Allotment & Assimilation Pt. 1 with Eric Hemenway

Episode 5 February 21, 2022 00:31:43
Allotment & Assimilation Pt. 1 with Eric Hemenway
Spirit Plate
Allotment & Assimilation Pt. 1 with Eric Hemenway

Show Notes

During the Allotment & Assimilation Era (1887-1930) the U.S. government moved to assimilate Native peoples into American society and the economy. Private land ownership was forced onto Indigenous peoples by breaking apart communal lands into family parcels, effectively altering relationships to land and food. In many cases, Native peoples were forced to shift from subsistence lifestyles and traditional forms of trade to growing food as a commodity. This commodity-based approach to food was and continues to be in conflict with traditional relationships, knowledge, and practices related to growing food.

Topics covered in this episode:

Spirit Plate is part of the Whetstone Radio Collective. Learn more about this episode of Spirit Plate at, on IG and Twitter at @whetstoneradio, and YouTube at /WhetstoneRadio.

Guest: Eric Hemenway

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Episode Transcript

Speaker 0 00:00:00 Hey everyone. I'm Jesse Sparks host of the new podcast. The one recipe from the team behind the splinted table. This pod is all about that one recipe that you lean on. The one you share with friends, the one you make, when you need a little love. And the one, you know, will work every single time. Every week. I talk with chefs and gifted cooks from all over the world about their one and the story behind it. We're here to help you build your kitchen library, one dish at a time, follow the one recipe, wherever you get your podcast. Speaker 1 00:00:29 Have you ever wondered why rotisserie chicken is so cheap or whether eating a plant based burger can really help fight climate change? Or how about what labels to look for? To know which food is the healthiest or the best for the environment. If those questions intrigue, you try the new podcast. What you're eating from food Speaker 1 00:00:52 They connect the story behind your food, to what you eat every day. What you're eating helps you understand how food gets to your plate to see the full impact of the food system on animals, planet, and people from conversations with farmers and chefs, to discussions with policy experts on the barriers to sustainability food prints, new podcast covers everything from the why to the how join host Jerusha clipper director of food, every other week for new episodes and more answers to the question you have about what you're eating, listen and subscribe wherever you get your podcast or at food you're eating. Speaker 3 00:01:39 My name is swell Maples I'm turtle clan I'm in Aina. I'm a citizen of the little river band of Ottawa. I also belong to the Ojibwe people of Swan Creek and black river. I'm speaking to you from my Homeland here in the great lakes, welcome to spirit plate In this space. We will talk about indigenous food ways as means of resistance, resilience, and revitalization within this growing indigenous food movement. There's an incredible story of reclamation and inner tribal solidarity, powerful. Yeah, untold examples of native people's resisting and thriving. The stories of our food ways are one of the greatest testaments of indigenous brilliance in our beauty of spirit. But before we can talk about indigenous people's food traditions and contemporary efforts to revitalize their food systems, we have to understand the history of disruption that makes this work necessary. Today. We'll speak with Eric. Hemenway the director of repatriation, archives and records at little traverse bay band of Odawa about the policies and events that took place throughout the allotment era and how those impacted Odawa relationships to land. So before we start the interview, could you please introduce yourself in any way that you would like? Speaker 4 00:03:06 Sure. So I'll try to introduce myself and my native Tong of Anish baby one GIC in Disney on maek wing, and dejaba endo Genk archives records for the wa OWA and em, so that is a little basic introduction of who I am. My English name is Eric mwe. One of my native names is a snake. I am from cross village, Michigan. I am Aina bay Odawa and I am the director of archives and records for little Charles J band of alwa Indians. Speaker 3 00:03:36 Thank you for joining me today, Eric. So the first thing I was hoping that we could talk about is allotment. So the allotment and assimilation era from my understanding took place roughly between 1887 in the early 1930s, paint us a picture of what's happening in Indian country in the 1880s. Speaker 4 00:03:58 Well, before we paint a picture of the 1880s, and we talk about a simulation era, my historical opinion of this is that a simulation period started in 1492 with Columbus landing. And then it just progressed with each subsequent European nation coming here, whether it's a Spanish, the French British Dutch, and lastly, the creation of the United States of America. So this idea of this assimilation starts very early and builds on itself that Europeans and Americans see natives tribal nations as savages, HES, pagans, uncivilized, and it's their duty to civilize them by a whole plethora of means and by any means necessary. So by the time we get to the 1880s, the tribes