IAIA Conference Discusses Healing Through Food

Feb 15th, 2011 | By | Category: 22-3: Food Sovereignty, Spring 2011, Tribal College News
By Janet Freeman

The Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA, Santa Fe, NM) hosted a USDA-sponsored conference on “Native Foods and Farms” on October 15, 2010, with special emphasis on Native food systems and their impact on community wellness. The one-day event was held at the school’s Achein Center for Lifelong Education and included presentations on the connection between Native agriculture and tribal colleges, Native-based nonprofits that assist Native food systems, potential markets for Native specialty crops, the role Native foods play in maintaining Native wellness, and cooking and tasting demonstrations featuring Indigenous foods.

Luke Reed, IAIA’s USDA grants projects manager, kicked off the program with a lecture on how land grant institutions help foster tribal sovereignty and sustainability. He also stressed the relationship between diet and overall health, saying that the common mission of people everywhere is to “heal ourselves through good food.”

Much of the conference was about bringing together folks already entrenched in the sustainable movement who could share their successes in order to serve as role models for other communities wishing to do the same. Jeff Metoxen (Oneida), who made the trip to Santa Fe from Wisconsin to talk about the Oneida Community Integrated Food System (OCIFS), is a big believer in teaching others how to use local foods to make a difference in their own communities. OCIFS is a nonprofit, community-centered organization whose primary focus is promoting self-sustaining communities through a closed-loop system wherein local foods are grown and purchased.

“My goal isn’t necessarily to feed everyone,” maintained Metoxen, “but to model sustainability and educate people in the community.”

For lunch, conference attendees were treated to a locally harvested, Nativefood feast, including Navajo roast turkey, mesa squash fry, and Hopi corn stew, among other delectable treats. Afterward, Toni Truesdell from the Santa Fe Indian School was on hand to discuss her innovative program that teaches students how to cook with healthy Native foods. Ever aware of the diabetes epidemic that has stricken so many Indian families, Truesdell has banned sugar from her recipes in favor of healthier alternatives, such as agave syrup, honey, or stevia.

“Foods of the Americas are what’s best for Native students,” said Truesdell, who often incorporates into her recipes traditional Native foods brought to her by students’ families.

Other conference speakers included Joseph Bronk of the Santa Ana Pueblo Agricultural Enterprise; Tierra Lucero from the Red Willow Center in Taos Pueblo; representatives from the Natwani Coalition in Kykotsmovi Village, AZ; Vicki Pozzebon of the Santa Fe Alliance; and a lively cooking demonstration by chef and entrepreneur Dolly Watts (Git’ksan), owner of the Lileget Feast House in Vancouver, British Columbia, and author of Where People Feast—an Indigenous Cookbook.

Janet Freeman is a freelance writer and a frequent contributor to Tribal College Journal. For more information, contact Luke Reed at (505) 424-5950, or email lreed@iaia.edu.

Find similar: ,

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.