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Indigenous Food Lab

We are revitalizing sustainable, traditional indigenous food knowledge to improve health and increase wealth in Native communities.

Photo of Sean Sherman
12 20

Written by

Lead Applicant Organization Name

North American Traditional Indigenous Food Systems (NATIFS)

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Small NGO (under 50 employees)

Website of Legally Registered Entity

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • 1-3 years

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?

United States of America

Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

Our vision starts on traditional Dakota homelands, a region that includes parts of Minnesota, North and South Dakota.

What country is your selected Place located in?

United States of America

Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

I was born and raised on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, as were both my parents. I have been in the culinary world for most of my life, starting after my mother moved me and my younger sister off of Pine Ridge to the small town of Spearfish, South Dakota. I started working in local restaurants there and around the Black Hills, and cooked all through high school and college, then made my way to Minneapolis after college. I continued working restaurants in the city and quickly moved my way into an Executive Chef position in my mid-20s. A few years into my chef career, I had an epiphany: I realized that while we had a vibrant food scene where you could find food from all over the world, there was nothing that represented the land we are currently on, nothing reflecting the traditions of the first people to make this place their home. After some quick research, I also realized this was the norm everywhere -- there were no Native American restaurants. This realization put me on a journey to discover what my direct ancestors were eating, storing, growing, harvesting, trading, and sharing just a couple of generations before me.

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

Growing up on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in the 1970s, I ran wild with my cousins through my grandparents’ cattle ranch, over the hot, sandy South Dakota land of burrs and paddle cactus, hiding in the sparse grasses and rolling hills. We raced over the open plains, and through shelter belts of tall elm trees, the air full of dust and sagebrush. Our dogs chased prairie dogs, pheasants, grouse and antelope, and alerted us to rattlesnakes and jack rabbits. In late summer, we’d harvest chokecherries and timpsula, a wild prairie turnip, and pick juniper berries off the prickly trees. We camped in the Badlands, sleeping under the stars, and gathered in our family’s rustic log cabin deep in the Black Hills. Back then, there were no restaurants on Pine Ridge, just one grocery store and a couple of gas stations dotting the immense reservation. Our kitchen cupboards were stocked with government commodity food staples — canned fruit, canned meat, powdered milk, bricks of yellow government-issued cheese, and dry cereals and oats packaged in white cardboard boxes with black block lettering. Luckily, we also had the birds we hunted, beef from the ranch and eggs from the chickens my grandmother raised. As members of the Oglala Lakota Oyate, part of the Great Sioux Nation, we took part in many celebrations and gatherings like powwows, sun dances, birthdays, weddings, naming ceremonies and cattle brandings, and our moms, aunts and female cousins cooked up contemporary and traditional dishes, like taniga, the Lakota intestine soup with timpsula. The sweet aroma of simmering wojape, the Lakota chokecherry dish, time-warps me back to my 6-year-old self.

What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?


Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

NATIFS is a Native-led and Native-focused nonprofit organization working to reconnect Native Americans with traditional food systems to improve health, promote economic development, establish food sovereignty, and preserve tribal history and culture across artificial colonial boundaries. Through development of a new food system based around cultivation and incorporation of healthy, wild, culturally appropriate, traditional ingredients and agriculture, NATIFS is empowering Native people to use the power of their history and culture to counter the multigenerational impacts of colonialism and dispossession. To combat the systematic cultural genocide that has taken place here, we feel that we can heal ancestral trauma through both the Indigenous foods themselves, and the knowledge of the history of this land. All of these native plants, specifically, are medicine. We aim to tackle the root causes of deep, persistent problems – not just apply BandAids to the symptoms of health disparities and economic and environmental exploitation. We’re changing the economic and health forecast for our indigenous young people and our planet. Furthermore, we will drive economic health into Indian country by developing food producers, create jobs in native-owned businesses, and develop skills around nutrition and culture.

