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Tlingit Urban Farmer Kirsten Kirby Shoote on the Power of Connecting to Ancestral Foodways

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An Indigenous urban farmer, cultural food worker and seed keeper is working to develop an urban farm and Indigenous food access point in Detroit.

By Annamarie Sysling
May 20, 2021


Shoote starts out by explaining that this new location is just the latest iteration of their ongoing food sovereignty journey and mission. “I’ve always had a food sovereignty project in mind. And I was tending to a lot in Pontiac, and it just started as outgrowing my windowsill space … that project is called Leilú Gardens. The meaning of that word in Tlingit, which is my Indigenous language, is butterfly and it’s really about the transformative power of people and plants in our history and currently to really work together and have a relationship with each other,” they say.

While Shoote is tending to this farm on the ancestral lands of the Anishinaabe, their ancestral lands are in what is known as Southeast Alaska. “My mother is Tlingit and I was raised in the Pacific Northwest,” they say, adding that they came to Detroit by chance. “I started off in a program apprenticing on organic farms and I sent out a bunch of emails and Detroit just happened to be the first place that got back to me,” says Shoote. But in the years since first arriving, they say they have come into close community with many Anishinaabe people living in the area who are also engaged in food sovereignty work.

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