics it is necessary to begin to understand our place in the grand scheme of things, to decide to live a life dedicated towards advancing liberty for all people. This is not the end however. We must begin to acknowledge the cultures we have harmed in the past, begin to heal, and in doing so advance our species forward.

^The Cosmic Serpent by Jeremy Narby
^Shamans Path, Essay by Lewis E. Mehl, “Modern Shamanism: Integration of biomedicine with traditional world views”


Derrick Broze is a founding member of The Houston Free Thinkers.

He writes for a popular independent news website.

He can be heard on Orion Talk Radio, Local Live Houston and the upcoming Unbound Radio.

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