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

NATIFS is dedicated to addressing the economic and health crises affecting Native communities by reestablishing Native foodways. We imagine a new North American food system that generates wealth and improves health in Native communities through food-related enterprises. NATIFS is establishing an Indigenous Food Lab in Minneapolis that will house an indigenous restaurant and training center covering all aspects of food service; research and development; indigenous food identification, gathering, cultivation, and preparation; and all components of starting and running a successful culinary business based around Native traditions and indigenous foods. By providing education and training that give Native people access to healthy, local, indigenous food, we can not only address serious issues of malnutrition, food-related illness, and economic impoverishment on tribal lands – we can also use our shared heritage to build bridges and build power within and between Native Communities and our allies. The vision of this work is food business development and economic empowerment that provides Native people across North America with access to healthy indigenous food, preserves Native food traditions, addresses the health crisis on Native lands caused by subsidized commodity agriculture, generates wealth for Native communities, and connects and unites geographically dispersed Native communities around a shared heritage. The model will build demand for indigenous food. By replicating this model in different ecological, economic and social conditions, NATIFS will provide Native communities with a framework for addressing some of the most intractable impacts of multigenerational colonialism through Native culture and traditions. NATIFS’ envisions combined strategic initiatives: The Indigenous Food Lab, and Indigenous Food Satellites. The core of NATIFS’ work is our urban Indigenous Food Lab (IFL), a live restaurant and training center covering all aspects of research and development, indigenous food identification, gathering, cultivation, and preparation, and all components of starting and running a successful culinary business based around Native traditions and indigenous foods. The IFL will serve as an iterative demonstration of our replicable Native empowerment model. Once proof of concept is established, NATIFS will launch a series of Indigenous Food Satellites. Rather than replicating the IFL, the satellites will be based on a framework that takes into account local ecologies, economics and social conditions and provides a roadmap for tribal groups to launch native culinary enterprises in their regions. To support satellites, NATIFS will provide close mentorship, training and counsel through the IFH to ensure that enterprises are successful in bringing job opportunities and good food to the local communities. The initial IFL will be located in Minneapolis, with a longer-term goal of creating Indigenous Food Labs in regions across the United States.

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

The Indigenous Food Lab will reunite Native and non-Native participants with traditional indigenous foods, including Native American agriculture, farming techniques, seed saving, wild foods, ethnobotany, indigenous medicines, cooking techniques, regional diversity, nutrition, language, history, health, and healing. This knowledge will heal the bodies and the spirits of a historically dispossessed population.

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

Communities will have access to healthy Indigenous foods that are designed to represent their tribe, in their language, using their regional flavors, and giving them the resources to grow community gardens, create permaculture landscapes, process and preserve foods, and create more Indigenous food leaders and food processors to plug into our growing network. Finally, we will replicate this entire model with Indigenous Food Labs in urban areas in other parts of the country, supporting regional, indigenous-designed and run food entities in tribal communities throughout North America.

NĀTIFS, or North American Traditional Indigenous Food Systems, is the 501c3 nonprofit that we created at the beginning of 2018.  Our mission is to promote indigenous foodways education and facilitate indigenous food access. We spread Indigenous food knowledge, train and develop more Indigenous food producers, create Indigenous food access in tribal communities, and aim to become a resource for Indigenous education focused on Indigenous food systems. We are launching a nonprofit culinary training center and restaurant called the Indigenous Food Lab in Minneapolis, MN. The Indigenous Food Lab training will cover: 1) all aspects of food service, research and development, indigenous food identification, gathering, cultivation, and preparation; and 2) all components of starting and running a successful culinary business based around Native traditions and indigenous foods. We will assist trainees with preparing a business plan and launching indigenous food-based businesses in their tribal communities.

The Indigenous Food Lab will be a restaurant that is open to the general public and will allow our nonprofit to be financially sustainable by having an earned income stream, while still being able to bring in charitable gifts through philanthropic foundations, private donors, and the general public to support programming.  Creating a model for sustainability was a huge priority for us.  The IFL will also become a place for people to sign up for classes on a variety of curriculum we’ve been designing focused on Indigenous food systems.  We’ll offer classes on Native American agriculture, farming techniques, seed saving, wild foods, ethnobotany, indigenous medicines, cooking techniques, regional diversity, nutrition, language, history, health, and healing.  We will also offer a modular training tract available as short-run workshops intended to train groups coming from various areas who are wanting to learn specific parts of the work around indigenous foods. We will also be able to utilize the restaurant as a live training center, utilizing our staff as trainers to teach hands-on how to process and work with these foods. We will reach out to Native leaders, college and culinary students and K-12 students and work with them to create relevant and engaging classes.

