Event Summary – 2019 Great Lakes Intertribal Food Summit @ Pokagon

Photos below by D.Kakkak

A Summit Overview

Building on the success of the 1st Intertribal Food Summit in Oneida, Wisconsin with a handful of producers in 2012, the Great Lakes Summit has since grown into a successful forum for discussing a wide range of issues facing the food sovereignty movement in the western hemisphere.

The event has since been held at the Jijak Center owned by the Gun Lake (Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish) Band of Potawatomi in southern Michigan, the Red Lake Ojibwe Nation of northern Minnesota and the Sac and Fox Meskwaki Indian Community at Tama, Iowa. In 2019 the event was held at the Rodgers Lake Campus on the Pokagon Reservation near Dowagiac, Michigan.

The 2019 event hosted by the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians, Native American Food Sovereignty Alliance and Intertribal Agriculture Council (IAC), welcomed over 700 participants from Indigenous communities through-out the world to the five day event. A concurrent Youth Summit component was run alongside the entire event.

One of the ideas behind the food summit was to understand and know the plants, medicine and properties of the natural world, and therefore the abundance of food and eatable forest products that are found within a community’s living radius.

That means in one sense, heading back out into the local woods and that is one of the first activities among the more than 55 sessions offered this year at the food summit, including several walking classes, such as those pictured below.

The food summits are not organized like regular conventions that Indian Country and many participants typically participate in. While there were a couple dozen workshops and presentations during the more than 55 sessions offered using computer screens and modern digital presentation capabilities, like Power Points and video, the vast majority of the workshops were developed with hands on activities in mind, to get attendees involved producing a tool or piece of equipment, or experiencing a food product production.

The 55 workshops offered, featured over 70 speakers and presenters and almost always a around table of questions and answers from those growing, harvesting and foraging food in the field.

The summit with the support and endorsement of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi was opened with a welcome from Tribal Chairman Matt Wesaw (below in blue), and a veterans color guard and prayer ceremony from local elders. The entire event was conducted with strategic local support from several departments within the Pokagon Tribal Government. The main community committee involved in planning over the course of the year leading up to the summit was the Pokagon Food Sovereignty Committee with tribal council member Gary Morseau providing key liaison support.

Departments involved in planning and implementation included the Health Department, Law Enforcement, Public Works and Maintenance who helped set up the event site, took care of both the Rodgers Lake Campus site where vendors, hand on demonstrators and speaking facilities were located, in addition to maintaining the tribal camp and lodging facilities for housing of participants.

Another key department player was the Four Winds Casino, where coordination of unique food orders from Indigenous chefs coming in from around the world took place. Coordinating income food sources is difficult but necessary to the success of each and every unique culinary approach taken by chefs from different regions and tribes.

Chefs, traveling from North and South American alike bring interesting food presentations from their region, but getting those food products sourced properly, shipped and stored presents a unique challenge. Just where do you get a cooler full of northern Wisconsin walleye fish eggs and how can it be transported and then stored? Cactus from the southwest, cocoa from South America, special spices, elk meat and other locally sourced food needs can get complicated, but one of the purposes of the food summit is to help increase the inventory of product availability, find recipes for their culinary use, and then finding a willing clientele to eat or buy it.

Coordinating those supplies is crucial to the culinary tastes and needs of the chefs and participants, taste testing.

The workshops and presentation sessions offered everything  from making Iroquois planting sticks, learning about a no-till organic approach to farming, elm bark harvesting for containers, or lodging structures, introduction to seed saving, seed exchange, traditional tools, identification of local foods and eatable flowers, community foods systems and preparations sites, ceremonial feasting cycles and creating business plans were a few of the offerings. The summit worked to provide a combination of both traditional and the modern presentation opportunities.

“How do we feed our communities again? That’s what it’s really all about and getting to that point where we can be bringing the foods back into our diet” as Great Lakes Intertribal Agriculture Council coordinator Dan Cornelius explains it.

The Native American Food Sovereignty Alliance which started a culinary mentor program generated applications from over 60 Native chefs and cooks this year. Each year the number of chefs and mentors who want to be part of the program has increased. Additional volunteers helped with all kinds of activities from gathering special ingredients in the woods, to helping serve meals as a way of breaking into the industry.

