Slow Food Turtle Island


Turtle Island Slow Food planning participants: Back row from L: Clayton Brascoupe, Dan Cornelius, Angelo McHorse, Don Wedll, Winona LaDuke, Denisa Livingston, Melissa Nelson, Terrie BadHand, Megan Larmer, Terrol Johnson, Franco Lee, Kyra Busch, Daniel Mapp. Middle row (from L): Nicole Francis, Pati Martinson, Nicole Yanes, Roy Kady, Tiana Swazo, Samantha Felix, Aretta Begay, Pauline Terbasket, Lorraine Gray. Front (from L:) Elizabeth Hoover, Kaylena Gray, Emigdio Ballon, Lavina Gray

On February 22, representatives from Indigenous food projects around the country gathered at the Taos County Economic Development Corporation (TCEDC) with representatives from Slow Food USA (and Skyped in Slow Food International) as well as the Christiansen Fund, to discuss the possibility and mechanics of establishing a Slow Food chapter specifically for Indigenous people from Canada, the US, and Mexico. Participants felt that having a Slow Food association separate from the national organizations would give Native communities better opportunities to network, develop presidia to protect Indigenous foods, and send Native delegates to Terra Madre in Italy.

To give a little background, the Slow Food Manifesto was drafted in 1989, with support from 15 international delegates. Today, Slow Food has over 150,000 members and is active in more than 150 countries, including national associations in Italy, the U.S., Germany and Japan. There are more than 170 chapters and 2,000 food communities in the United States alone. The goal of Slow Food is to support the development of grassroots projects and activities, as well as the presidia project (which involves groups of producers who work together to protect and market their foods) and the Ark of Taste (an online catalog of foods that are at risk of extinction).

Nations like the US, Italy, Canada, Mexico, etc, have national associations, which come with certain obligations, including the registration of members, coordinating activities on the ground, and fundraising activities for both local projects and to support international campaigns. Rather that starting a new national association like this, our group decided to start a regional association, similar to the Terra Madre Balkans network. Becoming a regional association would allow the group to still nominate presidia and coordinate networking among members and their communities, without the financial obligations of a national association.

Kyra from the Christiansen fund noted that Slow Food has been recognizing increasingly over the past 10 years that its relationship with indigenous communities should be different than with nations, and has been working to develop this relationship. The first step was the creation of an Indigenous Terra Madre space within within the Terra Madre/ Salone de Gusto, as well as the establishment of a separate Indigenous Terra Madre event (in 2015 this took place in Shillong in India). This most recent gathering ended with 70,000 people at a food festival. In future years this event will potentially be hosted in Kenya and Canada. But the group gathered in Taos this past February hopes to take this a step further, and establish a separate Slow Food regional association dedicated just to supporting Indigenous people on Turtle Island.

One of the programs within Slow Food is the establishment of presidia, in order to sustain the quality production of foods at risk of extinction, to protect unique regions and ecosystems, to recover traditional processing methods, and to safeguard native breeds and local plant varieties. Today, 472 Presidia involve more than 13,000 producers worldwide. In the USA, there are 5 presidia, three of which involve Indigenous foods: the Navajo Churro Sheep Presidium; the Anishnaabeg Manoomin (wild rice) Presidium; and the Makah Ozette Potato Presidium. Roy Kady from the Navajo Churro Sheep Presidium also reported that they have nominated the sumac berry as a presidium. Conversations came up at this gathering about how to protect other important foods– like taro (an important food stuff in Hawaii), heritage corns, maple syrup, chiltapenes (wild chilis in the Sonoran desert currently threatened by over-harvesting and environmental contamination), the California Tan Oak (currently threatened by blight), and the Broad Leaf Yucca Fruit. (To learn more about the guidelines to establish a presidium, here is a document shared with us by Slow Foods: PresidiaGuidelines. Once a community has determined that they want to nominate a food for a presidium, they would fill out this form: Presidium Nomination Form).