The goal for this training center is to reach out to the tribal communities in our region, and help them to develop, implement, and maintain an Indigenous food entity for their community, which could be as small as a catering operation, or as large as a full-scale restaurant, depending on the means and resources of the community.  Once open, these satellite tribal entities will help directly influence community members by giving them access to healthy Indigenous foods that are designed to represent their tribe, in their language, using their regional flavors, and giving them the resources to grow community gardens, create permaculture landscapes, process and preserve foods, and hopefully create more Indigenous food leaders and food processors to plug into our growing network.  Another goal is to replicate this entire model with IFLs in other urban areas, supporting regional, indigenous-designed and run food entities in the tribal communities. We hope to open IFLs in cities all across the United States.  Each one of these urban IFLs would become a regional center point for Indigenous training, education, development, and support.  I believe that through this work, and with the past 5 years of running my business The Sioux Chef, we could make a huge impact on Native communities by helping to bring back a stronger connection to the knowledge of our Indigenous ancestors along with creating health, wellness, economic opportunity, and a deeper connection to our environments that could be producing so much for all of us.  Non-Indigenous people will also benefit, by being exposed to a strong and beautiful indigenous perspective around food, culture, region, and history. 

In addition, we must first define Indigenous Education to understand that Indigenous Education is 1000s of years of ancestral, regional knowledge that was passed down countless generations giving us the blueprint for a healthy sustainable community based lifestyles.  Also realizing the loss of our Indigenous Education through boarding and residential school assimilation efforts, on top of the current euro-centric led propogantic curriculum that is taught in schools today, it is imperative as indigenous peoples that we define and share our own knowledge base.

I will focus part of this potential support towards the creation of our digital app based Indigenous online resource archive I’ve drafted called:  W.A.K.A.N.N., or World Ancestral Knowledge Archive of Native Nations.  The word itself is derived from the Lakota word, Wakȟáŋ, which signifies everything sacred.  This archive will be a central resource for accessible indigenous knowledge around indigenous foods systems including our work with wild plants, native agriculture, seeds keeping, recipes, language, crafting, medicinals, places, histories, health, sports and games, stories, and more.  This will be accomplished by connecting already existing indigenous led online resources, on top of creating a digital map based online resource for people to explore, record, and share regional indigenous knowledge that can be continuously built with user interface over many years.  Part of our work with the Indigenous Food Lab model is to become a centerpoint for Indigenous Education, and an online portal to access this education is a key part of our vision. 

Steps toward the success of a healthier indigenous future begins by replacing colonized thought by learning about our indigenous histories that have been eliminated from history books in schools. Once we engage in this ancestral wisdom, we move into reconnecting spiritually, mentally and physically with the natural world. We then begin to understand and build Indigenous foundations of health so that we can regain, retain and share practical this practical knowledge. There is much to learn, such as food preservation, seasonal eating, using elements like wind, sun and smoke to cure and season foods, soil maintenance and seed saving. This will help us evolve our food systems into the modern day all the while protecting and honoring our natural resources.

Our vision is iterative; we aim to open Indigenous Food Labs in different regions throughout North America as informed by indigenous communities, featuring the traditional Indigenous cuisine of each region. We will be recording our learning in all aspects of opening this first Indigenous Food Lab, including financing, fundraising, communications, working with contractors, research and development, etc., to be used as a resource for future labs. We anticipate that much of what we learn opening this first Lab will also be useful as we begin to assist our trainees in developing satellite Indigenous food businesses.

We will collect economic data on our Indigenous participants, and track their successes in opening their own indigenous food-related enterprises following their training. We will share learnings widely through the W.A.K.A.N.N.

On the policy front, we’re following and supporting those working on federal legislation to safeguard Native seeds, and threats to Indigenous lands by pipelines and pollution. In Minnesota, we have a close relationship with Minnesota Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan (White Earth Nation of Ojibwe), and we have other allies in the state legislature and in the City of Minneapolis. As our programming develops, we anticipate working to remove barriers to Native people launching indigenous food-related enterprises in their tribal communities.

We are working to unite Native people around our common food heritage and its ability to bridge the tradition of our past with the promise of our shared futures. Food access and justice are inextricably intertwined. By providing education and training that give Native people access to healthy, local, indigenous food, we can not only address serious issues of malnutrition, food-related illness, and economic impoverishment on tribal lands – we can also use our shared heritage to build bridges and build power within and between Native Communities and our allies. The vision of this work is food business development and economic empowerment that provides Native people across North America with access to healthy indigenous food, preserves Native food traditions, addresses the health crisis on Native lands caused by subsidized commodity agriculture, generates wealth for Native communities, and connects and unites geographically dispersed Native communities around a shared heritage. This mission is also intended to offer a healing mechanism for many mental health issues, as this is closely linked to hunger, ancestral trauma, food deserts and the lack of access to healthcare.