have been just gone through literally centuries of conflict. They've gone through centuries of policies, forced upon them to change. And by the 1880s, for lack of a better term, tribes have been ground down war diseases, loss of population. Speaker 4 00:04:56 And they are, in my opinion, in this, especially east of the Mississippi, they're in this mode of surviving to the next generation. And these policies of assimilating are very pervasive. They are permeating all aspects of Anishnabe life, whether it's how you dress, how you speak, how you educate your children, how you govern yourself, what type of food you are growing, how you consume it, trade economics. Everything is under the scope of change to be not Anish bay. So by the 1880s, tribes in Michigan are coming off a tail end of treaties. They're coming off the tail end of multiple wars, and they are settling into this new way of life. That's being dictated upon them by the United States. And this very closely is related to land and how land is used, how land is viewed, the relationship with land and the whole idea of ownership versus Anishinabe. I would say relationship to land. There's a very stark difference between the two, Speaker 4 00:05:59 The tribes sign multiple treaties throughout the mid 18 hundreds. And each tribe is unique in its own treaty negotiations. Some tribes sign, multiple treaties, some tribes only sign a few, but throughout the early to mid 18 hundreds, all the tribes in Michigan signed treaties by the 1880s, they are living with the repercussions of these treaties. And many times it's the lack of fulfillment of the treaties by the United States. So it's a very, very bleak time. <laugh> lack of a better term for tribes during this time period. And the whole process of allotments is really this whole phase of, well, the second phase of the treaties in the 1850s, where the United States is surveying its relationship with tribes and how far they've come in, their progress of being civilized and or they still uncivilized. And one of the solutions at the time is to not completely remove them, which was quote unquote, the solution to the Indian problem in the early 18 hundreds. Speaker 4 00:06:57 But by the mid 18 hundreds, it was to give them land and manage it like a white settler farmer. And so tribes were giving these allotments under these treaty agreements, whether it's 80 acres, 40 acres and so on and so forth. So by the 1880s, the tribes for the most part are going through this mechanism of did they get the allotments? Were the allotments correctly, you know, distributed through their communities. It was a really convoluted mess for lack of a better term up here in Northern Michigan. I can't speak on behalf of the other tribes. Um, I'm just not well versed in the treaties for the P autotomies of the Ojibwes, but how land is used is directly tied to the view of being civilized or uncivilized Speaker 3 00:07:36 One particular story from this era that sticks out in my mind is that of the Burt lake burnout and the forest relocation of the Burt lake band of Chippewa and Ottawa. Very few people have heard this history. I've known it for several years now, but it was only the summer that I discovered that this event is also considered to be the origin of one of the cultural foods of native peoples in this area, scorch corn. Speaker 3 00:08:02 For those that aren't familiar with Burt lake, it is located near the tip of Michigan's met about 40 minutes south of the Mackinaw bridge in the 1836 treaty of Washington, the Burt lake band, seated this land and received certain concessions, including annuity payments, taking these payments. The Burt lake ban purchased the land on which they settled. They then place this land and trust with the governor of Michigan in the 1840s, anywhere from a dozen to 30 families, lived on this land at various points over the next half century. But all this time conflicting language between different treaties and inconsistent enforcement by local officials led to a confusion. Whether the land was to be taxed or not, the governor offered no assistance. Resolving the situation. Speculators began to look for land with overdue property tax bills to purchase at tax auctions. A county treasurer aligned with the speculator's interest was installed for Shaboygan county in 1878. Speaker 3 00:09:01 He determined that the native people were delinquent on their taxes. This was despite the county having refused to accept tax payments from the native owners in the past. And in many years, not even assessing the properties for taxation at all by 1899, a particular speculator, the lumberman John Walter McGinn held title to approximately 400 acres of native land, all taken by tax foreclosure and purchased at auction on October 15th, 1900, the sheriff and his deputies from nearby Sheboygan came to Burt lake settlement to remove the native inhabitants from their homes. John Walter, again was with them reports say that on that cold and rainy morning, many of the native men were away from the village. It was payday at the neighboring lumber camps. The deputies removed the remaining women, children, and elderly from their home and tossed their belongings into the road. Then one by one again, and his men doused their homes in kerosene and set them on fire. Speaker 3 00:10:02 The families