As part of the 2023 Tribal Nations Summit at The White House in Washington D.C. December 4-7, NATIFS gathered Indigenous chefs from around the country to showcase Indigenous food for Summit participants, including an event hosted by Department of the Interior Secretary Deb Haaland (Laguna Pueblo). According to a White House statement on the summit, this summit was convened in part for tribal leaders “to have meaningful conversations directly with senior Administration officials on implementation of key priorities, new policies, and other critical issues facing Tribal Nations.”
Participating chefs were Crystal Wahpepah (Kickapoo, Sac, and Fox tribes), owner of Wahpepah’s Kitchen, Francisco Alegria and Leah Husby (Menominee), and Joe Robbins (Penobscot), all organized by NATIFS Outreach Director Rob Kinneen (Tinglit). This effort was supported by Chef Leonard Bailey and the culinary students under his instruction from Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute, who helped with production while learning about different ingredients and techniques working alongside the visiting Indigenous chefs.
The menus for the White House Tribal Nations Summit highlighted a variety of Indigenous foods and tribal producers, such as smoked salmon donated by the Cowlitz Indian Tribe, served on a seaweed salad with ingredients from Sealaska’s Barnacle seafoods; stuffed turkey featuring Red Lake Nation wild rice; a smoked fish soup with Oneida white corn; and chili with buffalo from Cheyenne River Sioux and tepary beans from Ramona Farms.
Secretary Haaland’s reception menu:
- Zucchini and wild rice fritters with pumpkin seed crema
- Buffalo, wild rice, cranberry, and cedar meatballs with wild grape syrup
- Chilled grilled buffalo with labrador aioli, preserved lichen on turnip
- Smoked salmon with seaweed, beach asparagus
- Tepary bean smoked trout on a crispy tortilla with seasonal herbs
- Stuffed turkey with mushroom and cranberry on wild rice pancake
- Roasted 800-year-old Menominee squash with maple and cedar
- Tea from Menominee featuring peppermint, mullein, and bergamot
This event was part of NATIFS’ ongoing work with federal leaders and policymakers, USDA, and legislators to both improve federal food support programs and ensure federal policy supports the needs of Native people and tribal communities. These events allow us to showcase what an Indigenous food system looks like and the variety of foods produced by Native purveyors, and demonstrate what’s possible for Native food sovereignty.