Native American Cultural Center and Yale Sustainable Food Program host Indigenous Food Pathways event
Participants at the event bonded over shared food and learned about Native food culture and traditional methods for sustainable farming.
Joaquin Fernandez-Duque, Contributing Photographer
The Native American Cultural Center and the Yale Sustainable Food Program hosted a Nov. 18 event to teach participants about Indigenous food, offer tours of the Yale Farm and engage people in community building activities.
Participants were greeted with sunny weather and a chance to explore the Yale Farm before the onset of winter. Attendees sat outside and discussed food sustainability and their personal connections to their cultures’ foods, all while enjoying the food the event itself offered. The meal — consisting of Three Sisters chili, kale salad, cran-apple-jalapeño chutney, whitecap cornbread and ground cherry apple cobbler — was prepared using crops grown at the Yale Farm. Catherine Webb ’23, the programs liaison between the NACC and the YSFP, organized the collaboration.
“Aside from bringing together communities in general, I think it is really important to be highlighting Indigenous food in these spaces and having programming around that,” Webb said. “Food is so essential to any culture and it is a part of Indigenous culture that has been lost or stolen throughout processes of colonization.”
Webb added that opportunities like the Indigenous Food Pathways event allow students to not only appreciate the food and its cultural significance, but also help connect them to the land and plants. During the event, participants were reminded that they were on the currently-occupied lands of Quinnipiac and other Algonquian-speaking peoples.
During the farm tour, a Yale Farm member explained the traditional growing techniques of the Three Sisters: squash, corn and climbing beans. While the squashes cover the ground, the tall corn stalks allow beans to climb and grow, creating an efficient system in which all three can be cultivated on the same plot of land.
Matthew Makomenaw, assistant dean of Yale College and director of the NACC, explained the importance of building a community and environment where Native American students can see representation through other Native American students, faculty and staff. He said he advocates for representation and inclusion in programs and fields at Yale across disciplines, as seeing one’s “possible self” is important for Native American students. Makomenaw said that community events like this allow people from different fields to meet each other.
“[There is value in] bringing people together across campus, not just [from the] NACC but people from other departments, and really helping create opportunities for collaboration, for people to meet … and see where there are commonalities and they can build and create other programs and other opportunities,” Makomenaw said. “It’s a win all around.”
Cynthia Campbell ’24 — who is enrolled in the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska and descends from the Meskwaki Sac and Fox Tribe of the Mississippi and the Pomo and Calanopo Tribes of the Round Valley Indian Tribes — emphasized the importance of the NACC.
“I discovered the NACC when I was researching Yale before applying,” Campbell wrote in an email to the News. “It was actually one of the many reasons I chose to attend Yale. I will continue to participate in as much as I can through the NACC because I enjoy the warmth of its community.”
Campbell added that she enjoys sharing moments with her Native American classmates and is constantly “in awe of their brilliance, dedication, and good hearts.”
Campbell explained that in Native American culture, food is associated with much more than just ingredients, as it is also tied to stories, bonding and lessons.
“Often times when making food for others, it is a labor of love, and my dad always says it is important to be in a good state of mind when doing things for others, because that’s what his mom taught him,” Campbell wrote. “It is a lesson that applies to food, and art, and life in general.”
The NACC is located on 26 High St.