For new readers just joining, I want to welcome you to the Indigenous Food Revolutionary blog! I am a Ph.D candidate working on dissertation research that explores the food traditions, diet, and practices of the Native American Haudenosaunee nation, more commonly known as the Iroquois. Located amongst the Great Lakes region and beyond, the Haudenosaunee confederacy communities have a rich history in indigenous foods and food sovereignty practices. At the same time, U.S. Indian policy history has had a tremendous colonizing impact on Native American diet and bodies. My research examines the ways Haudenosaunee people today negotiate these traditional food practices with contemporary realities and the potential for reconnecting to Indigenous knowledge, foods, and language through community-engaged activism. Here at this blog, I hope to share some of this activism, research ideas, thoughts, knowledge, Mohawk language, and recipes as I continue along this journey. Nia:wenh for joining me!
Thank you for your patience! I haven't had a lot of time to write this past summer, and fall deadlines have been lingering around, but I wanted to share with you what I've been up to for the past six months.
2015 Native American and Indigenous Studies Association Annual Meeting in Washington D.C.
Back in June, I had the amazing opportunity to co-organize a Native food sovereignty double-panel with Dr. Elizabeth Hoover for the NAISA conference in DC. Our two-part program, "Indigenous Food Sovereignty in Action: Resurgence and Revitalization (I); Indigenous Identity and Education (II)" featured the work of several established and emerging Native scholars doing community work to promote indigenous foods revitalization, cooking, agriculture, and language revitalization. It was exciting to be part of a a crucial and developing discussion around indigenous food sovereignty efforts. I also got the chance to sight-see and visit the National Museum of the American Indian where they had a special exhibit on treaty relations and history.
Strawberry Jam Workshop by Nancy Johnson with Indigenous Women's Initiatives-Seed Institute
I'm fortunate to have helped coordinate community workshops this summer at the Tuscarora and Seneca communities. In late-June, when the strawberries were fresh and in season, we two classes how to make natural strawberry jam using organic strawberries, raspberries, lemon juice, honey, and pectin. The results were delicious!
"Culinary Culture: The Politics of American Foodways, 1765-1900" Summer Seminar at the American Antiquarian Society, Center for Historic American Visual Culture
I am also grateful to have participated in a summer seminar on American food history and culture at the AAS in Worcester this past July. I had the opportunity to work with really fascinating archival documents and learned how to assess visual art sources for my research. We had hands-on workshops looking at nineteenth-century American cookbooks, still life paintings, trade cards, advertisements, ceramic plates, and many other AAS resources! One highlighted item on display in a cabinet was a small bottle of tea that was supposedly fetched from the harbor from the Boston Tea Party. Our class even had a field trip and dinner at the Old Sturbridge Village and cooking workshops making hard tack, election cake, and other vintage recipes. It was wonderful to meet other faculty and colleagues doing really interesting work in food studies!
On top of that, I had fun meeting up with like-minded Native foodie counterparts for dinner and spending time with a dear friend I keep up with since our Oklahoma days. We had a few moments to sneak away and check out some historic sites including the North Bridge, Old Manse Garden (where Emerson, Hawthorne, and Thoreau gardened and wrote), and Lexington and Concord. We had time for a brief trek through Boston itself where I raided the Whole Foods for foodstuffs to hoard. Finally, we were lucky enough to catch the "Made of Thunder, Made of Glass" beadwork exhibit at Deerfield Memorial Hall, featuring gorgeous artwork by talented Haudenosaunee artists.
Plantain Salve Workshop by Donna "Turk" Rockwell and Nancy Johnson with Indigenous Women's Initiatives-The Seed Institute (Hosted by Six Nations Native American Herbal Remedies and Tea)
A collaborate venture between IWI and the Six Nations Native American Herbal Remedies and Teas store, friends Turk and Nancy showed us how to make a natural plantain salve skin ointment for cuts, burns, bug bites, and skin irritations. Using local plantain picked from Cazenovia Creek park, we let the leaves soak in olive oil in a slowcooker overnight, then added beeswax and lavender oil until it was the right consistency. The result was a beautiful green jar of salve that showcases the healing power of plants as medicine for our bodies. Plantain can also be made as a tea with many medicinal benefits. You can find both the salve and tea at the store at 1234 Hertel Avenue.
2015 Indigenous Foods Cooking Challenge by Seneca Nation's Food Is Our Medicine at the Seneca Nation Fall Festival
Earlier this year, Nancy and I entered the Indigenous Foods Cooking challenge and flew through the preliminary qualifying round with our wedding-inspired corn mush and maple-seared bison steaks. Well, the final round was held at the fall festival in September. For those unfamiliar, this cooking competition is structured similar to the show "Chopped" where teams compete against each other using featured ingredients. Elk steaks, juniper berries, purple fingerling potatoes, and white corn were our mandatory ingredients. We had 60 minutes to get a dish together for three special guest chef-judges, competing against two other teams. Our final dish was a seared elk steak served with mashed purple potatoes and a white corn gravy, a beet salad with juniper vinaigrette, and a stuffed squash ring topped with a special juniper berry sauce. It was such a fun experience and I always appreciate working with Nancy. She carries such creativity, passion, humility, and knowledge and goes about her cooking in a quiet, collected manner (unlike myself!). Plus she puts up with my stubbornness!
Here's the final dish pictured below. And... drumroll... we made 2nd place! But we'll be ready to take 1st next year! :)
Buffalo News "Refresh" Indigenous Foods story
Finally, this week, we have very exciting news! On behalf of the Indigenous Women's Initiative-Seed Institute and the Indigenous Food Revolutionary blog, Nancy and I were interviewed together by the Buffalo News "Refresh" health section. The story will feature local indigenous foods, the community work we've been doing, cultural teachings, and how indigenous foods contribute to the health and wellness movement. We cooked three indigenous-themed dishes at the Riverside Salem UCC environmental cottage kitchen at Grand Island - Vegetarian Chili featuring White Corn, Manoomin (Wild Rice) and Mushrooms, and Cranberry White Corn Pudding - that will be published on Saturday, November 21st. Try them out for your upcoming holiday feasts!
CLICK HERE FOR THE BUFFALO NEWS STORY LINK! Also, accompanying photo gallery can be found here: http://galleries.buffalonews.com/default.aspx?id=5240#/0
It's really incredible how this story has come full circle. I write this blog post update with much gratitude in my heart and a reminder that even though this blog is titled "Indigenous Food Revolutionary," it is by no means singular or solitary. The people I've befriended have become part of my story, shaping my path, and inspiring me in ways they will never know. Tekwanonhwera:tons! (I give my thanks, gratitude, and respect to you all.)