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

  • Rockefeller Foundation staff

Describe how your Vision developed over the course of the Refinement Phase.

My team has been honing our vision for a few years; the fact that the refinement phase coincided with the global pandemic really did more to affect our vision, or, rather, how we carry out our vision in a different world. Covid has shined the light on the need to move away from commodity-based food systems, and given us the opportunity to further validate our work to promote Indigenous foods. The fragility and instability of the current food system has been plainly exposed. The giant food/ag corporations are being propped up by support and subsidies while independent providers and producers are left out to dry. Our work is about helping to secure healthier, more nutritious food and providing education in tribal communities, demonstrating how a food system based on Indigenous foods can strengthen tribal communities.

Please provide the names of all organizations you meaningfully partnered with to develop this latest version of your Vision (they contributed at least 10 hours of time to the Vision development during the Refinement Phase).

We’ve been in contact with the Native people we’ve presented to and met with all across North America and other parts of the world as we’ve heard their thoughts for how Indigenous Food Lab could best serve their needs. This period of staying closer to home has given us the opportunity to talk more in depth with organizations such as the Intertribal Agriculture Council for the midwest region about procuring food products for a retail setting, to offer for sale in both a storefront and on-line. Distribution as the ability to scale are important considerations in this new food system designing what the supply chain could look like. To continue to develop Indigenous jobs we would eventually help develop what distribution centers look like and how they work. Our team has worked with Neighborhood Development Center in Minneapolis as we prepare to open the first phase of our plan; addressing how these food enterprises can support and serve their communities, particularly Indigenous

Describe the specific steps you took during the Refinement phase to include different stakeholders to develop your Vision, including a description (age, profile, and total number) of the stakeholders engaged, and how you engaged with each.

The community has been eager for us to open our doors; now that we’re putting a bigger emphasis on going digital, more people will be able to get programming. We have several thousand followers on social media, and anticipate annually reaching thousands of people digitally, and hundreds or thousands in a modified in-person classroom setting.

What signals and trends did you draw from to inform your Vision? Please provide data or examples that back up each signal or trend.

Signals included the failing of commodity food system, hogs being disposed of in wood-chippers, milk dumped, widespread infection in processing plants, markets for crops lost. While we’re now experiencing the failure of our current food system, we’ve always known that it was destined to fail. We’re also combatting years of the invisibility of indigenous foods in the mainstream and the ignorance of Indigenous peoples, foods, history, cultures. We’ve seen a trend of “fusionizing” global cuisines, TV personality chefs making global food safe for white people. What’s missing are the deep rich stories that come from very specific communities who have survived for millennia on these foods. Different foods that provide a deeper understanding of the land they’re on. Understanding how to develop community-based gardens that utilize native plants, are more in tune to and adaptable to global climate changes. These systems are can change and evolve, not crash and burn as we’re witnessing now. With climate change we’re seeing some plant species moving out of our area, while some are moving in. Plants for nourishment, medicine, crafting. No matter how the plant hardiness zone maps shift with climate, there will always be indigenous resiliency to adapt and the wisdom to inform us about new plants now growing in our region.  

Describe a “Day in the Life” of a key food system actor within your food system in 2050 (e.g., farmer, chef, supply chain actor, food policy actor, etc.).

This is a day in the life of farmer Clayton. He’s working on a 20-acre farm, it’s mid-summer in the area of the Upper Sioux Community of rural SW Minnesota in the Minnesota River valley. He is up early in the morning, drinking mulberry kombucha that his neighbor made to share, he is eating corn mush with maple syrup for breakfast. He uses current technology throughout the day, checking on the weather patterns for the day and week. The farm utilizes solar power, permaculture, and biodiverse, rotational regenerative crop strategies from our ancestors. The farm is diverse for crops, wild plants and wildlife, from wetlands and marshes, to field crops and fruit trees as well as wild berry orchards. Clayton is directing helpers who are maintaining crops: ancestral corn, beans, sunflowers, squash as well as wild greens such as nettles, dandelion, and sorrel. The chokecherries are getting ready to produce berries. Workers are harvesting and packaging foods for regional Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares, to be distributed later in the local area. Workers also get shares for their efforts. Clayton is using a video/phone technology to talk to people across the country and showing the progress of the crops real time. His lunch is a big salad, with smoked trout. He drinks an iced tea made from rose hips, cedar, pine, and hyssop. Hickory trees, due to climate change, are now growing in the region, as are pawpaws. Paw paws are North America’s largest indigenous fruit, like a papaya. They ripen and fall off the tree in September. Their flesh tastes like a tropical fruit. Everyone enjoys a dinner together at the end of the day. The menu includes a large wild green salad with chickweed, plantain, plus grown greens like arugula and chard. Mulberry season is on the way out, but they’re still plentiful and they’re eating mulberries in everything. The protein is raised from nearby farm and the meal includes wild rice, using the end of last years’ yield traded from Leech Lake

Environment | How will your food system of 2050 adapt to climate change and remain resilient?