Some well know names in the Indigenous culinary sector included names like Sean Sherman, the Sioux Chef, Arlie Doxtator from Oneida, Wisconsin, Ben Jacobs of Tacobe in Denver, Colorado, Vernon Defoe of Red Cliff,…. a fantastic lineup of established chefs. Those well known chefs were paired with mentors from through-out Indian Country. Over 60 chefs and mentors fed a registered crowd of 700 people from inside a pavilion kitchen, and mobile food truck and outside woodland cooking facilities.

Over 600 pounds of corn, 30 gallons of maple syrup, whitefish and lake trout from Lake Superior, walleye from Red Lake, Minnesota, walleye eggs from northern Wisconsin, a whole buffalo from a nearby farm, trapped beaver, venison hind quarters, ducks, blue potatoes, sunchokes, pounds of wild rice, hickory nuts, tepary beans, cactus, white corn from Iroquois country and a couple of muskies for underground cooking were only a partial list of ingredients brought in for the summit.

The summit partnered with Pokagon Health Department and on a voluntary basis had some participants draw blood for checking sugar levels and other data at the beginning of the event. Then a second blood draw at the end of the event to quantify the impact of eating a Indigenous diet for several days, especially with foods with a low glycemic index and what kind of an impact that would have on participants.

The construction of tools in a traditional way is meant to help to strengthen the connection and personal relationship to the foods, whether seeds, foraging, raising animals or butchering techniques. Doing everything from working with the earth and soil, preparation and incubation of seeds prior to planting, planting songs, ceremony, and use of traditional equipment for farming represent a healthy cycle for growing food, hunting and foraging in a holistic way.

While embracing the traditional thinking approach to harvest, foraging and use of foods, the summit also featured up to date modern approaches to real needs, laws and farming techniques. The United States Department of Agriculture, (USDA) provided classroom workshops and guidance on numerous activities to help potential farmers, harvesters and prepare those to manage their way through numbers, business outlines, federal, tribal and state laws on food and food handling. Participants to the summit engage USDA and other regulators on site on issues of traditional and ceremonial handling of foods in order to mitigate rules and regulations that might impact Indigenous culinary customs.

The Pokagon Band had both a food and health inspector on site checking for food safety issues. Working side by side with chefs, food inspectors and health officials were also able to pick up pointers on how their own local tribal ordinances could reflect conflict avoidance issues, while safe guarding the public from mishandled food processing techniques.

Previous efforts have led to US commodity food programs, tribal education systems and elderly feeding programs moving toward providing a more traditional and healthy diet being served locally. A good example is finding wild rice and onions, venison, and local fish being placed on federal feeding menus or being available through the USDA commodity foods programs for people to choose from.

On the other end of the spectrum, Arlo and Lisa Ironcloud from Pine Ridge, South Dakota led a workshop with at least 30 others people helping to butcher a buffalo. Their presentation includes highlighting different cuts of meat and helping others to have a better understanding of the sacrifice that the animal made to feed people. The Ironclouds’ butcher in the most respectful way they can, while meeting food code regulations for storage, cleaning, use of tools, cooling and handling of meat.

The buffalo butchered helped feed 700 people in a couple of different meals with offerings of buffalo ribs, buffalo stew thickened with parched white corn, and bison tamales at one meal alone. By the end of the conference, some participants had eaten bison in a dozen or more recipes and different preparation techniques.

Participants were also able to work hands on with many presenters and included the opportunity to forge their own copper tools, hollowing out a yellow birch wooden corn/grain grinding mortar, carving out a planting stick or cooking paddles, gathering and making birch bark or black elm baskets, and forming birch cones for holding hardened maple sugar. Other classes made corn husk dolls, winnowing baskets, and several participants had the fun of tanning several different types of hides.

Even the outside kettles over the fire are examples of food sovereignty knowledge, the knowledge of how the fire changes the flavors of food, the textures and uses of several food products. A good example is the making of white corn into hominy increasing the nutritional value of the corn by making certain elements more digestible in the human stomach.