were left to walk about 35 miles to the nearest mission settlement across village. Although various appeals were made for help from the state government later, no cooperation or compensation was offered today. The city of Sheboygan website invites visitors to visit historic Rivertown and perhaps see a show at the historic opera house, a linked page describing the history of the opera house. Proudly mentions that the village trustees voted to approve construction of the opera house on August 4th, 1877, among them was trustee McGinn, nothing else in the city of Sheboygan website references John Walter McGinn, or the homes he burned. But there is a button that residents can click to pay their property tax bill, Speaker 3 00:10:51 Much of what used to be Burt lake native village is now broken up into private lots. Many of these lots are the site of waterfront vacation homes. They can be reached by taking Burt lake road to Indian point road. These vacation homes are situated among the trees of what is now known as colonial point Memorial forest. The Burt lake band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians exist today and have been a state of Michigan recognized band since 1986, but their fight to regain recognition as a federally acknowledged ban by the bureau of Indian affairs continues today. This last summer I invited a friend to visit while I prepared my annual batch of scorch corn to put up for winter scorch corn, sometimes known as parch. Corn is sweet corn that has been slowly roasted or black and over a low wood fire for preservation. When I make this at home, I build a small wood fire outside and place a metal grate over it. Speaker 3 00:11:49 The corn is husked and placed on the grate. I turn each ear of corn every few minutes until the entire cob is browned and the kernels are wrinkled after the cobs are cool. I cut the kernels off the cob and dehydrate them, allowing them to be stored for longer periods of time. In the winter months, I'll add a couple handfuls of the scorch corn to soups and stews. After I give them time to rehydrate the scorch kernels offer the subtle sweetness of summer sweet corn and smokiness of a hardwood fire to the dish. Another way I use scorch corn is to make a corn meal like ingredient using a spice grinder, a grain mill that I add to fish cakes. Speaker 3 00:12:34 Here's my smokey fishcake recipe. If you'd like to try it at home for this recipe, you'll need these ingredients. One pound of cooked fish, your choice. I prefer salmon. Sometimes I use a mixture of salmon and smoked fish like trout or white fish. You can use canned fish or filets. Again, your choice, two medium sweet potatoes, two green onions finally chopped using both the white and green parts. One half of a red bell pepper. Finally chopped half of a teaspoon of smoked paprika, three to four tablespoons scorched corn flour, and a couple of small pinches of salt. Step one, preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit Poke a few holes in the sweet potatoes. Then wrap each and foil Bake for 45 minutes to one hour until soft once cook, unwrap them and allow them to cool Once. Cool enough to handle, remove the sweet potato skins and discard them place the roasted potato flesh into a bowl and mash Step two, to make the scorch corn flour place, a small handful of the scorch corn into a small food processor or spice grinder. I use a small coffee grinder that I've repurposed as a spice grinder pulse, the dehydrated corn until it becomes relatively fine. And there aren't any large chunks of dried kernel left. Speaker 3 00:14:10 Step three. If you're using fish with bones, go ahead and remove those. Then break apart or flake the fish. Try not to overwork the fish. You wanna keep some small chunks for texture. Step four, add the fish, the bowl with the mashed sweet potatoes along with the remaining ingredients mix. Well, if the mixture is too wet and not firm enough to stick together, add a little more scorch corn flour until they hold. Alternatively, you can also use a tiny bit of breadcrumbs or flower here. If you'd like Step five, scoop out oversize golf ball size balls of mixture, roll into balls, and then gently flatten to create patties. Repeat for best results. Let the patties rest on a baking sheet in the fridge for about 20 minutes to firm up Step six. At this point, you can cook them in a non-stick skillet on medium heat, about two to three minutes on each side or until golden brown. Alternatively, you can place them on a grease baking sheet and let them cook in the oven at 3 75 for about 15 to 20 minutes, since the fish are already cooked, you don't really need to cook them long, just long enough to warm them through and the edges to start to become golden brown. This will make about eight servings depending on the size of your patties. Speaker 3 00:15:43 One of the things I love most about this fish cake recipe is that you can use just about any fish you like or have on hand. It's a great way to use leftover fish or sweet potato. Plus you can swap out any spices. You like want a little heat, add a dash of cayenne, perhaps try a little fresh cilantro. Sometimes if I'm looking for something with little sweetness, I'll skip the bell pepper and throw in a handful of dried cranberries and chopped Hazel knots. The possibilities are