The Catawba Nation Good Health and Wellness in Indian Country (GHWIC) program recognizes the healing power of food. Deer has traditionally served as a vital source of lean protein for the Catawba people. Traditional foods not only nourish the body but have the potential to heal the entire community. Driven by this profound belief, the Catawba GHWIC program embarked on a mission to share this knowledge with their community.
However, challenges arose. Farm-raising deer in South Carolina proved unfeasible due to various constraints. Undeterred, the program found an alternative approach – encouraging local hunters to contribute to the community cause.
Supporting the Community:
The Catawba Nation GHWIC program extended support to local hunters, covering costs for processing deer at licensed facilities. To qualify, hunters had to provide proof of Catawba citizenship, household information, a valid hunting license, and the invoice from the processing facility. Reimbursement checks were then issued.
In 2021 alone, the program has facilitated the processing of sixteen deer, servicing 55 household members. Over the past three years, nearly 40 deer have been processed, nourishing approximately 140 individuals.
Recognizing the need for expansion, the program is exploring options such as assisting hunters who process their own food, acquiring equipment, and potentially implementing a rental system. Plans also include hiring local deer hunters with priority given to Catawba households, community programs, and educational initiatives.
Community Outreach and Collaboration:
To further amplify their impact, the program has initiated outreach efforts and collaborations with non-profit organizations sharing similar goals. They have partnered with two organizations – one dedicated to addressing hunger and the other focused on engaging children in outdoor activities. These programs are Hunters Helping the Hungry and Hunters Helping Kids, respectively.
Last week alone, 150 pounds of donated deer meat found its way into Catawba kitchens, exposing 85 kids to this nutritious resource, with the potential to increase impact in the future. The program also received 250 pounds of chicken breast, translated into 562 meals for Catawba citizens, with a projected reach of 1,200 meals by the end of the fifth year of the grant. Additionally, partnerships are being forged with organizations teaching children gun safety and facilitating hunting experiences.
Recognizing the obstacles faced by the community, the program has taken steps to ease the burden. A 300-acre plot, located 55 minutes away from the reservation, serves as a hunting ground. Travel challenges are being addressed through potential shuttle systems and community hunt days. A partnership with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources has yielded opportunities for free hunters’ education courses and lifelong hunting and fishing licenses (a $1,200 value, provided at no cost to the Catawba citizen).
As the Catawba Nation GHWIC program continues to flourish, it stands as a testament to the transformative power of community-driven initiatives that blend tradition, health, and sovereignty. The journey has just begun, but the impact is already resonating deeply within the Catawba community, fostering a spirit of resilience, self-sufficiency, and cultural pride.