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Reconnecting with Our Ocean Relatives: A Journey of Indigenous Food Sovereignty

Last month, Shannon Magee from the Climate Science Alliance and our tribal partners embarked on a journey of reconnection, nurturing the bonds between ourselves and our ocean relatives.

A boat with "Point Loma San Diego" in big blue letters and people standing on it preparing to leave the dock on a foggy early morning.

In the early morning mist of August 30, 2023, an extraordinary journey began in San Diego, one that would not only lead to rekindling connections but also to a deeper understanding of Indigenous food sovereignty and the importance of nurturing our relationships with the ocean. Shannon Magee, a member of the Climate Science Alliance team and Pala Cultural Resource Committee, set sail on a deep-sea fishing expedition with a diverse group of individuals from various organizations, including Chris Nejo and Wayne Nelson from the Pala Cultural Resource Committee and Charlie de la Rosa, Jeff Lemm, and Madison Wilson from the San Diego Wildlife and Zoo Alliance (SDWZA). Several Pala Tribal youth, community members, and Elders were also in attendance.

A dimly lit ocean dock on a foggy early morning.

The journey kicked off with a 10-minute ride to retrieve live bait – sardines and anchovies, in the quest for Dorado, also known as Mahi Mahi. The waters of Baja California, Mexico, 22 miles off the coast of Rosarito, were our destination.

The excitement was palpable as the first big fish was reeled in, a magnificent Dorado with its vibrant colors and graceful shape. Some of us, initially hesitant about hooking live bait and taking the life of such a beautiful creature, soon understood the profound connection between food and its source. Catching and bringing in the fish transformed our perspectives on food, labor, life, and ecosystems. The act of hunting, fishing, harvesting, and gathering reveals the intricate web of life and the inherent consequences tied to our sustenance.

A person stands looking at the ocean over the side of a boat. The back of their t-shirt says "We are Sacred. I am enough. I am deserving of taking space. I contribute to my community. I am walking in a good way."

This connection is the essence of what Indigenous people have always embraced – Indigenous food sovereignty. It signifies the nurturing of the relationship between our food relatives and the environment they inhabit. Our deep-sea adventure ventured beyond fishing; it became an opportunity to learn a new skill, empower ourselves, and engage in meaningful conversations about Indigenous food sovereignty and our connection to the ocean. In the misty morning of that August day, we embarked on a journey of reconnection, empowerment, and enlightenment, all while recognizing our duty to nurture the bonds between ourselves and our ocean relatives.

A special thanks goes out to Chris Nejo (Pala Cultural Resource Committee), Charlie de la Rosa (San Diego Zoo and Wildlife Alliance), and Devin O'Dea (Backcountry Hunters and Anglers) for their invaluable assistance in organizing and providing financial support for this unforgettable deep-sea fishing trip. Your dedication to fostering connections with the environment, promoting Indigenous food sovereignty, and strengthening the bonds within our community is commendable.


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