Charlottesville, Va. – Virginia Humanities’ Food & Community project and Virginia Indian Programs are collaborating with the University of Virginia Sustainable Food Strategy Task Force on a two-day Bicentennial Symposium event, Our Evolving Food System: from Slavery to Sovereignty.
This public, free symposium will take place at the University of Virginia (UVA) October 17-18 2018, featuring an Indigenous lunch sponsored by Food & Community on the 18th. Designed to showcase what true food sovereignty can look—and taste—like, the unconventional meal of precolonial foods will be created by a team of chefs from the I-Collective, an autonomous group of indigenous chefs, activists, herbalists, seed, and knowledge keepers from across the Americas.
The symposium will engage scholars and the community in the discussion of how to build a radically changed food system predicated on food sovereignty—the human right to healthy, affordable, and accessible food—for people of all backgrounds. Today’s food system at the University of Virginia was shaped by slavery and segregation, and it continues to bear the impacts of this legacy and exploitation. The symposium’s goal is to begin building an action plan for the University in which historically marginalized communities will enjoy the right to shape the production, distribution, preparation, and partaking of healthy, culturally reflective food.
Participants will learn from local and national leaders in food sovereignty including Malik Yakini (Detroit Black Community Food Security Network), Karen Washington (Rise & Root Farm), Lupe Gonzalo (Coalition of Immokalee Workers), and Renard Turner (Vanguard Ranch).
The lunch exploring indigenous foodways will be served at 11:40 a.m. on October 18th in UVA’s Newcomb Hall. The lunch and symposium are free and open to the public, though RSVP is required.
“It’s so much more than just a tasting of delicious Native foods,” says Food & Community director Lilia Fuquen. “It’ll be a substantial meal that illustrates the stories of what food sovereignty used to look like here, why Native American foodways changed so dramatically, and how indigenous communities are building healthy, just, food systems today. Every bite will have so many stories woven into it.” Victoria Ferguson, a Virginia Monacan tradition keeper, will collaborate with I-Collective chefs Hillel Echo-Hawk (Pawnee), Iaonhawinon (Haudenosaunee), and Indigenous Foods Activist M. Karlos Baca (Tewa/Dinè/Nuche) to create the meal based on precolonial ancestral foodways for 200 symposium attendees.
During the meal, the chefs will speak about their work in food sovereignty within their communities and teach about indigenous foods and foodways of the Americas. A photo essay of the foraging, gathering, processing and cooking of the food being served will be on display throughout the event.
While the symposium’s focus is to reflect on the legacy of slavery in today’s food system and to map out a path toward food sovereignty, Ferguson says, “It’s vital that we take a look at what food sovereignty looked like in the past, and recognize that it is possible right here, right now, even if it’s just a few bites. We can all go outside, stand in a forest, and be surrounded by a feast that we might not even realize is there. It’s about connecting with the natural world and its rhythms, and the balance of give and take. Virginia Indians taught the newcomers about which foods could be gathered from the forest and we shared our growing practices to provide food throughout the winter. We’ve been doing this a long time.”
Much of the food for the lunch will be harvested and gathered in Central Virginia just days or hours before being consumed. Keeping with the tradition of trade routes, various Native American tribes will contribute heritage squash, beans, corn, maple syrup, and wild rice, while wild edibles will be foraged by the chefs and local experts. The food will be cooked using traditional methods—over fire, using natural ingredients and tools.
Food & Community is a project of the Virginia Folklife Program at Virginia Humanities, the state humanities council. Through collaborations, workshops, and a mini podcast and broadcast radio series, Food & Community explores how food is central to our identities and holds communities together at the seams. Virginia Humanities’ Virginia Indian Programs help redress centuries of historical omission and misrepresentation by creating opportunities for Virginians of all ages, as well as visitors to the state, to learn about the history and cultures of Virginia Indians, past and present. This is the first collaboration between Food & Community, Virginia Indian Programs, and the University of Virginia Sustainable Food Strategy Task Force.
About the I-Collective
I-Collective stands for four principles: Indigenous, Inspired, Innovative, and Independent. An autonomous group of Indigenous chefs, activists, herbalists, seed, and knowledge keepers, the I-Collective strives to open a dialogue and create a new narrative that highlights not only the historical Indigenous contributions but also promotes our communities’ resilience and innovations in gastronomy, agriculture, arts, and society at large. For more information, visit iCollectiveInc.org.
About the University of Virginia Sustainable Food Strategy Task Force
This Task Force is a group of individuals who have a strong interest in food, health, equity, and sustainability and who come from a variety of backgrounds and programs. Some of the entities represented in the Task Force include UVA Dining, UVA Sustainability, Morven Kitchen Gardens, UVA Nursing, and many more.
About the Virginia Folklife Program
The Virginia Folklife Program—a public program of Virginia Humanities—is the official state Folklife Program, dedicated to the documentation, presentation, support, and celebration of Virginia’s rich cultural heritage. For more than twenty-five years, the program has documented the Commonwealth’s music and material traditions and shared those histories through hands-on workshops, performances, exhibitions, audio and video recordings, and apprenticeships across Virginia. For more information, visit VirginiaFolklife.org.
About Virginia Humanities
Virginia Humanities connects people and ideas to explore the human experience and inspire cultural engagement. As the state humanities council, Virginia Humanities reaches millions in its estimated annual audience through festivals, grants, fellowships, digital initiatives, teacher institutes, radio programs, podcasts, apprenticeships, and school programs. Headquartered at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia Humanities endeavors to serve Virginians in every corner of the Commonwealth. To learn more visit VirginiaHumanities.org.
Our Evolving Food System: From Slavery to Sovereignty
To register for the food symposium, visit OurEvolvingFoodSystem.Weebly.com.