Here we show some of the value of a hands on workshop. Many participants went home with tools and products they helped forge, cut, mold, tan or build. In most cases this experience started in the woods with a simple ceremony of thanks, the harvesting of a product, and then the steps needed to turn a piece of nature into some kind of functional tool or food for human beings.

Through-out the summit, many participants engage in cross discussion on relevant topics from planting and garden bed preparation, hunting and cooking techniques, flavors and historic trade routes. Out of discussions about historic trade routes came discussions about trade and barter, exchange, timing of harvesting and use of new products in a world of invasive species and climate change. One workshop related to reed mats was conducted but using a local invasive reed species as a way of attempting to limit, or eradicated one kind of invasive species in the Great Lakes or maybe turn it into a local economic endeavor of some kind. One mantra of the summit was to simply, “think out of the box.”

Discussions of many kinds occurred across the summit grounds from germination techniques to encouraging our local Native communities to grow and use our own local foods again as one step towards a healthier community, and efforts help save the earth.

One of the sweetest topics of the summit gathering each year is the maple and sapping section. Here, several tribal efforts has increased production of maple sugar, a historic product that once generated what would be the equivalent of millions of dollars in modern day economic value. Wisconsin and Michigan tribes in 1865 sold close to 450,000 pounds of maple sugar.

But while digging for information on maple sugar, participants also used historic techniques to make sure — boiling a batch in clay pots on coals, a much more likely historic likelihood from the narrative that Indians dropped red hot stones into clay or birch containers to thicken their sap and boil it down to sugar.

But discussions and entrepreneurship have added many new products. This year at the summit you could find (and in some cases procure) traditional maple candy containers made of yellow and white birch to cases of maple vinegar being offered for sale by various tribal vendors. Products of maple sugar, and syrups of many sizes were available but the overall efforts were to get participants to the comfortable point of being able to go out into their own yard and tap one or two trees for drinking tea or cooking with. The workshops worked from one tap — all the way up to modern techniques for tubing and the ethics of reverse osmosis (RO) in de-watering your maple syrup. Any topic or question in-between was game.

A major and wonderfully colorful topic of each year, almost emotional in some of its impact has been seeds and seed exchanges. The whole bases of the food sovereignty movement might not be possible if it were not for the unique and almost spiritual existence of a huge diversity of Indigenous seeds. Over 600 varieties of traditional Indian corn alone, and counting for one type of plant. Remote and unknown varieties of tribal corn are still unearthed in museums and private collections. Hopi Blue Corn for tortillas are well known, but the Hopi have several other corn seed as well, some used because it has low sugar for elders, other types used for ceremonial needs like weddings and funerals.

What-ever is going on with seeds, is surrounding by the feeling of a blessing of some kind. Seeds….. Indigenous seeds showing up to feed us with corn, beans, squash, sunflowers, watermelons, and hundreds of traditional plants once again thriving to feed our communities. The summit brings together some of the best know seed rematriation people in Indian Country.

Rowen White and the Indigenous Seed Keepers Network have been rematriating seeds for a number of years and you can find the fruits of those seed exchanges growing in gardens across the North American continent today. These efforts are on-going from local seed exchange events to a recent field museum in Chicago rematriating seeds they found in their collections back to Meskwaki Nation at Tama, Iowa. Many of these seeds are historic seeds once commonly used in our community hundreds of years ago, and some varieties described in history books had been thought to have been lost for ever.

The Intertribal Food Summit brings all of these elements together, from history to culture, from the very earth and soil, to modern regulations to keep our food safe.

The summit exists in part to serve our communities throughout North America with a healthier diet, stronger economy and one of the most delicious palates the Indigenous community can serve up.

