What’s Indigenous food? Expo provides answers

Richard Thomas 


A billboard goes up on the former 4th Street Market building to promote the  Indigenous Foods Expo. (Photo by Richard Thomas)
A billboard goes up on the former 4th Street Market building to promote the Indigenous Foods Expo. (Photo by Richard Thomas)

Duluth’s first large-scale Indigenous Foods Expo takes place this Saturday, Sept. 21, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the American Indian Community Housing Organization (AICHO), 202 W. Second St., Duluth. 

The free event was originally scheduled at Central Hillside Park and Niiwin Market (formerly the 4th Street Market) but was moved due to expected rainy weather. 

The Expo is part of the revitalization of Indigenous traditional ways in art, music, poetry and culture, while food is often overlooked in the movement. The event will provide many answers to the question, what exactly is Indigenous food?

“When we talk about Indigenous Foods, we’re ultimately talking about relationship,” said Tashia Hart, local culinary Indigebotanist and member of the Red Lake Nation. “We are talking about the foods that have historically nurtured and shaped our bodies, our cultures, and our traditions as Indigenous peoples of this land base we know as Turtle Island from our Anishinaabeg Creation stories. Other tribes have different names for this land base. The history of each of our Indigenous Foods is also tied to this land, and to us. Our histories are a shared one. This is what makes people, plants, and animals Indigenous to a place, a historical ‘upbringing’ if you will, in a shared space on our Maamaa Aki, Mother Earth.” 

Featured guest speaker is Chef Sean Sherman, founder of the The Sioux Chef, a consulting and catering company in Minneapolis. Other speakers include Brian Yazzie, founder and owner of Intertribal Foodways in St. Paul; Spring Alaska Olson, owner of Sakari Botanicals, from Oregon; and Linda Black Elk, an ethnobiologist from North Dakota.

Annie Humphrey, who won Artist of the Year in the 2018 Native Music Awards, will perform. She is a singer from the Leech Lake Reservation who has been recording since 1989. Her first nationally released album was “The Heron Smiled” in 2000. Other performers are local band #theindianheadband, Jake Vainio and hip-hop artist Wahwahtay Benais.

There will be demonstrations of food processing, seed saving, edible medicinals, wild rice post-harvest process, Indigenous teas, corn silk dolls, traditional lacrosse sticks and more. Families can take part in cultural arts activities. NSRGNTS (painters of AICHO’s Water Protector Mural) will do a live painting. 

A 3-on-3 basketball tournament and lacrosse activities have been relocated to Washington Community Center, 310 N. First Ave. W. 

Parking is available at the Arrowhead Place parking lot on Second Avenue West, in the Lake Superior College parking lot across from AICHO on Second Street and at meters.

The Niiwin Indigenous Foods Market is undergoing renovations with plans to open it in 2020. AICHO purchased the building last year to transform it into a market, deli and coffee shop.