Food Tank and Arizona State University’s (ASU) “The Wisdom of Indigenous Foodways” Summit on January 22, 2020, is convening native voices and food system leaders to help bring Indigenous knowledge to the forefront of conversations on food system transformation. The evening event is held in collaboration with the Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems at ASU and the Sustainable Community Food Systems Program at the University of Hawai’i, West O’ahu.
Kathleen Merrigan, Executive Director of the ASU Swette Center, hopes the Summit will identify ways in which the Center can partner with Indigenous peoples. “I’m excited to help amplify voices that have not been fully heard and honored,” Merrigan tells Food Tank. “I’m not the expert, I’m the learner in this setting.”
Topics of discussion will range from biodiversity and wild foods to landrace property rights, as well as shine light on innovation within Indigenous communities. Speakers include Janie Simms Hipp, President & CEO of Native American Agriculture Fund and a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation; Melissa Nelson, Professor of American Indian Studies at San Francisco State University and a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians; and Kamuela Enos, Director of Indigenous Innovation for the University of Hawaii System.
Learn more about the speakers below (alphabetical order):
Maenette K. P. Ah Nee-Benham, Chancellor, University of Hawaiʻi at West Oʻahu
Maenette K. P. Ah Nee-Benham began serving as the University of Hawaiʻi at West Oʻahu chancellor on January 1, 2017. A kānaka maoli (Native Hawaiian) scholar and teacher, Benham previously served as the inaugural dean of the Hawaiʻinuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge at UH Mānoa (2008–2016).
A Kamehameha Schools graduate, Benham began her teaching career in 1978 teaching grades K–12 in California, Texas, and Hawaiʻi (Kaiser High School and Kamehameha Schools). She earned her doctoral degree from UH Mānoa in 1992 and joined the College of Education faculty at Michigan State University in 1993. Among her notable accomplishments, Benham was the lead author of the White House Paper on the Tribal Colleges and Universities: A Trust Responsibility (2004), submitted to the U.S. President’s Advisory Board on Tribal Colleges and Universities. She is author, co-author, and editor of five books and numerous published articles, book chapters, and technical reports.
Benham’s work on alternative frames of leadership and issues of education is nationally and internationally respected. She has been an invited speaker and presenter in Europe and South East Asia and the World Indigenous Peoples Conference on Education. She covers a range of topics from program planning and assessment/evaluation, school change, leadership development, building school-community partnerships, and professional ethics.
Bryan McKinley Jones Brayboy, President’s Professor of Indigenous Education and Justice, School of Social Transformation, Arizona State University
With his extensive experience working in higher education, Dr. Brayboy was appointed by ASU President Michael Crow to serve as Special Advisor in 2014. In his role, Dr. Brayboy serves as a “thought leader,” advising ASU on internal capacity building and strengthening. This includes engaging in programming and initiatives that are designed to help improve outreach, retention, and graduation rates. It also includes fundraising activities and recruiting and retaining Indigenous faculty. He serves on several committees and is charged with running the Office of American Indian Initiatives.
Dr. Brayboy is ASU President’s Professor of Indigenous Education and Justice in the School of Social Transformation. At ASU, he is director of the Center for Indian Education and co-editor of the Journal of American Indian Education. He also has affiliations with the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, American Indian Studies, and the Department of English. From 2007 to 2012, Brayboy was Visiting President’s Professor of Indigenous Education at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. His research focuses on the experiences of Indigenous students, staff, and faculty in institutions of higher education, Indigenous Knowledge Systems, and Indigenous Research Methodologies. He has edited and authored more than 70 scholarly products, including five book-length monographs.
Twila Cassadore, Cultural Project Assistant, San Carlos Apache Tribe
Cassadore has been working with San Carlos Apache, White Mountain Apache, and Yavapi peoples over the past 25 years, conducting interviews with elders to bring information back into the community to address health and social problems. Cassadore described the importance of foods like grass seeds and acorn seeds to the diets of Apaches before people were moved onto reservations and became reliant on rations, and later, commodities.
