Brian Yazzie is chef de cuisine at the Sioux Chef in Minneapolis.
American Indian chefs from around the country will converge on the UW-Madison campus March 10-12 for a first-of-its-kind symposium on food sustainability and preservation of indigenous foods.
Five chefs will lead the food events: Ben Jacobs of Tocabe in Denver; Karlos Baca of Taste of Native Cuisine in Dunton Hot Springs, Colorado; Tashia Hart and Brian Yazzie from the Sioux Chef in Minneapolis; and Kristina Stanley from Brown Rice and Honey catering in Madison.
All will be cooking with and teaching about indigenous foods that formed the original diet of Native Americans. The conference — officially the Food Sovereignty Symposium and Festival — is a collaboration among the Intertribal Agriculture Council, Family Farm Defenders, the Wisconsin Union and UW-Madison.
The public is welcome at a handful of related special meals on campus and across the city. Slow Food UW Cafe at The Crossing, 1127 University Ave., will serve its March 8 lunch made with indigenous foods. The “soft opening” for the symposium is a pop-up dinner at Robinia Courtyard on March 9 from 6 to 9 p.m. Smoked whitefish served with tepary bean dip, buffalo and cranberry pemican, roast duck and kanastole (traditional Oneida cornbread) are on the menu (advance tickets $30). A Friday fish fry at The Crossing will feature blue corn-coated whitefish with wild rice and seasonal vegetables (advance tickets $20).
On Saturday, a Taste of the Tribes brunch at the Wisconsin Institute of Discovery from 10 am to noon will feature small plates from the participating chefs (advance tickets $25). Other food event info and tickets are available at tinyurl.com/UWfoodsymposiumtix.
“The festival is really the celebration of indigenous food,” says Dan Cornelius, a symposium organizer and general manager of the Native Market in Madison. “In addition to the meals and pop-ups our team of native chefs will be working on, we’ve also been reaching out to local restaurants to encourage them to feature indigenous ingredients as part of their menus.”
Steenbock’s on Orchard, the Weary Traveler, Gray’s Tied House and select Food Fight Restaurants are among those that will highlight indigenous foods the week of March 6-12.
The conference will feature panel discussions, workshops and presentations on topics ranging from the importance of heritage seeds to how food security influences protest movements like the one near the Standing Rock reservation, in opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline.
“To me, food sovereignty is about community control over resources and being able to grow enough food to sustain our communities,” says Cornelius.
Keynote speakers include Martin Reinhardt, a professor of Native American Studies at Northern Michigan University and an Anishinaabe Ojibway, who will discuss his “decolonizing the diet” project that studies the health effects of consuming a traditional Indigenous Great Lakes diet. “Seed keeper” and farmer Rowen White from the Mohawk community of Akwesasne will talk about her organic seed cooperative. And Elizabeth Hoover, a professor at Brown and a Mohawk/Mi’kmaq, will discuss Native American farming and gardening projects nationwide. A full program is at food-sovereignty.com.