Updated (10/17/2011) - See the Haskell Indigenous Food Festival link for the final festival schedule, including workshops and speaker biographies, to take place October 21-22 at the Haskell campus.
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I drove up to Lawrence to one meeting with Danon Hare, fellow Harvesters food bank employee and KC resident. He has an interest in studying and practicing Native nutrition towards building a healthy community. His father attended Haskell and his mother is the executive director of the Pawnee tribal council in Oklahoma, his sister Carly Hare is executive director of the Native Americans in Philanthropy, and his brother runs Demockratees.com, a radical design t-shirt company in Oklahoma.
Ideas to make the event informative and entertaining focused on audiences, namely, Haskell students and area residents seeking guidance on diabetes and sustainable food practices.
The conference planning focused on food -- it's a food conference, after all. Organizers plan to get regional Indian food producers to contribute from their harvest or stock, including bison, wild rice, maple sytrup, corn, salmon, elk, and squash, among other items. Local growers and gardeners will be encouraged to get involved.
Raven, a University of Kansas graduate student in the Global Indigenous Nations Studies program, quickly collected 20 ideas for entertainment and activities. This group evidently is well connected to the food and life-balance issues. She's an energized organizer working on a master's thesis project; her life-long work in organic and sustainable food production clearly shows wants to see programs and policies bend current food cycle towards sustainability and balance.
Raven reflected on importance of the festival important to Haskell students and Native Americans:
There is a tremendous amount of cultural knowledge connected to food and by reconnecting to the foods of the ancestors, we are helping to reestablish the cultural relevance these foods play in American Indian Life. American Indian people experience diabetes and obesity at much greater rates then non-Indians. This situation was in part created by the loss of hunting and gathering grounds, the eradication of plant and animal species, and the loss of cultural knowledge due to displacement and population decimation. The balance of living has been disrupted and the foods that should sustain us are causing us harm, to restore balance in our bodies, communities and nations we must bring respect to the foods that we eat.
The organizing group has adopted some challenging goals -- both long-term and conference-focused -- to impact the Haskell campus and everyone connected with the university. The initiative plans to:
- Increase locally-sourced, culturally-relevant foods offered by the Haskell Food Service
- Incorporate campus facilities into a university/student garden/farm/orchard
- Reduce the carbon footprint of Haskell Indian Nations University in the arena of food service
- Create a forum to discuss how to increase the use of traditional foods and encourage protective practices that ensure the sustainability of important food resources for seven generations.
- Offer hands-on skills for food producers and prospective food producers to contract with Indigenous institutions, both federally and privately funded.
- Bring awareness and celebrate the immense contribution Indigenous people and foods have made to the world.
While universities and locales struggle to fund basic community services, it's refreshing to participate in an initiative that is energized because of the inspiration, vision, and voices of the community members.
This is a great opportunity for Kansas City area food sovereignty and sustainable food advocates to support a creative, far-reaching foods festival. Make plans to attend some part of the week-long events.