Paula Daniels, Co-Founder, Center for Good Food Purchasing; Founder, Los Angeles Food Policy Council
Paula Daniels is Co-Founder and Chair of the Center for Good Food Purchasing, a nonprofit founded in July of 2015 as a national spin-off from the Los Angeles Food Policy Council, which Paula founded in 2011. The Center for Good Food Purchasing uses the power of procurement to create a transparent and equitable food system that prioritizes the health and well-being of people, animals, and the environment, through the nationally networked adoption and implementation of the Good Food Purchasing Program by major institutions. Paula is an attorney with extensive experience in law as well as in public policy and politics, due to her role as a senior public official in a number of high-level appointed positions, which gave her decision-making authority on complex and controversial environmental issues.
Kamuela Enos, Director of Indigenous Innovation for the University of Hawaii System
Kamuela Joseph Nui Enos was born and raised in Waianae, on the island of O`ahu. He received his AA from Leeward Community College, BA in Hawaiian Studies from UH Manoa, MA in Urban and Regional Planner. His MA thesis was on “Utilizing Traditional Hawaiian Land Use Practices to Create Sustainability Paradigms for the 21st Century.” He sits on the boards of numerous community-based nonprofits and was recently a commissioner on President Obama’s White House Initiative on Asians and Pacific Islanders. Enos is currently the Director of Social Enterprise at MA`O Organic Farms and a lecturer at UH Manoa’s Dept. of Urban and Regional Planning.
Cindy Farlee, Student, ASU Food Policy and Sustainability Leadership
Cindy Farlee, a citizen of Itázipčho Lakȟóta, serves as the Native American Agriculture Fund (NAAF) Associate Program Officer and Youth/Beginning Farmer and Rancher Liaison. She is a first-generation college graduate who, in May 2018, obtained her bachelor’s degree in Indigenous and American Indian studies with an emphasis on sovereignty from Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas.
She is one of the founding members of the Indigenous Justice Initiative, an academic demonstration working to create a framework for an Indigenous justice system that is more reflective of cultural values and acknowledges the reciprocal relationships we have with the natural world. Farlee also served on the inaugural board of directors for the Native Youth Food Sovereignty Alliance, the youth advisory board of the Intertribal Agriculture Council.
Mariah Gladstone, Founder, Indigikitchen
Mariah Gladstone (Blackfeet, Cherokee) grew up in Northwest Montana. She graduated from Columbia University with a degree in Environmental Engineering and returned home where she developed Indigikitchen. Mariah has been recognized as a “Champion for Change” through the Center for Native American Youth, a “Culture of Health Leader” through the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and a Grist 50 “Fixer.” She is currently on the board of the Native Youth Food Sovereignty Alliance.
Janie Simms Hipp, President & CEO, Native American Agriculture Fund (NAAF)
Before serving as CEO of NAAF, Janie Simms Hipp, a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation, was the founding director of the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative at the University of Arkansas. Prior to launching the initiative, she served as national program leader for Farm Financial Management, Trade Adjustment Assistance, Risk Management Education, and the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development programs at the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute for Food and Agriculture.
She was selected as the senior advisor for tribal relations to Secretary Tom Vilsack and director of the Office of Tribal Relations. Prior to her work in Washington, D.C., at the national level, she has enjoyed a lengthy domestic and international career spanning more than 35 years in the agriculture sector as an agriculture and food lawyer and policy expert. Her work focuses on the complex intersection of Indian law and agriculture and food law.
Hipp holds a JD from Oklahoma City University and an LL.M. in agriculture and food law from the University of Arkansas. She is the author of numerous publications, most recently joining with Wilson Pipestem, JD, and Crystal EchoHawk to author the Feeding Ourselves report and thereafter the Regaining our Future report with Colby Duren, JD. She serves as an advisor to the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community’s Seeds of Native Health campaign and numerous other campaigns focusing on food, agriculture, health, and economic development in Indian Country.
