In furtherance of the Honors College’s educational mission, Sundt Honors Seminars (HON 450V) aim to foster student engagement by offering intensive learning opportunities both inside and outside the traditional classroom. The Sundt Honors Seminar is a unique, experience-based, interdisciplinary seminar developed and taught by the Sundt Honors Professor. The course is taught in the spring semester by the holder of the Sundt Honors Professorship for that academic year.  It may include a travel experience related to the seminar topic, hosting of outside specialists, or other unique activity. The instructor is provided with a budget of approximately $10,000 to support the course. The fund may go toward paying the costs of student travel, paying for supplies, inviting outside speakers, or other activities. However, major equipment purchases are not allowed, nor may the fund may be used to hire a graduate assistant.

The Sundt Honors Seminar is open to Crimson Scholars of sophomore, junior, or senior standing by application only. Up to 14 students are accepted. Students accepted into the seminar will be designated Sundt Honors Scholars for the term. Sundt Honors Seminars satisfy the Viewing the Wider World requirement of General Education.

Hon 450V: The Sundt Honors Seminar: Food Sustainability, Food Sovereignty, and Food Security in the Southwest.


Dr. Lois Stanford, Instructor


Mondays, 1:30-4:00 p.m. Honors College  Rm. 8


Through the lens of food anthropology, the Sundt Honors seminar for Spring 2020 examines the complex relationship between food and culture in the Southwest. The Sundt Honors seminar will focus on three related, critical questions: (1) What is the nature of food sovereignty among Native American, Latino, and other communities in the Southwest? (2) How can lessons from these studies and regional projects support efforts to increase regional food security? (3) What is the relationship between food sovereignty and food security efforts, on the one hand, and the conservation of biological and cultural diversity, on the other?


First, through readings, lectures, films, and “food samplings,” the class examines the food history and traditional cuisines of peoples in the Southwest, including Native Americans, Spanish and Mexican settlers, Anglo ranchers, and, more recently, Mexican national immigrants. In the prehistoric Southwest, food was grounded in place. Foodways reflected long agricultural histories, ties to a homeland, and seeds passed down by ancestors. Native American peoples in the Southwest, including the Tohono O’odham of Southern Arizona, the Hopi of Northern Arizona, and the Pueblo peoples of Northern New Mexico, developed ancient and permanent civilizations based on the subsistence production of corn, beans, and squash. The traditional cultures based their respective cuisines and traditional dishes on food sovereignty, that is, the capacity to produce their own food and to maintain their cultures autonomously. Tribal peoples maintained a relationship with the land, plants, and animals that allowed them to organize resources that sustained their communities over generations.


The Spanish Conquest of the Southwest led to political and religious domination, upending traditional lifeways and integrating indigenous communities into the larger sphere of Spanish Colonial Latin America. The introduction of new plants (such as wheat, legumes, and orchard fruits) and animals (sheep and pigs) also impacted indigenous cuisines, traditional dishes, and subsistence practices. At the same time, Hispano and mestizo settlers incorporated indigenous foods into their own diet, constructing what we now recognize as New Mexico foodways. By the late 19th Century, the arrival of Anglo ranchers and settlers continued to undermine indigenous autonomy. Under the U.S. government jurisdiction, increased political control, education programs (including boarding schools), and economic changes further undermined traditional subsistence and food sovereignty. Many tribal groups reduced traditional subsistence production, replacing traditional foods with U.S. government commodity rations. By the end of the 20th century, many Native American groups experienced increased health problems, including high rates of obesity and Type II diabetes.  Recent Mexican immigrants to the U.S.-Mexico border region also experienced changes in traditional diets, replacing a cuisine based on beans, corn tortillas and vegetables for one comprised heavily of processed foods.


In the United States, the sustainable food movement of the late 20th century arose out of a demand for healthy, unprocessed food and increased concerns about the food industry. Within this framework, local communities throughout the Southwest began to reflect on how to deepen food activism by focusing on how food is produced, what kinds of social relationships it relies on, and the cultural importance food holds for local communities. Returning to food sovereignty is about the right of a people to determine their own food policies by rebuilding relationships between people and their land, on the one hand, and between food producers and consumers, on the other. The class moves through the food history of the Southwest, examining the integral ties between food and culture. Over time, we turn to the decline of traditional foodways and subsequent impacts on health, cultural identity, and community relations.


Understanding the efforts of Native American, Latino, and Anglo communities to restore food sovereignty, reclaim foodways, and address health issues requires close study of specific community projects. During spring break (March 23-29, 2020), for the experiential component, the class will travel throughout the Southwest to visit food sovereignty projects in different cultural communities. Through field experience, educational tours, and discussion, the class will examine the different methods and projects introduced by these communities as they reassert local control over their food systems. Among the groups to be visited include Native Seeds Conservation Farm (Patagonia, Arizona) and Native Seeds Seed Bank (Tucson, Arizona) to learn about the role of conserving biological seed diversity and disseminating traditional food varieties. As well, we will visit the Tohono O’odham Community Action (TOCA), a non-profit organization that promotes conservation of traditional food crops, traditional culture, and Native American health. Other sites to visit include the Tucson Community Food Bank, Hopi Cultural Center and agricultural farms, and Acoma Pueblo. In Santa Fe, New Mexico, the class will visit the Tesuque Pueblo Farm, home of an indigenous permaculture garden and off-the-grid Tesuque Seed Bank. In Albuquerque, the class will visit Dragon Farm, a sustainable farm for students of Albuquerque’s South Valley Academy and surrounding community. Other field trips will include a visit to La Semilla Food Center (Anthony, New Mexico) and Arid Crops Seed Cache (Monticello, New Mexico).


From an anthropological perspective, comparative case studies are important in discerning patterns and commonalities across different communities. Within this framework, students will develop a greater understanding of the complex linkages between food, place, and cultural identity. Following the field trip, students return to NMSU and continue to explore these food sovereignty projects. Through class field projects, students will analyze the experiences, challenges faced, and strategies adopted by different cultural communities as local food activists develop food sovereignty projects. Students will produce a final research project, present their results to the NMSU Honors College in a food sovereignty symposium, and participate in the Undergraduate Research and Creative Artsy Symposium (URCAS).