For more information regarding future Great Lake Summit gatherings, proposals for future or related events contact Dan Cornelius at dan@indianaglink.com

Tribal Cooperative Development and Value Added Workshop

Join the University of Wisconsin Law School’s Great Lakes Indigenous Law Center and the Intertribal Agriculture and partners, including the University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives, the Native American Food Sovereignty Alliance (NAFSA), for a Roundtable on Tribal Cooperative Development and Value Added Products in Madison, Wisconsin on Tuesday morning, June 5th.  In addition to this half-day session, there are several related events occurring in Madison from June 4-6, including the

  1. Food Sovereignty on Turtle Island Symposium that is part of the Ethnobotany Conference
  2. Indigenous Foods Tasting Menu from The Sioux Chef
  3. update on the new Indigenous Seed Sovereignty Collaboration with UW-Madison and the Indigenous Seed Keepers Network
  4. Traditional Tools Workshop led by Kevin Finney, and
  5. an Indigenous Foods Banquet Dinner from The Sioux Chef, Sean Sherman

Registration for the Ethnobotany Conference is required to attend the Food Sovereignty on Turtle Island Symposium on Monday, June 4th.  We do have a limited number of registrations for that conference, as well as lodging support.  Please contact daniel.cornelius@wisc.edu to RSVP or for more information.


tribal coop development workshop


Report: 2018 Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Food Summit

Summit Brochure 2018_online_Page_01


The Meskwaki Red Gardens as seen in the distant and the Meskwaki Bingo and Casino convention center to the right, played host to the 2018 Great Lakes Intertribal Food Summit, held May 9-13, at the Meskwaki Settlement near Tama, Iowa.

Over five days a couple hundred participants, presenters, vendors and visitors spent time learning about traditional foods, understanding plants, food issues, uses for medicine, mentoring with Indigenous chefs, consulting with gardeners and others involved in the greater Native Food Sovereignty movement.

A final report and photo display is presented here to celebrate the new found relationships, the intellectual feed and the gorgeous food that was provided and cooked by our chefs while at the Meskwaki Settlement with both traditional and contemporary production practices utilized. There were over 60 workshops for hands-on learning opportunities and for asking about or sharing information.

The Summit opened up on Wednesday May 9th with sunny skies and over a dozen hands-on workshops involving traditional implements like making Botagens (Corn Mortars), building a Wikiup (Traditional Meskwaki structures), constructing Haudenosaunee Planting Sticks, Cooking Paddles, Pottery and Birch Bark Canisters.  Stealing the day in a special way, was the putting down of a Bison and its butchering — involving some of the chefs and many volunteers who watched and participated in identifying and separating numerous bison parts for food, ceremonial and craft supply needs.


While many of the workshops that followed that morning were pre-registered and some with a small cost, no participants who wanted to watch or converse about any of the topics were turned away.  These hands-on workshops, some which took place on other days as well, included a number of demonstrations of finished products and give participants a connection to the implements that they might prefer to work with in the garden and craft shop if they were to undertake various tasks such as grinding corn or wild rice in a traditional botagen as seen below (lower left).  Also participants made clay pots and viewed the proper use of a Haudenosaunee planting stick after making one for themselves.

Photos by DKakkak and Paul DeMain

Several afternoon workshops involved technical information presented by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Indian Health Service representatives who introduced both conservation planning and IHS food safety training for handling and processing food safely and provided information on other programs and funding that might be available for tribal communities to access.

During the following days participants had over 60 workshop to participate in with great discussions that took place through-out the Red Gardens of the Meskwaki Settlement and from inside their Hotel-Casino Convention Center. Always a favorite were discussions about seeds, trading seeds, planting trends, ricing and making maple or other types of syrup and value added products for the home cupboard or vending.


Some of workshops included Making Wood Ash Hominy, (Ojibwe, Oneida, Onondaga Styles) along with a traditional Meskwaki Traditional Foods  Demo, making Milkweed Soup, Processing and Using Acorn Flour and many other activities that brought the community around a newly erected cooking pavilion that will be available in the future for the community to use. During the conference the cooking pavilion was used for both display of goods, baskets, clay pots, traditional cooking tools, and for experimental use of cooking —  for example a batch of maple syrup was rendered down to sugar, in a clay pot, an event that some people in the maple industry have claimed  (outside of the Indigenous Community) could not be done, or was too inefficient.

