SFTIA Represented Itself for First Time During Terra Madre 2016

“[Standing Rock] is the face of America right now – it’s a choice between water and oil,” Winona LaDuke said as she addressed the U.S. delegates at the national meeting during Terra Madre last month.

Indigenous voices from across Turtle Island were heard during Terra Madre and Salone del Gusto in Torino, Italy this past September. 

Slow Food Turtle Island Association is a new regional chapter of Slow Food that includes indigenous members from Canada, the United States of America, Mexico and South America. SFTIA proudly gathered to represent ourselves for the first time as a region at Terra Madre, discuss the future of the chapter and to share our various cultures and foods with the international community. 

“Terra Madre 2016 marked the first time when indigenous peoples of North America were represented as our own association,” Lorraine Kahneratokwas Gray said. “I was proud to be a part of this historic effort led by Winona LaDuke and a delegation of indigenouss people who met for years to achieve this goal.”

SFTIA member Gray – a Mohawk, Turtle Clan farmer who is the Executive Director for the non-profit organization Four Bridges Traveling Permaculture Institute – has thrice been a delegate for Terra Madre. LaDuke and Gray are two members of a group of SFTIA founders, having first participated as delegates during the 2006 Terra Madre.
SFTIA began as an effort to join various indigenous nations together, who are often connected by cultural similarities, traditional crops, music, dance and creation stories.

“We wanted to be politically ‘ourselves’ because we do not fit in the United States, we do not fit into Canada – those are awkward, colonial things that have been put upon us, and we predate those countries,” LaDuke said. 

As a member of both SFTIA and Slow Food Urban San Diego, I – like many other native people – straddle two worlds: the traditional native culture that I grew up in, and the modern community where I live, grow and cook food.

The origin of the name “Turtle Island” comes from the origin story of some indigenous cultures – where a woman fell from the Skyworld and landed on a turtle’s back. In the Kanien:kehaka (Mohawk) version of the story, she then created the Earth using mud that was brought up from the sea floor by an otter.

It is important to note, however, that not all native cultures share this origin story, nor do we all grow the Three Sisters staple crops of corn, beans and squash. Our differences are just as important as our similarities, both between the native participants in SFTIA and the broader Slow Food International community.

Our first appearance at Terra Madre as a regional association proved to be a successful one. Delegates and visitors from around the world flooded our booth, eager to learn more about our traditional farming practices, cuisine and music.

There was also, in the words of Gray, an “outpouring of support in stopping the Dakota Access Pipeline,” with the international community asking for information about the situation and what they could do to help.

For the North American, indigenous nations DAPL represents one more wave of colonialism, and yet another way that our traditional growing practices could potentially be further diminished. As LaDuke said in her speech “food is this excellent opportunity to decolonize yourself.”


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