The second and third years of the Great Lakes Food Sovereignty Summit were hosted by the Gun Lake Potawatomi at the Jijak Foundation camp in Michigan. (For information on the first Great Lakes Food Summit held at Oneida, you can read about the workshops here, and the chefs here). This summit was notable in that, rather than spending most of our time indoors looking at power point presentations the way you do at most conferences, (although there was a little bit of that too), we also spent a great deal of time engaged in hands-on activities– everything from foraging walks to animal butchering to corn grinding. Becuase I’m literally years behind on updating this poor blog, I’m going to summarize the first two years of the summit together in one post. (For more about year three, hosted at the Meskwaki Settlement, check out this post. Information on year four’s event in Michigan is coming soon!)
The first year at Jijak, butchering workshops involved animals that had been slaughtered offsite, and brought to Jijak for workshops on how to deconstruct them.
In addition to the buffalo, Elisio Curley and Roy Kady, both Dine sheepherders and weavers, demonstrated how Navajo Churro sheep are butchered, and their wool utilized.
Other hands on workshops included cooking corn over the fire
Each of these conferences also includes a track focusing on seed saving, which in 2016 included workshops by Rowen White and Clayton Brascoupe about how to grow, select, clean, and save seeds. There were also tours of the seed bank at Jijak, which included over 260 varieties. At one point, 30 different seed partners were working with the seed bank to grow out and keep the seed stock fresh and viable. With one variety, the Potawatomi pole bean, they started out with 12 beans, and were then able to increase those numbers to several buckets full.
Cree elder Daisy Kostus led plant walks through the woods to give people hands-on experience in identifying and responsibly harvesting edibles and medicinal plants
One of the favorite spring edibles are ramps– broad leaf onions with small bulbs that taste slightly oniony, slightly garlicky, but a little milder than both. Ramps are delicious in soups, chopped up finely and added to rice, and included in any other recipe you might add scallions too. The most responsible way to harvest ramps is to cut the bulbs above the roots, and to not take too many adjacent plants.
Dr. Martin Reinhardt who helped create and run the Decolonizing Diet Project out of Northern Michigan University Center for Native American Studies, also conducted plant walks, and encouraged people to get to know, and consume, their local foods.
Unfortunately, I had to leave before the end of the conference (to make a 950 mile drive back to RI in time for the Brown University powwow), but to see the rest of the conference activities for the 2016 event, check out Dan’s blog here.
The second year of the conference, Dan was able to procure a live Navajo churro sheep from a local farm, and the conference began with a hands on experience that entailed respectfully taking the sheep’s life, and then processing the animal all the way to a dozen different types of food.
There were also demonstrations on how to remove the hulls from wild rice after it has been toasted by spreading it on a clean hide and rubbing it with your feet (wearing clean moccasins). The rice is then put in bark trays and tossed up in the air so the wind will carry away the chaff.
Mohawk potter Natasha Smoke Santiago was also in attendance, with some of her hand made traditional pottery. This was the first time she tried cooking in her pots, which are modeled after traditional cooking pots of the 17th century. She was very pleased with the results!
Chefs and other participants also had a nice time foraging for fresh ingredients to add to the meals
As part of a broader effort towards, and discussion around, retracing, relearning and reconnecting tribal trade routes, Julio Saqui– a Mayan chocolate producer from Belize- came to the conference to demonstrate how real chocolate is produced. Julio helped to found the Che’il Mayan Chocolate Factory in 2010 in the Stann Creek District of Belize. Mayan farmers grow the cacao locally, and the factory that Julio helped to build produces chocolate bars in twelve different flavors along with other delicacies such as truffles, chocolate wine, cacao tea and cacao nibs.”Che’il” is the Mopan Mayan word for “wild Mayan,” as part of a tongue-in-cheek effort to reclaim the designation.
Some of the beautiful dishes that were served: tepary beans, bison and potatoes in red chili sauce; bison blue corn tacos; nopales salad; squash bars; blue corn and bear root squares; corn soup; beans; and Claudia’s famous chia pudding with walnut creme topping desert.
The summit culminated in an outdoor tasting fair, featuring each of the different chefs who were present
Above, Teri Ami from Navajo Nation serves corn and blueberry parfait with maple sugar
Brian Yazzie, aka Yazzie the Chef, and his partner Hoonie, served muskrat with juniper, mushrooms and acorn squash.
Angela Ferguson served boiled cornbreads, made from traditional Haudenosaunee white corn, with strawberry jam and maple syrup. She and her crew also served corn mush with moose gravy, and Onondaga corn soup.
Fish patties– shaped by youth, grilled by Kristina and Poka, and served with Tashia’s ramp sauce, and green apples.