By combining permaculture, diverse regenerative agriculture, food diversity, historic lessons from our Indigenous ancestors, and renewable energy like solar, wind and geothermal. Maintaining soil health will be prioritized. 

Diets | How will your food system of 2050 address malnutrition in all its forms (undernutrition, micronutrient deficiency, metabolic disease) for the people living there?

One positive thing coming out of the Covid pandemic of 2020 was an immediate, apparent realization that we as humans are far less vulnerable with a localized healthier, more sustainable access to foods. A food system emphasizing local foods, supporting local farmers and ranchers, chefs, restaurants. Utilizing wild food, permaculture farms. Producing healthier, fresher (seasonal) food from the region. The glimpse into the demise of the industrial agriculture complex spawned the rise of popularity of wild plants, permaculture design, biodiversity, more interest in natural medicinals, a deeper understanding of wild plants as medicine, and understanding based in tradition. Health care has revolted, dismantled because of absolute political corruption. Universal health care has been in effect for a couple decades. There is less pressure on pharmaceutical drugs, more emphasis on healing through plants and plant diversity. Medicinal side of plants has risen, and communities each maintain medicinal cabinet, including tinctures, teas, ferments, rubs, salves, etc. Community medicine cabinets supplement or replace western medicine.

Economics | Where and what will the jobs be that support living wages in your future food system of 2050, and how will these jobs impact gender equality?

The 2020 pandemic has allowed people to reimagine work life, focus on food system after collapse. People work for food shares. Will have more locally produced, more creative food products, utilizing land for plant-based food medicinals, crafting, and clothing. Continued rise of breweries, micro-breweries – now entirely local-based food system. More food coops, more distribution points, increased plant production. Rise entrepreneurs launching creative start-up food production businesses. More jobs in stocking, distributing, more technology is utilized to assist. Lots of human labor involved. The government pays living wages to food producers. We’ve moved past an entirely cash-based system to barter, trading, sharing.

Culture | How will your 2050 food system ensure that the cultural, spiritual and community traditions and/or practices in your Place flourish?

This is an easy one for us. Our priority is to bring out more Indigenous narratives and become a centerpoint for Indigenous education. Build more knowledge of and respect for Indigenous people and places. Incorporate Indigenous practices, cross-tribal knowledge. Indigenous people are not becoming more white, but the standard “person” is becoming more diverse. Common to have ancestors that are Hmong, Somali, as well as Dakota. It’s not a dilution of Indigenous roots as much as a celebrated inclusion of diversity in communities. We see greater appreciation of mixed cultural backgrounds.

Technology | What technological advances are needed to transform your food system into one that meets your goals and embodies the values of your Vision in 2050?

Technology around sustainability: Energy efficiency, solar power, soil technology, easily monitoring ph balances, knowing soil health, needs, microbiomes, and how to maintain healthy soil and waterways. Sharing of info through technology. Making this information accessible, and providing education to ensure best use of the education. Understanding the difference between information and education. We will have developed apps that identify indigenous and farmed plants and uses, harvest technology, nutrition, and preparation.

Policy | What types of policies are needed to enable your future food system?

Ideally breaking up large, monopolistic companies like Amazon and Facebook, no longer support offshoring economies. Money stays local. Our team believes that food systems need to be less politicized and lobbied; rules on localized food production make it easier for locals to process animals, for instance. Small farmers could be subsidized to stabilize the local economy, with education about regenerative soil. Small animal production is a way that people could build economic stability and produce proteins that are more sustainable. People are still hunting. Farmers are raising rabbits, ducks, quail, pheasants, etc.  Insects as protein have become more common.

Describe how these 6 Themes connect with and influence one another in your food system.

