Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Traditional Foods Conference, Report

Camp Islandwood on Bainbridge Island
Last week Northwest Indian College’s Institute for Indigenous Foods and Traditions organized a three day festival of food on Bainbridge Island. The theme of this year’s inaugural conference was “Our food is our medicine.” Indigenous harvesters, educators, , herbalists, dietitians, and scholars shared workshops, stories, and foods from all corners of the Pacific Northwest.

Terry Maresca presented on Bigleaf Maple (Acer macrophyllum) tapping. Terry comes from a long line of Mohawk sugarbush harvesters and when she moved to the Pacific Northwest, she decided to start making maple syrup from our native maples. We learned about the nutritional properties of maple syrup, how to install taps, and good strategies for boiling the syrup. At the end, Terry gave us a taste of her very own Bigleaf Maple syrup. It was fantastic!

Leigh with a Riceroot bulb. (N. Turner photo)
Later that day, Leigh Joseph presented on her effort to restore Northern Riceroot (lhásem; Fritillaria camschatcensis) in the mouth of the Squamish River so that the Squamish People can once again harvest the edible bulbs. This project was part of her Master’s Degree research and she employed both experimental and community-based research tools to simultaneously understand the ecological and educational parameters for a successful ethno-ecological restoration.
Elise's Fruit Leather
Heather and her bounty of traditional foods
That evening there was an open session for participants to share food and recipes. Elise Krohn gave us samples of her excellent Salal (Gaultheria shallon) - Blueberry (Vaccinium sp.) fruit leather. Heather shared a number of amazing foods that she and her boys harvested near Mt. Adams, including Bitterroots (kioxhay*; Lewisia rediviva), Biscuitroots (kaush*; Lomatium canbyi.), Black Huckleberries (wiwnu*; Vaccinium membranaceum), dried Salmon (nusux*), and dried Elk (yamish*). She said that once the Biscuitroots have been sun dried and mashed they are called luksh*. I have wanted to try Bitterroots for years and I was very excited to taste them. Heather prepared them by carefully peeling the roots and then drying them. She soaking them briefly in hot water before serving them. They were wonderful and not at all bitter (maybe the slightest hint of bitter aftertaste).*Names provided by Heather, orthographies and any mistakes are my own.
The next day the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium presented on their traditional food revitalization project called the “Store outside your door: hunt, fish, gather, grow!” They have teamed with a chef to prepare a number of short food films featuring regional and seasonal traditional foods throughout Alaska. Their films are phenomenal! Check out their youtube channel here.

Then Fiona, Earl, Anna, and JB discussed a variety of projects on Vancouver Island that have helped revitalize traditional foods. These include Feasting For Change, the Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities Indigenous Foods Network, and the Annual Traditional Foods Conference.
Deer Butchering

Hugh barbecuing Salmon and Venison
Boiling with rocks
That afternoon I stayed outside, participating in excellent hands-on workshops including a demonstration of deer butchering, and hands-sessions for salmon and clam barbequing as well as pit roasting. I also boiled some Ozette potatoes in my bentwood box.

After long days of learning, we gathered each evening around a campfire and entertained each other with personal stories, music, and tales of coyote, raven, and other heroes of the animal kingdom.

Common Hawthorn fruit
On the final day of the conference, Elise Krohn and Elizabeth Campbell presented a nice session on late summer berries. We all processed some Common Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) berries, learning about their tonic affect on our blood vessels, and made Black Huckleberry smoothies and Blue Elderberry (Sambucus cerulea) syrup.

I left the conference with a mind full of ideas and an appetite inspired for indigenous foods. Thanks to everyone who shared and the hard work of the organizers and volunteers.

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