endless. As I sat tending the fire and chatting with my friend, she shared the story, connecting the Burt lake burnout to this cultural food scorch corn. The story goes that following the horrific events of the burnout native families faced the difficult decision of which of their belongings they would carry with them. Precious few were able to recover remnants of their food reserves, including some of their now scorch corn. Speaker 3 00:16:53 Over the years, I've learned ways in which land and food were weaponized against indigenous peoples. Many similar stories have surfaced from the American revolution, westward expansion. After the civil war, scorched earth tactics were used to destroy native communities, food supply, and force them into compliance with colonial agendas, slaughtering herds of animals and burning fields of crops. Most of these actions went by without notice from settler society. And if they were noticed they were tolerated or celebrated, perhaps surprisingly the Burt lake burnout was decried at the time, the Detroit free press rallied against the quote tax fee who had obtained his land due to the criminal mismanagement of state and local officials put Thein family held onto that land for decades. And the story slipped away. Meanwhile, the Burt lake band of Chippewa and Ottawa continues to fight for federal recognition. You know, as we were starting to talk about the general allotment act of 1887, also known as the DAS act. Can you tell us what allotment was about? You started to talk about this a little bit already, but what did these allotments look like Speaker 4 00:18:09 Specifically speaking to Northern Michigan? And I, I don't wanna, you know, convolute my message. And I don't wanna speak on behalf of the tribes. I mean, my focus has, and, and always will be, you know, the OU of Northern Michigan. That's where I'm from. I am OWA. So I always wanna put that out there that I'm not, you know, talking about Western up tribes or tribes in Southern Michigan, they have their own unique story. And I really feel that you have to reach out to those tribal communities to get that story. And there's this really longstanding stereotype that, you know, all natives are the same. You talk to one and it's all the same story for everybody. And so same problem, same solutions, definitely wanna stay clear that. So when I I'm speaking of allotments, I'm speaking specifically to Northern Michigan and the allotments from what I saw really come out of the 1855 treaty. Speaker 4 00:18:55 So the Odawa of Northern Michigan sign a very large treaty in 1836. And you can't talk about 1855 treaty without talking about 1836, cuz they are very much interrelated. And you also have to look at the historical context of the time period where forest removal is the law and it's reality in the 1820s, thirties, and forties for tribes east of the Mississippi. So the tribes in they're in Michigan Yoda was they see what's happened in, they make a preemptive move to negotiate a treaty in 18 35 36 called the Washington DC, uh, treat of 1836 delegates from Northern Michigan, got in Birch park canoes. And they paddled to Washington DC in November of 1835. And they went to negotiate this treaty. So a very courageous move to travel on the lakes that late, very dangerous, but they had to in order to secure, you know, a place in their homelands or be removed. Speaker 4 00:19:47 So they signed this treaty and it was an imperfect agreement. And in the agreement it said that after five years, the United States can remove the tribes if they so choose the tribes knew this, but what could you do? You had to sign the treaty to at least buy you some time. Otherwise you were going to be removed. There was removal in Michigan now by Kalamazoo battle Creek, the army was literally rounding up pot autotomies and removing them west. So it was, it was coming north. So we made this agreement. And then after the five year period, the tribes knew that they had to get into another agreement to solidify their home base. And that leads into the 1855 treaty. So there's changes in administration. There's changes in leadership, the presidency, everything, but there's still this mindset that the tribes need to be civilized. There's still Savage, but how you civilize them starts to take a different path. Speaker 4 00:20:34 And part of that path is giving them allotments, you know, 40, 80 acres per head of household and really changing their relationship with land so that they are mimicking their white settler neighbors where you're having farm animals, you're growing the same type of crops. And so this allotment for the Northern Michigan tribes is a little bit different than other tribes across the country. And these tribes here in Northern Michigan were supposed to be able to choose whatever sections of land best suited them. But the allotment process became very complicated, very messy. There was a large turnover, not just in administration, but workers sometimes literally year by year, you'd have a new Indian agent or a new commission of Indian affairs. And sometimes you'd have to start to process all over maps would get lost. There was corruption where people were selling lands and allowing people that were nonnative to go onto these areas called reservations and make, you know, make selections. Speaker 4 