So what would the benefits be of establishing a Slow Food association for Indigenous people? I’ve included some of the attendees thoughts with their photos below


Winona LaDuke (Honor the Earth; standing here in the TCEDC greenhouse), cited the value in the “opportunity to be part of an international food movement. The opportunity to hang out with cool food people from around the world who are like us. In my experience I found that my international exposure was enlightening. When I sent people to Italy, they came back empowered about how cool our food was and we were as cool any as anybody in the world.” Honor the Earth was also able to garner support for their pipeline opposition through hosting Slow Food dinners. (Photo by Elizabeth Hoover)


Clayton Brascoupe (Traditional Native American Farmers Association) described utilizing educational materials created by Slow Food about food production and climate change in his community. He also described how “hoeing weeds, talking to children and grand kids, shearing sheep, butchering churro. We know it’s important. But when we get recognized by other organizations at the international level, it reinforces what our elders in our communities have been telling us all these years. Then we can pass that along to our kids and our grandkids. You’re not the only ones doing it, its really important. People all over the world are doing this. In isolated communities, marginalized communities, the work that we’re doing has a global impact. Just us working in the fields that evening. For me that’s the biggest benefit. Just knowing that whatever our leaders left us and they knew how important it was, there’s people all over the globe engaged in the same thing. Having the right to do that, having the water to do that, having the seeds and control of the seeds to do that. I think we need those allies to ensure that once we are being impacted, we have allies all over the world behind us, and they know us, and they understand what our struggle is. That’s where its been good for us.” Clayton also spoke about traveling, and meeting other land-based people whose languages and foods were threatened; “We can bring that message back to our own kids, our grand kids. To see this, the work that I’m doing at this point isn’t just me and my family anymore its for my kids, grandkids, great grandkids. Those relationships we’re building now not just for me and my family but we gotta think further and further. The faces are still coming. That’s the work that we’re doing right now. We’re opening the door and greeting one another for our kids and our great grandkids.” (Photo by Elizabeth Hoover)


Roy Kady (in the green hat) with the Navajo Churro Sheep Presidium, described the benefit that this presidium has provided for his community. He sent young representatives to the last Terra Madre in 2014 and to the Indigenous Terra Madre gathering in 2015, and described how they came back “ignited.” Having the Navajo Churro gain recognition as an important food to be cherished and protected through the development of this presidium has meant receiving better prices for their product at market. To Roy’s left is Franco Lee, the Executive Chef for the Navajo Churro Sheep Presidium. Dan Cornelius from the Intertribal Agriculture Council highlighted the importance of working with Native chefs “to build excitement and pride in our foods.” Photo by Elizabeth Hoover


Angelo McHorse with Taos Pueblo Young Growers emphasized that for him it was “Not just what can Slow Foods do for us, but how can we share these resilient indigenous food traditions with the world… we can share lessons, knowledge and our practices to get back our food system, to establish food sovereignty beyond our nations… We’re the ones with info that should be shared and taught to improve the health of people and the environment and health of the world.” Photo by Elizabeth Hoover


Pauline Terbasket from the Okanagan Nation Alliance, emphasized that Indigenous people need to have more agency in the preservation of indigenous foods. She mentioned organizations in Canada who have budget line items for Indigenous food sovereignty work, but she doesn’t see real action from them. “We are the power, we are the change, we are the ones who are responsible for taking care of our own foods.” She has been “reinvigorated and recharged” by interacting with people internationally through Slow Food gatherings who are going through similar struggles. Photo by Elizabeth Hoover




Terrol Johnson (looking thoughtful on the far right) from Tohono O’odham Community Action highlighted the importance of Native control over native food preservation. He described how it wasn’t Native people who put many of those foods on the Ark of Taste. He then brought up the question, whose permission should you get to put a food on the Ark of Taste or in a presidium. Elders? Tribal council? Who are any of us to take that responsibility or control over foods owned by entire communities over countless generations? Definitely questions to consider going forward. To his right is Samantha Felix, also from TOCA, and to her right is Denisa Livingston from the Dine Community Advocacy Alliance. Photo by Elizabeth Hoover.