Michael Johnson, Research Associate, Native American Agriculture Fund (NAAF)
Dr. Michael Kotutwa Johnson, a member of the Hopi Tribe in Northern Arizona, serves as NAAF’s Research Associate. Dr. Johnson is a traditional Hopi farmer and practitioner and has given extensive lectures on the topic of Hopi dryland farming—a practice of his people for more than two millennia—throughout his academic and professional career. He is also very familiar with conventional agriculture, having received his Bachelor of Science degree in agriculture from Cornell University.
Some of Dr. Johnson’s previous work experience involved agriculture and land-related issues at First Nations Development Institute and the Indian Land Tenure Foundation. He holds a Master of Public Policy degree from Pepperdine University. Before receiving his PhD in Natural Resources at the University of Arizona, Dr. Johnson was a Natural Resource District Conservationist assigned to the Hopi Reservation for the Natural Resource Conservation Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Sterling Johnson, Ajo Center for Sustainable Agriculture
Sterling was born and raised on the Tohono O’odham Nation in a ranching and rodeo family, and is an accomplished bull rider himself. Sterling is a graduate of the former Tohono O’odham Community Action’s Beginning Farmer Program, and he has continued the teaching to develop a new youth and adult education program in Ajo and on the reservation
through his work with the Ajo Center for Sustainable Agriculture. He currently farms two dry-land fields, a one-acre urban farm, teaches weekly classes in two high schools, and has overseen 15 farming apprentices and 12 youth interns over the past three years, 70 percent of whom are Tohono O’odham. Sterling is fluent in the language of his ancestors, and
sometimes wishes he was born earlier so he could have learned from the old ones now gone who knew so much about the land, foods, and culture.
Terrol Dew Johnson, Community Activist/Artist; Director for Alexander Memorial Farm
Terrol Dew Johnson is a nationally recognized, award-winning Tohono O’odham basket weaver, community activist, and museum consultant. His baskets have won major awards at the Santa Fe Indian Market, NM; O’odham Tash, Sells, AZ; Heard Museum Fair, Phoenix, and Southwest Indian Art Fair, Tucson, AZ. His work is in permanent collections of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian, Washington, D.C., and the Heard Museum. He founded TOCA (Tohono O’odham Community Action) in 1996 with business partner Tristan Reader in Sells, Arizona. As an artist and curator, he has collaborated with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, Washington, D.C., and New York City; the Heard Museum; Arizona Historical Society; and Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. He lives in Tucson, Arizona.
Deb Krol, Arizona Republic Environment Reporter
Debra Utacia Krol is an award-winning journalist with an emphasis on Indigenous, environmental and science issues who’s fond of averring that “My beat is Indians.” She is an enrolled member of the Xolon (also known as Jolon) Salinan Tribe from the Central California coastal ranges. In addition to more than a dozen other awards, Krol was named Best Beat Environmental Reporter by the Native American Journalists’ Association.
Chelsey Luger, Journalist
Chelsey Luger is a freelance journalist and wellness advocate based in Phoenix, Arizona, originally from the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa and Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota. She double majored in History and Native American Studies at Dartmouth College, concentrating on comparative histories of global Indigenous cultures and post-colonial theory. She later earned an MS in Digital Media at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. In her work as a journalist, she highlights activist movements and environmentalism as it relates to wellness and Native culture. Luger is passionate about motivating youth to stay active and healthy in order to build mental-physical-spiritual strength.
Luger’s work has been published in The Atlantic, The Huffington Post, High Country News, YES! Magazine, Indian Country Today Media Network, Al Jazeera America, Fusion, NowThis, and more. She is a trainer for the Native Wellness Institute and the co-founder of Well For Culture, an Indigenous wellness initiative.
Kathleen Merrigan, Executive Director, Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems at ASU
Merrigan is an expert in food and agriculture, celebrated by Time Magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2010. She serves as the Kelly and Brian Swette Professor in the School of Sustainability and executive director of the Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems at Arizona State University. From 2013-2018, she was executive director of sustainability, director of the GW Food Institute, and professor of public policy at George Washington University. From 2009 to 2013, Merrigan was deputy secretary and chief operating officer of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a 110,000 person, US$150 billion federal department. Over the decades, Merrigan has been actively involved with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, including serving as the first woman chair of the Conference of Ministers. She is well known for having authored U.S. law establishing organic food standards. Merrigan is currently a board member of FoodCorps, Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES), Artemis, and the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF). She is a partner in Astanor Ventures and an advisor to S2G Ventures, two firms investing in ag-tech innovations. Merrigan holds a PhD in Public Policy and Environmental Planning from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a MA in Public Affairs from University of Texas at Austin, and a BA from Williams College.
