The online cooking show Indigikitchen is providing a platform to help disseminate Indigenous food recipes—while helping eaters recognize their impact on the planet and Native communities.
“Not only do Indigenous diets provide us with nutritionally balanced, seasonal local food, but they help us recognize the connection to our physical place in the world, as well as the wisdom of those who have come before,” says Mariah Gladstone (Blackfeet, Cherokee), founder of Indigikitchen. “This helps us care for ourselves, the land, and each other.”
Indigikitchen gives viewers in Native communities the tools and guidance they may need to prepare nutritious food on their own reservations with familiar and innovative recipes—even including crosses with cuisines from other cultures, like Thai and Italian meals. Recent recipes include elderberry barbeque sauce, bison sweet potato poblano stew, wild rice omelets, Idigikitchen pad thai, and peanut butter cookies. Indigikitchen also offers educational programs for in-school learning.
Gladstone notes that taking this guidance to the internet was an obvious choice. “Given that most of us get a majority of our information from the internet, I consider it important to make sure that Indigenous food recipes can also be found in the same place,” says Gladstone. “Since people are already excited about eating Indigenous foods, removing barriers to information is one of my top priorities.”
With this information, Gladstone hopes that Native communities will become equipped with innovative ways to avoid processed foods and preservatives, which replaced wild game, berries, corn, squash, and rice once colonizing people took the lands used to cultivate these crops. “Our food systems were targeted by colonial powers, though that manifested in different ways across the continent. Dependence on subsidized food systems meant land theft without recourse,” says Gladstone. “Regaining the ability to feed ourselves would allow us to function as the sovereign governments we are: producing, processing, and harvesting local foods while exercising control over the policies that govern those systems.”
For Indigikitchen, helping native communities harness opportunities for healthy and nutritious food on their reservations is a form of resistance against colonization, with the benefit of revitalizing cultures and pre-contact foods. The online platform also offers people without a Native American background the opportunity to learn about Indigenous food systems in the past and a sustainable future.
“The ways that Indigenous food systems were structured helps us better understand the world around us in our present locations. Not only does this help us relate better to our natural environment and the nourishment that it provides, but it helps us better understand the changes that are occurring, both seasonally and climatically,” says Gladstone. “Learning history can guide us towards a better future for all,” says Gladstone. Gladstone spoke at Food Tank’s summit “The Wisdom of Indigenous Foodways” in partnership with the Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems at Arizona State University on January 22.
Learning about Indigenous foodways requires non-Native American allies to confront the ways their ancestors have contributed to oppression against Native communities and knowledge. “The role that Native people have played in our daily lives is often minimized or entirely erased. While much of the world’s food comes from thousands of years of Native cultivation of corn, beans, squash, tomatoes, chilies, and potatoes, but it is rarely recognized. And by identifying the agricultural genius behind our favorite foods, we also must reckon with genocide,” says Gladstone.
But once allies take this important step, Gladstone says there is still work that must be done in supporting Native communities and Indigenous foodways. “Food system change must happen on every level,” says Gladstone. “Allies can work on restoring access; especially ensuring Native people are able to hunt and harvest on public lands and that grocery store foods are affordable. Finally, families, both Native and non-Native alike, can learn how to cook foods that are local and sustainable,” says Gladstone.