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Bemidji Pioneer 

Salad days at the Summit: Red Lake hosts indigenous foods gathering


Eleven-year-old Maizie White cuts kale as she leads a cooking class Friday during the Great Lakes Intertribal Food Summit.

RED LAKE-Maizie White tossed kale leaves, hunks of watermelon, red onion pieces, toasted pumpkin seeds, and a handful of other ingredients into a salad bowl in front of about two dozen students in her youth cooking class.

"Toasted pumpkins seeds are great because they're very fatty," the 11-year-old told the crowd. "They're very good for you."

The ingredients for her kale and watermelon salad, she later explained, are all available locally, and the salad itself is healthy and easy to make.

White's demonstration was part of a two-day Great Lakes Intertribal Food Summit in Red Lake designed to promote locally minded, indigenous foods and agriculture practices. It coincides with a culinary movement that's part health food initiative and part cultural reclamation project.

"Food is cultural identity. It really defines who you are," said Sean Sherman, who owns The Sioux Chef, a company that specialized in preparing indigenous dishes and whose cooking will be featured at the Red Lake summit. "We lost a lot of that because of the way history happened for Native American people in North America."

Different regions have different tastes, Sherman explained.

"If you were here 150 years ago, what kind of foods would you have?" Sherman asked, rhetorically. A locally sourced dish from Red Lake, he said, would presumably include wild rice, walleye, rose hips, and hopniss. "Stuff you can find walking around a lake, basically."

Kale watermelon salad

The summit continues through Saturday and includes classes on seed keeping, foraging, and soil health, as well as lectures on "food sovereignty," demonstrations on how to make hominy and smoke fish and meats, as well as traditional indigenous games.

Organizers have also planned an inter-tribal food festival featuring Sioux Chef plates.

"We're trying to encourage folks to do something similar in your local communities," said Dan Cornelius, who coordinated the summit and a similar one last spring in Michigan. He said some attendees at the Michigan summit reported feeling different-better, even-after eating nothing but indigenous, unprocessed foods. "If you're going to have an event, don't bring in pizza...cook food. Cook your indigenous foods as part of that event."


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