Slow Food Turtle Island

Slow Food Turtle Island

On February 22, 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 Foods International) as well as the Christiansen Fund, to discuss the possibility and mechanics of establishing a Slow Foods chapter specifically for Indigenous people from Canada, the US, and 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.

Photos by Elizabeth Hoover

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 presidiaproject (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 from the Christiansen 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 2015 this took place in Shillong in India). This most recent gathering ended with 70,000 people at a food festival. In future years this event will potentially be hosted in Kenya and Canada. But the group gathered in Taos this past February hopes to take this a step further, and establish a separate Slow Food regional association dedicated just to supporting 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; theAnishnaabeg 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).

So what would the benefits be of establishing a Slow Food association for Indigenous people? I’ve included some of the attendees thoughts with their photos below

   Winona LaDuke (Honor the Earth; standing here in the TCEDC greenhouse), cited the value in the “opportunity to be part of an international food movement. The opportunity to hang out with cool food people from around the world who are like us. In my experience I found that my international exposure was enlightening. When I sent people to Italy, they came back empowered about how cool our food was and we were as cool any as anybody in the world.” Honor the Earth was also able to garner support for their pipeline opposition through hosting Slow Food dinners. (Photo by Elizabeth Hoover)


Winona LaDuke (Honor the Earth; standing here in the TCEDC greenhouse), cited the value in the “opportunity to be part of an international food movement. The opportunity to hang out with cool food people from around the world who are like us. In my experience I found that my international exposure was enlightening. When I sent people to Italy, they came back empowered about how cool our food was and we were as cool any as anybody in the world.” Honor the Earth was also able to garner support for their pipeline opposition through hosting Slow Food dinners. (Photo by Elizabeth Hoover)

  The name Slow Food Turtle Island (this tentative logo was created by Winona’s designer, Sarah (LittleRedfeatherDesign.com) was chosen to denote a regional organization that would include Indigenous people from Canada, the US (including Hawaii), and Mexico. But there was not complete consensus on this name: other contenders included Slow Food Red Nation and  Slow Food Four Directions.

The name Slow Food Turtle Island (this tentative logo was created by Winona’s designer, Sarah (LittleRedfeatherDesign.com) was chosen to denote a regional organization that would include Indigenous people from Canada, the US (including Hawaii), and Mexico. But there was not complete consensus on this name: other contenders included Slow Food Red Nation and  Slow Food Four Directions.