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Here's How The Red Lake Indian Reservation Dines Off The Land

"In the US, Native communities are too often overlooked or thought of as relics, or even not existing. They’re still here, in all of their complexity and copiousness."

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Sarah Stacke

Rachel Austin from Kalamazoon, Michigan, stands in the Gitigaanike Garden on the Red Lake Indian Reservation in northern Minnesota, on Sept. 13.

On the Red Lake Indian Reservation in northwestern Minnesota, the Ojibwe people are working to reclaim their food sovereignty with recipes that celebrate their heritage and make use of the bountiful land that they call home.

At this year's second annual Red Lake Nation Food Summit, members of regional tribes came together to teach workshops on trapping, hunting, and gathering. Cooking demonstrations using indigenous ingredients reveal not only a path toward food sovereignty and a "decolonized diet," but also a viable option for eating heathy.

Photographer Sarah Stacke attended this year's summit to capture these centuries-old recipes in the making. Here, Stacke shares her culinary journey alongside the Ojibwe and her words on the importance of gatherings such as this.

Move west to "the land where food grows on water,” a prophecy told the Ojibwe. A reference to wild rice, the Ojibwe began migrating from the East Coast across the Great Lakes to where they settled in Red Lake, Minnesota, and the environs in the 1700s.

Today on the Red Lake Indian Reservation, wild rice is a vital part of a movement to feed the roughly 5,000 tribal members living there with organic fruits and vegetables, game, and foraged foods cultivated entirely on the reservation. As one of only two closed reservations in the US, the state courts or government have no jurisdiction in Red Lake, and the land is collectively owned by the tribe, rather than allotted to individuals.

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Sarah Stacke

Left: Darrell Geshick, 64, an Ojibwe and member of Red Lake Nation, works with the Red Lake Local Food Initiative as a gardener. Right: Cherilyn Spears, who is also an Ojibwe and member of Red Lake Nation, is the special projects coordinator for Red Lake Nation's Development and Planning Department and has played a key role in the launch of the Red Lake Local Foods Initiative.

Sarah Stacke

Brian Yazzie, who is Navajo and the chef de cuisine for the Sioux Chef in Minneapolis, holds a dish of pureed squash with geese stock, wild rice meatball with acorn squash, and foraged mushrooms and ramps. Yazzie visited the Red Lake Indian Reservation to participate in the second annual Red Lake Nation Food Summit.

The movement to reclaim food sovereignty is spearheaded by the Red Lake Local Foods Initiative and emphasizes traditional and organic foods. The aim is to decrease diet-related health issues like diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.

Food binds people and informs cultural identity. The people of Red Lake are coming together through food in a way that revives cultural traditions and reconnects them to their land after history disconnected them from it during colonization.

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Sarah Stacke

Yazzie holds a dish of locally grown wild rice pilaf with locally foraged mushrooms, locally grown acorn squash, a salad of locally grown heirloom tomatoes and dandelion greens, and a piece of goose meat from a goose that was shot in the morning.

During the Red Lake Nation Food Summit, wild rice was gathered, bread was made over an open fire, freshly caught fish were smoked, hominy was made from heirloom corn grown in a garden, geese were hand-plucked, cleaned, and cooked for dinner, and moose meat was prepared in water brought to a boil by hot rocks inside a wooden log.

It was inspiring to see the ways the people involved in the Food Initiative are working together to develop programs that will involve and benefit the entire community. They’re also connecting Ojibwe youths with elders, which is crucial to the preservation and sustainability of the tribe’s culture and health. The spirit of communal land is reflected in the drive to provide and share local foods with all members of the community and beyond.

In the US, Native communities are too often overlooked or thought of as relics, or even not existing. They’re still here, in all of their complexity and copiousness. Ultimately, I hope people take the time to learn this.

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Sarah Stacke

Left: Victoria Iron Graves, who is originally from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, has lived on the Red Lake Indian Reservation for nearly 40 years. She works at a health food store and does community education at the school. Right: David Manuel, an Ojibwe and member of Red Lake Nation, is the foods initiative coordinator for the Red Lake Indian Reservation.

Sarah Stacke

Walleye that were caught in Red Lake are prepared to be smoked at the Red Lake Nation Fishery on Sept. 15. Wild fish from the lake have been a staple of the Ojibwe diet for hundreds of years.

Sarah Stacke

Geese that were shot in the morning, which was the first day of hunting season on the Red Lake Indian Reservation, are plucked by participants of the second annual Food Summit on Sept. 15.

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Sarah Stacke

Left: Michael Van Horn, an Ojibwe and member of Red Lake Nation, is the business developer for the Gitigaanike Foods Initiative. Right: Sara Seki-Mountain, 21, is Ojibwe and a member of Red Lake Nation.

Sarah Stacke

Left: Jack Desjarlait, 62, a member of Red Lake Nation, is known as a skilled hominy maker on the Red Lake Indian Reservation. Right: Susan Johnson, 88, has lived on the Red Lake Indian Reservation all her life. She is known for her "outdoor bread" made of bannock, and she teaches Ojibwe language at the Red Lake schools.

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Sarah Stacke

Yazzie holds a dish of locally grown wild rice pilaf with locally foraged mushrooms, locally grown acorn squash, a salad of locally grown heirloom tomatoes and dandelion greens, and Mohawk Valley salmon.


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