Albie Miles, Assistant Professor of Sustainable Community Food Systems, University of Hawai‘i at West O‘ahu
Albie Miles is Assistant Professor of Sustainable Community Food Systems at the University of Hawai‘i at West O‘ahu. Dr. Miles received his PhD in Environmental Science, Policy, and Management from the University of California at Berkeley in 2013. His research explores the relationship between farming system biodiversity and ecosystem services from agriculture and the structural obstacles to sustainable food and farming systems. He has worked at the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization and the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems at UC Santa Cruz.
Karli Moore, Student, ASU Food Policy and Sustainability Leadership
Karli Moore, a member of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina, serves as the Native American Agriculture Fund (NAAF) Associate Program Officer. She has experience with family farm operations, youth-led food sovereignty initiatives, corporate agribusiness, international agriculture projects, and land grant institutions.
Moore earned her bachelor’s degrees in chemistry and agricultural business management from North Carolina State University. She will soon finish a dual master’s program in agricultural economics and international rural development from the University of Arkansas, with studies at Humboldt University in Berlin, Germany.
Moore coordinated a monarch butterfly conservation program for BASF Agricultural Solutions and conducted a logistical analysis relating to the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations for the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative. She has experience in both tribal communities (working for her family’s direct-market beef business in North Carolina) and global contexts (conducting rural development research in Slovakia).
Andi Murphy, Journalist, Las Cruces Sun-News and Civil Eats; Associate Producer, Native America Calling
Andi Murphy (Navajo) is from Crownpoint, New Mexico, a small town on the Navajo Nation reservation. She has been a writer since she learned how to use a pencil. She evolved into a journalist, from a creative writer, during her first year in college when she joined the American Indian Journalism Institute (AIJI) and the Native American Journalists Association. Through AIJI, she has held internships in Farmington, Montana, and North Dakota. She is a graduate of New Mexico State University and most recently worked as a features writer for the Las Cruces Sun-News.
Melissa Nelson, Professor of American Indian Studies, San Francisco State University
Melissa K. Nelson, PhD, is an ecologist, writer, editor, media-maker, and native scholar-activist. She is Anishinaabe/Métis/Norwegian and an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians. Her work is dedicated to Indigenous rights and revitalization, Native science and biocultural diversity, ecological ethics and sustainability, and the renewal and celebration of community health and cultural arts.
Dr. Nelson is a professor of American Indian Studies at San Francisco State University and president of the Cultural Conservancy, an Indigenous rights organization, which she has directed since 1993. Her first edited anthology, Original Instructions: Indigenous Teachings For A Sustainable Future (2008), features three of her essays and focuses on the persistence of Traditional Ecological Knowledge by contemporary native communities.
Dr. Nelson is a Switzer Fellow and Environmental Leadership Award recipient and has received awards for teaching, experiential education, documentary filmmaking, and environmental stewardship. She has presented her work throughout North America and in Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, the Philippines, Australia, Peru, and New Zealand.
Danielle Nierenberg, President, Food Tank
Food Tank’s President and Co-Founder Danielle Nierenberg is an expert on sustainable agriculture and food issues.
Danielle has spent the last decade traveling to more than 75 countries across sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and Latin America, meeting with farmers and farmers’ groups, scientists and researchers, policymakers and government leaders, students and academics, along with journalists, documenting what’s working to help alleviate hunger and poverty, while protecting the environment.
