The nation’s first meat processing facility owned exclusively by a Native American tribe opened late last year in Quapaw, Oklahoma. The $5 plant processes beef and bison and is located about 185 miles northeast of Oklahoma City.
The Quapaw Tribe is unique among Native American groups in its aggressive efforts to control its own food production. In addition to its new meat plant, this Native American group also owns and operates four greenhouses that nurture indigenous herbs and vegetables. The plants are pollinated by bees – also owned and managed by the tribe for honey.
If that’s not enough, the Quapaw Tribe has even delved into the coffee and beer business. They roast and process their own brand of java and now have a craft brewery.
It’s all part of a larger philosophy for this ancient Mississippi Valley tribe of First Americans who believe that no tribe is truly sovereign if it cannot control its own source of food. Furthermore, tribal members recognize the importance for Natives to eat food that are natural to their culture. Foods such as bison and locally grown plants make up the diet these people adapted to over thousands of years.
Despite the extraordinary efforts the Quapaw Tribe has made in growing food, the group has been largely frozen out of the same kind of benefit other farmers receive from the U.S. Department of Agriculture farm program.
The Tribe’s next goal is to garner more inclusive treatment from government agriculture support programs that white farmers already benefit from.