Native Youth Convene to Participate in Second Food Sovereignty Summit

Last month, Native American youth from five tribes convened in the sacred He Sapa (Black Hills) for PWNA’s second Native Youth Food Sovereignty Summit. The summit afforded a shared platform where program partners, staff, and alumni who were previously trained by PWNA could mentor the students on wellness, nutrition and Native traditions, and volunteers could help chaperone.

Each of the meals provided during the summit emphasized healthy food choices inspired by traditional Native ingredients, such as using ground buffalo to reinvigorate typical entrées like chili, meatloaf and nachos. Breakfast at sunrise also consisted of healthy superfoods, including oats, berries and chia seeds.

The overnight program commenced with a group dinner and evening hike to a naturally sloped amphitheater, where several interpretations of stories told for generations were shared around the campfire. The following day, the group broke into four teams with eight presenters and tackled an aggressive itinerary, including:

  • Life Celebrations: Yvonne Decory and Eileen Janis from Pine Ridge led an exercise in assessing resources and being a good neighbor and relative. Participants created their own community by identifying the resources needed to support their citizens and discussed difficult encounters they face daily and the impact of bullying. As part of this discussion, students were empowered to become change agents and support one another.
  • Foraging: Daniel Butcher and Austin Red Dog from Cheyenne River led a foraging hike, where they showed students how to identify wild foods and medicines available in the homelands of the Oceti Sakowin (Lakota, Nakota and Dakota tribes of the Northern Plains). They used locally found herbs to brew different teas for participants each day and highlight their healing properties. Instructors also slow-cooked foraged burdock, plantains and mint soaked in coconut oil and beeswax to create natural lip balm that was then placed in small tins and given to each student.
  • Portion Control: Emily Good Weasel (Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Health Community) and Maretta Champagne (Pine Ridge, PWNA emergency partner) presented on the “Science of Sugar” and provided easy, teen-friendly ways to introduce portion control into their daily lives. For example, teens learned that a cup of chokecherries is the same size as a baseball and an ounce of salad dressing is the same size as a AA battery. They also measured the amount of sugar consumed in their morning cereal and were shocked by the results. (“I had no idea my favorite cereal had so much sugar!”)
  • Storytelling: Phyllis Swift Hawk and Monica Terkildsen (Pine Ridge) employed storytelling to feature the tales of tinpsila (wild turnips harvested in summer as a mainstay of Native diets) and sacred animals (sources of protein, tools and warmth). This helped the youth link these stories to both nutrition and culture.

A friendly game of “Chopped” Indigenous style capped off the day as alumni and youth paired up and faced off against one another to claim the winning prize for making something delicious and edible with not-so-appealing ingredients (e.g., canned menudo and dill pickles).

This special gathering on their ancestral homelands was free from televisions, cell phones and social media, offering instead quality time spend amongst good people who shared their ancestral knowledge with a younger generation in hopes of carrying these traditions to others in their communities. PWNA has expanded nutrition support and nutrition-focused experiences such as the youth summit with support of the Newman’s Own Foundation, founded by the late actor Paul Newman.

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