As much as the butchering of the bison took up a lot of attention, the ethical use of animal and food products have always been stressed as necessary both to ensure an abundance of food product supplies in the future but also to maintain a good spiritual relationship of respect as well. For example some people enjoyed participating in both the butchering and the preparation of squirrel, ducks and beaver and followed the process through into the kitchen and on to the serving table.

Others who had followed the butchering of the bison took on the responsibility to make sure that every part of the bison was utilized to the best of our ability, on the spot, while others spent hours helping tanning hides for future use.


Of course one of the greatest assets that the annual Great Lakes Intertribal Summit brings to the table is the large number of Indigenous chefs who organize themselves and the menu, a lot of time based on what is donated or shows up from around the country. Each year the team of chefs seem to out do themselves while showcasing the idea that Indian Country once provided for all their own food needs, and from a local base of seasonal products at that.


The chefs work with diverse foods, diets, spices and cooking facilities to over come all kind of obstacles that occur when you show up with almost nothing but a whole lot of culinary cooking skills, knowledge and ice cooler donations of meats, plants, spices, nuts, flours and other supplies from all across Indian Country. And here are some of the results of five days of culinary heaven (for some).

Don’t be mad, be hungry and attend next year’s Intertribal Food Summit.


A special thanks to Dave Shananaquet for the painting he made during the conference and his donation of it during the auction that helped raise money for student projects and stipends for our future culinary youth.

And our greatest gratitude to the people of the Meskwaki Settlement, and their Food Sovereignty Initiative, all who went out of their way to host our organization and the many visitors that came from through-out the North American continent. The success of the event was based on their input and help that we received from the community and each and every participant.  THANK YOU!!

Event Summary – Red Lake Food Summit

Red Lake

Following successful past regional food summits at Oneida and, most recently, Gun Lake Pottawatomi’s Jijak Camp this past April, Red Lake volunteered the Fall 2016 Great Lakes Intertribal Food Summit in conjunction with the Intertribal Agriculture Council from September 16-17 with pre-summit workshops on the 14th and 15th.

The pre-summit workshops featured training on federal vendor, organic, and GAP (Good Agricultural Practices) certifications before offering opportunity to tour some of Red Lake’s operations, like the Red Lake Fisheries and Red Lake Nation Foods warehouse.


Two new Tribal facilities, the Tribal administration building and the Red Lake Nation College that served as home base for the summit, provided an amazing setting, directly on the shores of Red Lake, with the directly adjacent powwow grounds offering excellent outdoor gathering, cooking, and instructional space.  Friday morning workshops included 1)  “Harvesting from the Forest” that covered in-depth foraging and fall preparations for spring tree tapping season and 2) “Soil Health” led by USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) and University of Minnesota-Crookston.


Behind-the-scenes efforts on Friday morning also included a partnership with Red Lake’s Elderly Nutrition Program (ENP) program, which was able to serve lunch featuring buffalo stew donated by the Intertribal Buffalo Council (ITBC) and homemade biscuits prepared by the Onondaga Nation chefs.

Similar to the Spring 2016 Great Lakes Intertribal Food Summit at Jijak, this event featured Native chefs preparing Indigenous foods for all meals.  Brian Yazzie and Tashia Hart from the Sioux Chef led a team that also included Neftalí Duran, the Onondaga Nation, and students and instructors from United Tribes Technical College’s (UTTC) culinary program.

Friday afternoon workshops covered 1) “Grazing 101” with instruction from NRCS, Society for Range Management (SRM), and ITBC and 2) “Indigenous Seed Keeping” led by Rowen White and Zach Paige.


Several vendors, including IAC’s Mobile Farmers Market, setup throughout the event, offering a variety of Indigenous foods and outreach on efforts relating to Tribal food and agriculture.

Saturday’s “Intertribal Foods Festival” combined continuing education with morning presentations before the event shifted outside to demonstrations and hands-on activities.  The Sioux Chef, Sean Sherman, highlighted the top Native chef lineup that served lunch featuring small plates  while hominy continued cooking in kettles, wild rice was traditionally finished, and whitefish smoked for hours.