00:21:25 And also at the same time, there's still diseases going through and hammering populations. So there's a lot of moving parts to the allotment process in Northern Michigan, but it is written into the treaties that the Northern Michigan Odawa signed. They knew they had to get into this process to keep a permanent home base. And that's what they did. Cuz if you don't make the treaty, there's still a waning threat of removal by the 1850s tribes weren't being removed as much east of the Mississippi, but they needed to do this to make sure that that home base was solidified. Speaker 3 00:21:57 Yeah. Thanks. And I really appreciate your commitment to sharing a very specific story. That's really, I think one of our big hopes with speaking to different people throughout the show is to have these specific stories. You spoke about this a little bit already about how the policy tried to change native community's relationship to land. Could you talk a little bit more about like the long term or initial impacts of allotment on the Odawa community? Speaker 4 00:22:31 Sure. So this idea of how a human, you know, interacts with their land is directly tied to the idea if they're Savage or not. These tribal communities originally utilized millions of acres of land to carry out their way of life. They were moving with the seasons, they moved with the resources. There was this constant ebb and flow of how you interacted with your environment. So for example, Dow was a Northern Michigan. They would go south for the winter and I'm not saying like Florida or Tennessee, you know, they weren't resorting or, you know, they weren't snowbirds. They'd go to like grand rapids <laugh> it's like, or, you know, even Chicago, I mean they went south and they went into wintering camps and came back in the spring and you know, made maple sugar planted. Their crops, went to the spring, fish runs and started to revive the cycle, uh, relive the cycle. Speaker 4 00:23:21 And by summer, you know, you're hunting, you're gathering, you're carrying out your ceremonies and fall, you're harvesting and getting ready for winter, but you needed a lot of space to do this. And the people had this, they look, you know, go to where the resources were plentiful. They could go and let the area replenish, which was, they were very mindful of. They weren't stay in one area too long because you're exhausting the land and everything around it. So with the arrival of Europeans, they seen this as Savage. You know, that people should be, you know, managing small parcels of land. They should be staying in one spot. They should be farming. And we did farm. That's a big misconception that native people then farm. We absolutely had all kinds of gardens in farms. We grew corns beans, squash, melons. We were farmers by all intent purposes. We just didn't have the farms like Europeans, since we didn't have those similar farms, we were deemed Savage. And the whole idea of civilizing us tied very closely to land that you had to stop roaming. And that's what they called, what we did. We roamed that's the Furst thing from the truth. You know, we had multiple home bases. We were just very in sync with our environment. Speaker 4 00:24:25 So this idea of having the native populations relegated to one specific track of land, the idea started with contact. You know, cuz that's the idea that they brought from Europe. It just took them centuries decades to implement that idea onto us. And when that did happen, the tribes, you know, were stuck in a real rock and a hard place. If you fought against the policy, you know, what were the alternatives, you know, removal or some tribes would remove themselves. And so there's large numbers of Odawa from Northern Michigan in the 18 hundreds, they relocated, they went to Canada and they went to a place called Manito island and they did so because they didn't wanna go to Kansas. That's how real the threat was that, you know, hundreds of Odawa left to stay in the great lakes, but many obviously stayed and they just adapted and to go from having access to millions of acres, to, you know, 80 acres or 40 acres, but they also had access to the seeded territories of these treaties. Speaker 4 00:25:21 So when the tribes signed these treaties, they seeded millions of acres literally to the United States. And part of this agreement was they would have access to that seeded territory until it was needed for settlement. So they would still have access to the medicinal plants, you know, a lot of the trapping and hunting and so on and so forth. So they, they had that in mind, but to stay in one area, it took decades to get to that spot. But once it happened, it was essentially permanent. You had to pick that one allotment and most allotments picked by the Odawa were in their traditional old school Odawa villages and homelands. So that's a big difference. I wanna differentiate between some of the other remove tribes or, you know, they're being forced in these areas, the Odawa of Northern Michigan saying we want to stay in this area. We, we were here before contact. This is where we wanna stay. Speaker 3 00:26:09 I'm wondering too, are there other specific stories or history that you'd like to share specifically from the Odawa from this time around allotment? Speaker 4 00:26:17 Well that from this allotment