The name Slow Food Turtle Island (this tentative logo was created by Winona’s staff) was chosen to denote a regional organization that would include Indigenous people from Canada, the US (including Hawaii), and Mexico. But there was not complete consensus on this name: other contenders included Slow Food Red Nation and  Slow Food Four Directions.


Kaylena Bray from the Cultural Conservancy gave an eloquent defense of the Turtle Island designation for the group. “Turtle island has deep cultural meaning– it brings to mind certain essence, the creation of land and how we’re connection to that. What we’re about and why we’re here. Part of what I’ve considered in a name is how it connects back to the elements of the earth. I know four directions does also but something about the turtle and the island is very land based.” She described the Haudenosaunee creation story in which a woman fell from the Sky World and landed on a turtle’s back. ” Touching the land, grabbing the land- all of the elements, the comfort of the land– coming through the turtle’s back, in our creation story Sky Woman coming down and landing on the turtle. This is how I see this connection that we all have to the work that we’re doing.” Photo by Elizabeth Hoover

Kaylena Bray, Melissa Nelson, and Elizabeth Hoover are currently in the process of drafting the official proposal to establish the Slow Food Turtle Island regional association. The proposal will be shared with Slow Food International by the end of March, to be put before the Executive Committee (a governing body of 8 people, similar to a board of directors) for approval in March, and to the International Council (a larger governing body of 40 people, including coordinators and volunteers from across the global network) for approval in June.


If you are interested in applying to be a delegate to Terra Madre this year, click here to fill out the application. Note: the application is due March 30, and requires a community letter of recommendation this year. The estimate is that Slow Food USA will be allowed 180 delegates who are afforded lodging, and then another 50 who will not have lodging or transportation covered by Slow Food. For people who apply Slow Food USA who identify as Indigenous, their applications will be sent to the Turtle Island selection committee. Of those, 20 will be selected to represent the Indigenous delegation, and the rest will go back into the Slow Food USA pool, and may be selected as delegates from there.

Scroll through below for photos and descriptions of the activities that took place throughout the meeting


Clayton Brascoupe with four directions corn. Photo by Elizabeth Hoover

The meeting opened with breakfast, provided by the good people of TCEDC. Pictured here is Aretta Begay from the Navajo Churro Sheep Presidium, and Kaylena Bray from the Cultural Conservancy.

Lunch! Pozole with Tesuque white and blue corn grown by Clayton Brascoupe, Taos Pueblo cooked beans, green chile elk guisado with Taos Pueblo chicos, red chile bison enchiladas and salad

In addition to Kyra Busch from Christiansen Fund, and Megan Larmer from Slow Food USA,  Elisa Demichelis from Slow Food International Skyped in from Italy, all to explain what the process would be like to establish a Turtle Island Slow Food regional association


Hard at work, planning. Photo by Elizabeth Hoover

And of course, even though we were fed several meals, there was plenty of snacking! Pinons from Tesuque, and Clayton brought fermented roasted cacao beans from Belize.

Patti and Terrie then led us on a tour of the TCEDC facilities, including the greenhouses…



Terrie Bad Hand from TCEDC leading us into the Taos Food Center to see some of the artisans at work. Photo by Elizabeth Hoover


Basket full of goodies from the Taos Food Center, and salve by Lorraine. Photo by Elizabeth Hoover

Dinner was at the Bear Claw Cafe, courtesy of Taos Pueblo chef Anthony Archuleta, who prepared a wonderful dinner for us. In the foreground are polenta cakes covered with local vegetables– winter squash, zuchinis, tomatoes, corn, onions and spinach. Behind them are blue corn cakes drizzled with local honey, a kale salad, and more blue corn cakes with buffalo meat and squash. Clayton also contributed some chocolate from Belize.






Categories: Minnesota/Wisconsin, Native Chefs, Seed Savers, Southwest (AZ&NM), West Coast (CA, OR, WA), wild foodsTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

1 comment

  1. May 2017: Indigenous Foods and Ecological Knowledge Symposium: Call for Presenters.
    May 5-6, 2017 University of Washington, Seattle.
    I attended the breakout session at the 2016 American Indian Tourism conference, Tulalip Washington, presenter Terrie Bad Hand,Pati Martison

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