Written by: Dolly Potts, Agricultural Research Specialist
Adam, Rebecca and I went to Red Lake and Minneapolis, Minnesota to attend conferences on indigenous food sovereignty. Our first stop was the Red Lake Nation Food Summit held at the Red Lake Nation College. We were greeted by our hosts the community of Red Lake. The first presentation I attended was with Dr. Martin Reinhart, who presented “Decolonizing the Diet”. Dr. Reinhart conducted a yearlong study researching the effects of an indigenous high protein diet that included 25 diverse participants.
The participants’ diet was required to be 25-100% indigenous food based. They kept a journal, exercised regularly and received quarterly health checks. Methods of food access they used included hunting, fishing, gathering and sharing. They helped each other by sharing knowledge with cooking demos, online journals, and potlucks. At the end of the study most experienced weight loss, girth reduction, BMI reduction with lower blood pressure and cholesterol. Dr. Reinhart worked with local suppliers like the fish market to smoke more fish so the participants would have a supply of the decolonized diet.
David Manuel was our guide for the Red Lake Food Tour, which highlighted places connected to the local foods initiative. Some of the places were, Gitigaanike Training Garden, Red Lake Nation Foods, and Red Lake Fishery. The wild rice processing plant and the fishery were my favorites. I have never seen so much wild rice and the smell was wonderful. Locals net all of the fish at the Fishery and I find that very interesting. Each person is allowed to bring in 100 fish and the fishery will buy it from them by the pound. The garden was an abandoned nursery for pine trees. The tribe refurbished the nursery to the present site that includes a year-round greenhouse.
There is a community garden in each of the four villages. The communities are encouraged to eat fresh grown foods and workshops with ideas on how to prepare garden dishes are held regularly. Each mealtime at the summit was prepared by the local men and women. Featured dishes were wild rice, greens, fish, moose, venison, and swamp tea (a local drink) prepared from what was available locally.
Saturday, our last day of the Red Lake Summit was the best. The day was full of food demonstrations of hominy, maple sugar, canning, wild rice, and corn husk dolls, outside bread, smoked fish, natural teas, and how to snare a rabbit. Demonstrations were held outside at the Red Lake Powwow Grounds not far from the college. The demonstrators cooked on an open fire using traditional methods and food that obtained from the area. Samples were given, although, I sampled as much as I could hold. Needless to say, everything was delicious, cooking on the open fire made everything taste even more scrumptious. All of the demonstrators were very generous sharing recipes and tips on how to prepare the food. We made a good friend “Jack” who also grew Flint Corn, his tips are proving very helpful with our harvest at SDI.
We rolled out of Red Lake with full bellies and looking forward to the next conference with the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community at Mystic Lake Casino, Minneapolis Minnesota. The Second Annual Conference on Native American Nutrition featured topics on the healthfulness of traditional foods. Topics such as, Food is Medicine, Indigenous Foods Improve Health, and Transformational Eating: A Ceremony of Gratitude were just a few of the topics and speakers we enjoyed listening to. All the speakers shared the same message; traditional native foods are healthy for native peoples. Going forward more tribes should encourage their people to eat what is available to them within their homelands.
By going back to a traditional diets and food ways, native people regain good health and welfare. I presented my poster on Traditional Gardening and Gathering Practices to Provide Healthy Food Options at the Shakopee conference. The poster was received very well with many questions about our research and corn plot. There were many posters displayed including, The Sioux Chef, a catering business that features native foods, to those who presented their strategies to change diets of their community to healthy indigenous diets. The conference was very informative and had a diverse list of attendees. A group of young women participated in the Next Generation Youth Panel, spoke about their gardening project involving school age youth. Our time ended the last night with “Supaman”, a native rapper with a no drugs and alcohol message for young people. The last stop of our trip was to a Minnesota Wildlife Refuge Center where we took a tour and visited the phenology trail. I liked the center it was very informative and community friendly.