era, I mean the allotment era in my mind started with us in 1855. So when I hear allotment, my mind automatically goes to that treaty of 1855. Cause we had to choose these sections of land. And for the next 20 or 30 years, we went through this, this very complicated process and it's still not resolved. I can only go a certain length in this conversation because we are currently in federal court over the reservation boundaries of that treaty. It's a very much a living document. It's not this stagnant old crusty piece of paper in the national archives. It's like the constitution or the bill of rights. It's a living document that is still being interpreted. It's still being implemented to this very day. So in that regard, it's impacting the community right now. Speaker 3 00:27:03 Is there anything else you would like people to know about this era Speaker 4 00:27:08 Natives didn't fade away in the 1880s? You know, that's a very popular misconception and pop culture that tribes just kind of faded in the 1880s. And this is perpetuated through a lot of the movies and TV shows and books, you know, just even the art, you know, the native guy in the horse with his head down, he's just exhausted. The horse has his heads. I forget the name of the painting or the sculpture, or like lot of the, Mohegans just the name itself saying, you know, this is a vanishing race and we hear that all the time. And especially in historic record this time period, there is some truth in this too shallow, cuz by I think 1910 or 1900 natives on the federal census made up about 0.5% of the population. We weren't even 1% at that point. So we were literally vanishing. We were dying out, but it was also pushed and it was also expected that natives would not be in existence. Speaker 4 00:28:00 Well until the 20th century, it's just rife throughout the federal records and church records that this, this race of people will be gone. And obviously that's not true, we persevered, but that's a big misconception from this time period. And that also there are natives east of the Mississippi in this time period. So there's a large focus on west. You see a lot of the, like the Curtis photos and just this imagery of the Western Indian people start to think that all Indians east of the Mississippi have been removed or they're gone, but that's not the case. You know, there's large populations in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan in New York to this day. But that's also this stereotype that all the natives are gone east of the Mississippi. We know that to be false. Speaker 3 00:28:41 Great. Thank you. Speaker 3 00:28:54 The spirit plate podcast is an honoring of all the indigenous communities across turtle island who are working to preserve and revitalize their ancestral food ways in this space. We will talk about indigenous food ways as means of resistance, resilience, and revitalization. Thank you for listening to part one of allotment and assimilation episode five of spirit plate, a big thank you to Eric. Hemenway the director of repatriation, archives and records at the little traverse bay bands of Odawa. Eric will join us for part of the next episode. Part two of the allotment and assimilation era throughout season one, we'll discuss some of the social political and historical reasons why the indigenous food sovereignty movement is necessary. A critical understanding of the journey that led us here needs to become a more common understanding before American society can give life to a new, more equitable food system and a more equitable food system requires narrative equity. Speaker 3 00:29:50 Indigenous people must get to define their own relationship to land and food and tell the stories of their work themselves through interviews with seed keepers, chefs, farmers, and community members. This podcast will share what food justice and sovereignty looks like for indigenous people across dural island. As your host, I'm inviting you to the table and into a deeper conversation. I hope that you'll be inspired to think about your own connection to place and how this has influenced your relationship to food. I also hope you'll feel moved to build genuine relationships with original caretakers of the place you reside and consider how you can stand in solidarity with their communities. If you would like to learn which indigenous communities Homeland you reside upon, visit That is [email protected] You can subscribe to spirit play anywhere you get your podcasts. Spirit plate is part of the Wetstone radio collective. Speaker 3 00:30:48 Thank you to the spirit plate team producer and music composer, cat yang, audio editors, KA Salinas and Bethany sands researcher, Giselle Kennedy, Lord and intern indigo Clarkson. I'd also like to thank Wetstone founder, Steven Satterfield, Wetstone radio collective executive producer, Celine glassier sound engineer and music designer, max cuddle, Chuck associate producer, Quentin Lebo production assistant I'm Lisa Chenko and sound intern Simon lavender. You can learn more about this [email protected] at Instagram and Twitter at Westone radio and subscribe to our YouTube channel Westone radio collective for more podcast, video content, you can learn more about all things [email protected] until next time Bama P.

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