Traditional botagens (the large pestle and mortar pictured above) seed cleaning were interspersed with a presentation from Sean Sherman, continued cooking, and a sapping talking circle complete with equipment demonstrations.  The clouds then cleared in mid-afternoon, providing a perfect setting for husking and braiding heirloom corn.

Partnership and support from the Red Lake Nation and its community members helped make the event so special and memorable.  Red Lake hunters contributed multiple deer, including the grilled steaks (above) and the Red Lake Local Food Initiative contributed an assortment of vegetables to compliment the walleye and whitefish donated by the Red Lake Fishery.  The Onondaga Nation further supplemented that fish with a huge cooler of New York fish.


The Intertribal Agriculture Council offers a huge thank you to the Red Lake Nation and all of our teachers, chefs, sponsors, and participants.  We would specifically like to thank our sponsoring organizations, including Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota, the NB3 Foundation, First Nations Development Institute, the Blanden Foundation, the Onondaga Nation, and NRCS.

Foraging for Food, Fuel and Medicines at Great Lakes Fall Food Summit

#1. Foraging for Food, Fuel and Medicines: Hyssop

The Red Lake Ojibwe Nation and Intertribal Agriculture Council (IAC) take you on a short walk along part of the Red Lake Ojibwe Nation’s, Red Lake and the woods that surround it foraging for food, fuel and medicines as part of the Great Lakes Intertribal Fall Food Summit held at Red Lake, Minnesota during September of 2016.


#2. Foraging for Food, Fuel and Medicines: American Basswood

Here is Kevin Finny, Director of the Jijak Foundation for the Gun Lake Pottawatomi in Michigan speaking about the use of American Basswood, one of several species of trees identified during the fall 2016 Intertribal Food Summit held on the Red Lake Ojibwe Nation during September.

#3. Foraging for Food, Fuel and Medicines: Milkweed

With Kevin Finney, executive director of the Gun Lake Pottawatomi’s Jijak Foundation and Tashia Hart of the Sioux Chef Team in the woods and fields of Red Lake Ojibwe Reservation foraging for food, fuel and medicines as part of the Great Lakes Intertribal Fall Food Summit sponsored by the Intertribal Agriculture Council during September of 2016.



#4. Sapping Black Walnut and other trees

Forest Specialist Kevin Finney discusses a few things they learned while sapping Black Walnut trees — one of them, the emergence of a by-product called pectin.

As part of the Food Sovereignty movement in Indian Country the Intertribal Agricultural Council and the Red Lake Ojibwe held a Great Lakes Intertribal Food Summit in Red Lake during September of 2016 featuring foraging for food, workshops on soil, traditional economies, and related subjects while featuring several Indigenous chefs and Native cuisine for two days.

Great Lakes Intertribal Food Summit – Event Summary

The 2016 Great Lakes Intertribal Food Summit held at Gun Lake Pottawatomi’s Jijak Camp from April 21-24 was a tremendous success due to an amazing turnout of individuals and groups willing to share their unique skills and knowledge.  Search #foodsummit and #jijak for event pictures and posts.


Thirteen workshops covered a diverse variety of topics relating to Tribal food and agriculture on Thursday and Friday, leading to the Intertribal Foods Festival on Saturday.  Notably, the concurrent Native Youth in Food & Agriculture Great Lakes Regional Summit began Thursday evening as Tribal youth from around the Great Lakes region arrived and then spent the next three days learning and expanding their knowledge.


Seed Saving (led by Rowen White and Clayton Brascoupe)Continue reading “Great Lakes Intertribal Food Summit – Event Summary”

Food Summit – Food Systems & Seven Generations

PROGRAM REBROADCAST from Saturday April 23rd, 2016:
Four Presentations = 2 hours, 59 minutes video
#1. Treaties and Food Systems – Martin Reinhardt, 0-1hr. 2min
#2. at 1hr. 2 minutes until 1hr. 32min –
        Gun Lake Wild Rice Restoration Efforts – Elizabeth Binoniemi-Smith,
#3. at 1hr 32 minutes until 2hrs 11 – min –  Agricultural Archeology – Bill Gartner
#4. at 2hrs 10 minutes until end – Historical Foods Systems by Paul DeMain

Food Systems and Seven Generations Video