Nina Sajovec, Co-Founder and Director, Ajo Center for Sustainable Agriculture
Nina was born and raised in Slovenia, and immigrated to the United States 11 years ago to do research for her Masters and later PhD in Anthropology of Food after receiving her Bachelors’ Degree in Law at the University of Ljubljana. Nina was a program director for Tohono O’odham Community Action for four years, and she established a successful
beginning farmer training and an extensive community outreach program including school and community gardens. Nina co-founded Ajo Center for Sustainable Agriculture in 2008. The Center is dedicated to preserving and revitalizing traditional and sustainable food systems in Ajo, on the Tohono O’odham Nation and the surrounding region through
education, seed conservation, and job creation. The Center administers a beginning farmer training program in cooperation with Alexander Pancho Memorial Farm, Tohono O’odham Farm and Food Group, and other partners. The Center started Ajo Farmers Market in 2009 and has now expanded it into a bricks-and-mortar food incubator, including a farm-to-table menu offering comfort foods, traditional foods, and other cultural foods built around local ingredients. The Ajo Farmers Market & Café houses more than 35 microbusinesses, including Native American farmers, cooks, and artists. Nina’s passion continues to be growing plants, learning about people, and building community around food.
Cheryse Kaui Sana, Farm Manager, MAʻO Organic Farms
Cheryse Julitta Kauikeolani Sana, Kaui, was born and raised in Waianae, Hawai‘i. Kaui received her BA in Hawaiian Studies from Hawaiinuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa. Kaui is currently the Farm Manager of MA’O Organic Farms, a not-for-profit native Hawaiian social enterprise venture whose mission is “to grow certified organic veggies and youth leaders.”
Sean Sherman, Founder and CEO: The Sioux Chef, NATIFS.org, Indigenous Food Lab
Sean Sherman, Oglala Lakota, born in Pine Ridge, South Dakota, has been cooking across the U.S. and world for the last 30 years. His main culinary focus has been on the revitalization and awareness of Indigenous food systems in a modern culinary context. Sean has studied on his own extensively to determine the foundations of these food systems, which include the knowledge of Native American farming techniques, wild food usage and harvesting, land stewardship, salt and sugar making, hunting and fishing, food preservation, Native American migrational histories, elemental cooking techniques, and Native culture and history in general to gain a full understanding of bringing back a sense of Native American cuisine to today’s world.
In 2014, he opened The Sioux Chef as a caterer and food educator to the Minneapolis/Saint Paul area. In 2015, in partnership with the Little Earth Community of United Tribes in Minneapolis, he also helped to design and open the Tatanka Truck food truck, which featured pre-contact foods of the Dakota and Minnesota territories.
The Sioux Chef team works to make indigenous foods more accessible to as many communities as possible. To open opportunities for more people to learn about Native cuisine and develop food enterprises in their tribal communities, they founded the nonprofit North American Traditional Indigenous Food Systems (NATIFS) and are working to launch the first Indigenous Food Lab restaurant and training center in Minneapolis.
Shondiin Silversmith, Arizona Republic Indigenous Affairs Reporter
Shondiin Silversmith (Navajo) is from Steamboat, Arizona, a small community on the Navajo Nation. She has been a journalist for nearly 10 years and has made telling stories about Indigenous communities a priority in her career. She earned an MA in Media Innovation from Northeastern University in Boston. As a journalist, she’s written for the Navajo Times, The Daily Times, PRI’s The World, The Ground Truth Project, USA Today, and The Arizona Republic. She is currently the Indigenous Affairs Reporter for The Arizona Republic, a position never held at the newspaper before.
Sharla Strong, Special Projects Coordinator, ASU Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems
Sharla Strong is an enrolled tribal member of the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians and is the Special Projects Coordinator for the Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems at ASU. After graduating with her Bachelor’s Degree from Marymount Manhattan College in New York City, she worked in Theater, Documentary, Corporate Communications, and Longform News at MSNBC. Sharla returned home to Oregon in 2010 to start the Healthy Traditions project, which seeks to improve the health of Siletz tribal families through educational activities, which promote the use of traditional foods through hunting, gathering, gardening, cooking, food preservation, and protecting our natural resources. Sharla also worked as the Youth Development Director in the Siletz Behavioral Health Program, integrating her work with traditional foods into experiential education and leadership activities for tribal youth. Sharla currently resides in Phoenix, AZ, and continues to advocate for tribal food sovereignty.