Great Lakes Intertribal Food Summit at Jijak Foundation, Gun Lake Potawatomi, April 21-24 2016 and April 19-23 2017


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.

Tim Sobie from Sobie Meats led a workshop on how to deconstruct a buffalo carcass (2016). Photo by Elizabeth Hoover
Maizie peers on with interest as the buffalo is broken down. (2016) Photo by Elizabeth Hoover
Ben Jacobs grilling up the freshly cut up buffalo (2016). Photo by Elizabeth Hoover
Dan was hoping to have a sheep on site to slaughter and butcher, but that wasn’t possible the first year of the conference, so a fresh churro sheep carcass was brought in for butchering (2016).

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.

Roy Kady spinning yarn from Navajo churro sheep wool. Photo by Elizabeth Hoover

Other hands on workshops included cooking corn over the fire

George Martin and Mike Reeves cooking flint corn and wood ash together over the fire. This is done to help remove the hull from the corn so that the nutrients inside will be more bioavailable. (2016)
Ground corn, and dried flint corn
mobile saw mill, and timber frame barn (2016)

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.

Seed exchange
Clayton Brascoupe and Rowen White delivering a seed saving workshop– showing how window screens can be used to separate seeds from their shells and leaves. (2016)
Mariaelena Huambachano, an indigenous researcher originally from Peru who received her PhD in New Zealand at the University of Aukland, traveled all the way to Michigan to attend the food summit (2016)

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

harvesting trout lily leaves

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.

Trout lilies. The leaves and flowers can be eaten raw and added to salads

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.

While maple tapping season was over, Lee Sprague gave pointers on how to use hand made spigots to tap birch trees, whose sap can also be boiled down into syrup
Giant kettles used to boil sap over the fire
evaporator inside the sugar house, used for boiling down sap into maple syrup and maple sugar.
Kevin Finney demonstrating how the scoops would be used to remove the sugar after the water had been boiled out of the sap
Brian Yazzie trying out some birch syrup
Chefs Arlie Doxtator, Andrea Murdoch, Loretta Barett Oden and Ben Jacobs visiting in the dining hall
Andrea Murdoch and Claudia Serrato preparing food
Arlie Doxtator removing squash skins
Angela Ferguson preparing traditional boiled corn bread
breading walleye from Red Lake
Anna Sigrithur preparing a flat bread from flour made from bark
Red Lake walleye with white corn crust, and a hickory nut and pear sauce; salad w craisins and local maple vinegar; green beans; and a bread made of pine bark flour
late night corn grinding!
Alberta Salazar from Oaxaca demonstrates to Ana and Maizie how to clean nopales
Alberta and Chef Neftali Duran, also originally from Oaxaca, brought the flavors of their homeland to the Great Lakes Summit, preparing a posole that included local corn and buffalo, but also nopales and chilis
Neftali stirring the posole
tearing up yerba santa leaves to add to the soup

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.

The blood from the sheep was saved to make blood sausages
The sheep slaughtering and butchering was guided by Aretta Begay from the Navajo Churro Lamb Presidium, and the Dine be’Iina’ Navajo Lifeway organization
removing the stomach and intestine
Brian Yazzie and Neftali Duran with the ribs
cleaning out the intestine
cleaning out the stomach
ách’íí’: Navajo delicacy: fat wrapped with sheep intestines
fresh off the grill– ách’íí’: Navajo delicacy: fat wrapped with sheep intestines
making blood sausage with sheep blood, spices, and blue corn meal
roasting the leg of lamb over the fire
Aretta and the cooked leg of lamb
lamb tacos!
Aretta and Chef Teri Ami inspect the lamb meat that’s been braised in cedar
Yousef and I carrying geese to Daisy to be butchered and roasted
Daisy swirling the goose in hot water in order to make removing the feathers easier
Daisy plucking out the feathers
The windpipe can be used as a whistle!
Shane McSauby helps Daisy hang the gees near to the fire on a string, so they can rotate and slow roast
Daisy also led the group in the butchering of a beaver that had been trapped near by. Daisy grew up “in the bush” and has been skinning beavers since she was 3 years old, as she recalls.
We all got to have a turn separating the hide from the meat. Beavers are surprisingly harder to skin than other mammals like sheep or deer
Chef David Rico tries his hand at skinning the beaver
Daisy uses her expert hand to show us how it’s done, while Tiana Suazao from Taos helps to pull the hide tight
Melvin removing the guts
After the internal cavity is all cleaned out, Daisy filled the beaver with apples and oranges and sewed it shut again
Dennis, who trapped the beavers, then helped Daisy hang them near the fire to be slow roasted
Daisy and Dennis cutting apart the beaver after it’s done cooking. The meat is very dark and has a very strong flavor
The beaver meat out on the buffet table
It received mixed responses

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.

Mary Arquette winnowing rice

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!

pot made by Natasha Smoke Santiago
Tasha adding water and chaga tea to her pot
Erick, who also makes traditional clay cooking pots also made tea over the fire
in addition, corn was toasted inside one of Erick’s pots

The second year of the conference also included a series of workshops focused on seed saving and gardening, led by Mohawk seed keepers Clayton Brascoupe (founder of the Traditional Native American Farmers Association) and Rowen White (director of Sierra Seeds Cooperative and the Indigenous Seedkeepers Network)

Clayton holding some of the corn that he grew at his home in Tesuque Pueblo
Assortment of seeds that Rowen brought to share as part of the seed exchange
Collection of traditional Haudenosaunee seeds brought by Angela Ferguson

Chefs and other participants also had a nice time foraging for fresh ingredients to add to the meals

Karlos Baca, Yusuf Bin-Rella, Ben Jacobs and David Rico
Kristina Stanley and David Rico with their bark foraging baskets
Aretta Begay harvesting spring onions
spring onions
Kevin harvesting wild ginger
Jamie Betters from the Oneida Cannery demonstrates how to shell and cook white corn
shelling white corn, grown at Tsyunhehkwa in Wisconsin

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.

Julio Saqui holding a cacao pod
The beans inside the pod were roasted and smashed, and then cooked over the fire
fresh hot chocolate!
Many great meal components were prepared in and around the turtle oven!
Neftali grinding fresh salsa
Neftali and Crystal scooping up fresh salsa
fish wrapped in yerba santa leaves
cooking black beans over the fire
corn soup with lamb, cooking over the fire
crew of chefs!
cedar braised bison
Angela Ferguson preparing a lovely green salad with strawberries
Kristina Stanley scooping out roasted butternut squash
Karlos cooking hand made tortillas
Paula Hill pressing the tortillas
Maizie serving up buffalo and squash
Teri Ami chopping up nopales
blue corn tortilla; nopales salad with quinoa, avocado and tomatoes; green beans and potatoes, bison cooked in red chili with squash; and tepary beans, with strips of ramps
Ben and David preparing the bison and red chili
Claudia and Mariaelena plating the nopales salad
Maizie slicing up white fish
Rico plating the white fish
Making tamales!! Aretta, me, Tashia, Kim
tamales steaming
Paula handing out tamales
Kristina making her famous sunprint cookies– gluten free, vegan, nut-based delicious cookies!!
Karlos grilling mushrooms
Karlos Baca serving food
Navajo tea, labrador tea, and cedar tea
chef crew!

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.

Cholla bud salad
Moss pondering his excellent meal
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