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by Elizabeth M Hoover

On February 22, 2016, representatives from Indigenous food projects around the country gathered at the Taos County Economic Development Corporation (TCEDC) with representatives from Slow Food USA (and Skyped in Slow Food International) as well as the Christiansen Fund, to explore how best to establish an indigenous peoples Slow Food network in North America — from Canada, to the USA and to Mexico. Participants felt that having a Slow Food association separate from the national organizations would give Native communities better opportunities to network, develop presidia to protect Indigenous foods, and send Native delegates to Terra Madre in Italy.

To give a little background, the Slow Food Manifesto was drafted in 1989, with support from 15 international delegates. Today, Slow Food has over 150,000 members and is active in more than 150 countries, including national associations in Italy, the U.S., Germany and Japan. There are more than 170 chapters and 2,000 food communities in the United States alone. The goal of Slow Food is to support the development of grassroots projects and activities, as well as the Presidia project (which involves groups of producers who work together to protect and market their foods) and the Ark of Taste (an online catalog of foods that are at risk of extinction).

Nations like the US, Italy, Canada, Mexico, etc, have national associations, which come with certain obligations, including the registration of members, coordinating activities on the ground, and fundraising activities for both local projects and to support international campaigns. Rather that starting a new national association like this, our group decided to start a regional association, similar to the Terra Madre Balkans Network. Becoming a regional association would allow the group to still nominate presidia and coordinate networking among members and their communities, without the financial obligations of a national association.

Kyra Busch from the Christensen Fund noted that Slow Food has been recognizing increasingly over the past 10 years that its relationship with indigenous communities should be different than with nations, and has been working to develop this relationship. The first step was the creation of an Indigenous Terra Madre space within within the Terra Madre/ Salone de Gusto, as well as the establishment of a separate Indigenous Terra Madre event (in November 2015 in Shillong, India). This most recent gathering concluded with 70,000 people attending a food festival. Future editions of this event may be staged in Kenya and Canada. The group that gathered in Taos this past February hopes to take this a step further by establishing a separate Slow Food regional association dedicated specifically to support Indigenous people on Turtle Island.

One of the programs within Slow Food is the establishment of presidia, in order to sustain the quality production of foods at risk of extinction, to protect unique regions and ecosystems, to recover traditional processing methods, and to safeguard native breeds and local plant varieties. Today, 472 Presidia involve more than 13,000 producers worldwide. In the USA, there are 5 presidia, three of which involve Indigenous foods: the Navajo Churro Sheep Presidium; the Anishnaabeg Manoomin (wild rice) Presidium; and the Makah Ozette Potato Presidium. Roy Kady from the Navajo Churro Sheep Presidium also reported that they have nominated the sumac berry as a presidium. Conversations came up at this gathering about how to protect other important foods– like taro (an important food stuff in Hawaii), heritage corns, maple syrup, chiltapenes (wild chilis in the Sonoran desert currently threatened by over-harvesting and environmental contamination), the California Tan Oak (currently threatened by blight), and the Broad Leaf Yucca Fruit. (To learn more about the guidelines to establish a presidium, here is a document shared with us by Slow Foods: PresidiaGuidelines. Once a community has determined that they want to nominate a food for a presidium, they would fill out this form: Presidium Nomination Form).

Kaylena Bray, Melissa Nelson, and Elizabeth Hoover are currently in the process of drafting the official proposal to establish the Slow Food Turtle Island regional association. The proposal will be shared with Slow Food International by the end of March, to be put before the Executive Committee (a governing body of 8 people, similar to a board of directors) for approval in March, and to the International Council (a larger governing body of 40 people, including coordinators and volunteers from across the global network) for approval in June.

If you are interested in applying to be a delegate to Terra Madre this year, click here to fill out the application. Note: the application is due March 30, and requires a community letter of recommendation this year. The estimate is that Slow Food USA will be allowed 180 delegates who are afforded lodging, and then another 50 who will not have lodging or transportation covered by Slow Food. For people who apply Slow Food USA who identify as Indigenous, their applications will be sent to the Turtle Island selection committee. Of those, 20 will be selected to represent the Indigenous delegation, and the rest will go back into the Slow Food USA pool, and may be selected as delegates from there.

 Reposted from gardenwarriorsgoodseeds.com


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