Monday, November 30, 2015

Notes from Indigethanx

Introduction and Welcome
Dr. Rosser introduced the first guest, who cleansed the air with smoke and honored the Four Directions and the ancestors who lived on this Ohlone land. I did not catch her name. 

“My mother said, ‘When ceremony ends, so does the Earth.’ I too believe this.”

A student performed a Chumash song honoring our grandmothers and their grandmothers in turn.

Dr. Rosser explained the Mutsun word noson, as breath as it is in spirit, and introduced Professor Melissa Nelson, an activist for Native American rights who works with the Cultural Conservancy.

Professor Melissa Nelson
Revitalizing Native Foodways/Renewing America’s Food Traditions
  • Thanksgiving is a complex holiday both protested and celebrated
  • “There’s really a global renaissance going on” regarding the revitalization of Native foodways
  • Mentioned ceremonies regarding food and religious and cultural importance of strawberries- one of the first foods to be grown on Turtle Island in First Nations’ creation stories.
  • A Chippewa prophecy made about 500 years before Columbus’s arrival foretold that danger would come from the east; it foretold “we will know where our new home is when we find the food that grows upon the water,” referring to the staple food of wild rice.
  • Food sources are affected by pesticides, damming, climate change, and diseases such as Sudden Oak Death.
    • Climate change and damming lead to lower numbers of salmon and less access to them, affecting culture, nutrition, and ceremony.
  • Identifying foodsheds and the “first foods” of American lands is a way to reclaim identity.
  • Seven key foods eaten globally as staples originate from North America
    • Corn, potatoes, tomatoes, beans, squash, chocolate (cacao), sunflowers
    • Many more important foods come from North America, but these are considered the 7 most important
Food Sovereignty
  • Regarding food sovereignty, “you have the right to be self-defining.”
  • Food sovereignty as “the production of traditional and sacred foods by Tribal Nations with the objective of feeding the local community, and only after the community is sustained, to provide these foods to the larger community.”
  • Workers are highly involved; sovereignty includes protection from dangers such as pesticides.
  • Native foodways are cultural, spiritual, physical, and ecological, a web of life.
Columbian Devastation
  • “What happened to the Native world . . . was a total apocalypse” regarding colonial settlement.
  • Fried bread became a survival food, a creation of “Indigenuity,” but lead in part to the Type II Diabetes epidemic in Native communities.
    • Over half of tribal community members in the United States live with Type II Diabetes, hypertension, obesity, or heart disease.
      • “100%” of the community is affected; family and community is affected through healthcare and transporting those who need healthcare.
  • Sacred buffalo were overkilled to remove the primary food source of tribes of the Northern Plains; damming cut off access to salmon and other fish.
  • "The value of food is weighed in dollars . . . not in its ability to nourish." —John Mohawk.
  • The slow food movement focuses on slowing down to take time to cook and eat our food.
Current Food Movements and Actions
  • Tsyunhehkwa
  • Muskoke
  • Taos Food Center
  • Traditional North American Farmers Association
  • Slow Food Terra Madre
  • Parque de la Papa (Potato Park)
    • Protects heirloom seeds; relates to food sovereignty and social connections
  • Biocultural Heritage Territories
  • Bay Area intertribal urban youth education programs
  • Tribal intergenerational CSA pilot programs partner with local communities and create food distribution systems
    • Youth interns glean and distribute crops not up to market standards
    • Some use traditional three-sisters planting or mound-style cultivation
  • The Tohono O'odham Nation grows easy to grow, extremely drought resistant beans
  • “There’s an incredible culinary revolution happening.”
    • e.g. the Native American Culinary Association
Misc. Quotes
  • “Food is good for the body, but also good for the soul.”
  • “We’re all kernels of the same cob.”
  • “Seed to seed, soul to soul”; regarding to the restoration of international treaties
Resources/References
  • Seeds of our Ancestors film
  • The Cultural Conservancy
  • Linda Hogan’s Ceremony for the Seeds poem
  • Activist Patricia Gualinga


Enrique Salmón
  • “Environmentalists and [people involved in sustainability] want to keep us in one place.”
  • Before 1492, over 400 bean species existed in North America.
  • “Stop using ‘how it used to be’ and ‘was’[ . . .]” there are and always will be maintaining cultural practices
  • “A lot of my students don’t realize that corn was created by human beings…”; “We are children of the corn”
  • Biodiversity is linked to cultural diversity
    • “Native people are a keystone species”
  • “Indigenous knowledge is local knowledge,” unique to each area
    • Formed over vast amounts of time, much longer than Western scientists have studied North America
  • “Small ancestral fields are the refugia of resilience”
    • Small fields are microhabitats
  • The Hopi Tribe of the Colorado Plateau has followed the same planting method for over a thousand years: 5 to 6 seeds are planted 18 inches underground. The deep earth provides the plants with moisture and the multiple stalks protect each other from topping in the wind. Nitrogen is fixed in the soil by beans that grow there.
Resilience and Connections to Food
  • “One has to find the time to [learn about] long term memory”
    • Long term memory is cultural history
    • Short term history is a driving force of new ideas guided by advice from elders
  • Resilience relates to cultural capital, primarily elders and farmers
  • On his family asking for farming help from neighbors: “It was a way of creating community”
  • “Every now and then you need to revolt… without forgetting the traditions.”
  • “We don’t spend enough time directly connected to the environment”
  • [As Native people,] “We’ve had a very direct relationship with our food”
  • There is a loss of ancestral diets; pre-Columbian diets had relatively lower fat content and more fiber, insoluble fibers, amylose, and chromium. Ancestral diets slowed down the digestive systems.
  • “We are that landscape… we’ve been eating our landscape.”
  • “Choosing to eat our Ancestral foods in a political/decolonizing act”
    • Quote from PowerPoint
  • “We need to decolonize our food as much as possible.”
  • “When we eat our Ancestral foods… we reject [harmful] agricultural practices.”
  • “This is more than being political, this is embracing our identity.”
  • “Our identity is only as strong as our actions.”
What’s Being Done
  • Natwani Coalition works with Native CSAs
  • Navajo farmers have identified and have revitalized ancient Puebloan fields that had lain dormant


Wrap-Up/End
  • Enrique Salmon: “[Native people] are the juniper tree… with the next big gust that comes along, we’re still going to be standing.”
  • Dr. Rosser: “We have always been here and we will always be here.”
  • Survivance: survival and resilience
    • “Remember, it’s not just about survival, it’s about resistance too,” -Professor Nelson
  • “Food is more than just something we eat… You relearn the ceremonies… before long you revitalize your entire culture.”
Q&A
  • GMOs:
    • Both agreed that GMOs are a spiritual question
      • Enrique: “We rely on the High Priest of Western science”
        • We need to relate more to the world and our food
  • Prof. Nelson: “Water is our first food;” water sovereignty is a part of food sovereignty.
    • Regarding to the drought and purification of water, “we can use nature to heal nature.”
Favorite Recipes

  • Prof. Nelson: an Ojibwe meal of wild rice with pecans and cranberries and braised buffalo
  • Enrique: a Hopi bean sprout stew with herbs and mutton, a favorite food of the kachina- rain spirits, but more; “when we pass we become the rain.”
  • Dr. Rosser: green chili stew

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