The themes are all interrelated, of course; in our vision, the focus is on diet and culture. From our indigenous perspective, everything is connected and everything is related. Our work involves helping the public to draw closer connections between all of these themes, and see themselves that they’re inextricably connected. Technology will help people have fast access to information about the local flora and fauna where the user is standing at that moment, for instance, increasing knowledge of and access to indigenous foods.

Describe any trade-offs you may have to make within your system to attain your Vision by 2050.

The US political system plays a roll, depending on how many provisions have been passed and maintained (like universal healthcare). We assume that some aspects of realizing our vision will be easy to reach, such as increasing awareness and demand for nutritious foods, with a parallel interest and connection to the cultural history of those foods. Others may be more difficult; it’s hard, honestly, to imagine a food system where producers are compensated for the full cost of production while the products are accessible and affordable to all. The key word there might be “compensated”. We can imagine a system that relies more on bartering and trading than cash transactions. A different kind of economics.

3 Years | Describe 3 key milestones that you would need to achieve within the next three years for your Vision to be on track?

The first step is the development and implementation of the Indigenous Food Lab (IFL). We plan on opening this summer (2020) with a production and catering kitchen ready to train and supply healthy meals to in our community. We will be rolling out our educational programming with lots of digital video and audio capabilities so we can create an endless amount of indigenous education content around agriculture, seed saving, community farms, harvesting, wild plant identification, permaculture design practices, ethnobotanical medicinals, food preservation,  and culinary applications. Once the IFL is open we will work directly with the tribal communities helping them to develop a professional kitchen dedicated to Indigenous Foods designed to reflect culture, language, region and history and begin to connect them with the necessary education to help in the development of community gardens and landscapes and giving them the training and capabilities to process, preserve, and utilize these resources. We will continue our work with partners in various Universities and Colleges around the US to work on joint Research + Development projects that will give students the ability to learn and explore with us and will also help those entities develop food service programs to implement into their campus to continue to positively influence students and faculty on the benefits and understanding of regional Indigenous foods. The 1st year will be opening and refining our first model of the training/educational center along with developing the first partnership models with tribal communities. The 2nd year will work on expanding our Research + Development capabilities with higher education partners and other specialists nationwide. The 3rd year we will see building IFLs in other key cities near large Indigenous populations like Albuquerque or Seattle and can begin expanding our vision. These first few steps will solidify our foothold for the impactful vision we see in the future.

10 Years | What progress will you need to make—by 2030—that would set your Vision up to become a reality by 2050?

We expect a lot of expansion within our first 10 years.  Our original model was partially influenced by corporate chain restaurants and franchises and how solidifying and developing systematic consistency to prolong the life and sustainability of these models is a high priority.  After replicating our second and third Indigenous Food Lab training and educational center, along with our first few satellite models on tribal communities and select university/college campuses, we will expect to see more rapid implementation of more Indigenous Food Lab models happening in cities across the US like San Francisco, Los Angeles, Portland, Denver, Chicago, Austin, Manhattan, Boston, Kansas City, Oklahoma City, New Orleans, Anchorage, Honolulu, etc.  Each Indigenous Food Lab will then be working directly with the tribal communities in their vicinity to make the educational/training more accessible and work to secure distribution routes, bolster community farming efforts, evolve cultural significant foodways, and influence diet trends.  As our organization grows and our collaboration with tribal communities strengthen, our online archive of curriculum development and educational resources will have grown exponentially.  Our goal is to become an important and respected resource for the gathering and archiving of this Indigenous Knowledge base so we can continue on our path to work with Indigneous communities on the global scale.  After the first 10 years, we expect to see the implementation of the Indigenous Food Lab in select cities around the globe like Melbourne, Jakarta, Mexico City, Cuenca, Toronto, Nuuk, etc.  Our goals will be to help secure and a global alliance and support system to help train, nurture, and implement Indigenous food systems everywhere.

If awarded the $200,000 prize what would you do with it?

The prize money would go into opening the first Indigenous Food Lab in Minneapolis, the first step in realizing our dream of making indigenous foods accessible for everyone. Now with Covid-19, we’re focusing most immediately on distance learning, via taped demonstrations, live or recorded video classes, and podcasts, in addition to in-person, hands-on training safely. The positive benefit is that we will be able to reach more people, sooner, as not everyone would have been able to travel to Minneapolis for training even before the pandemic. Indigenous Education will be the thrust of the Indigenous Food Lab, alongside helping tribal communities plan for food enterprises in their regions that make sense in the new reality.

If you are chosen as a Top Visionary, The Rockefeller Foundation would like to share your Vision widely with a global audience. What would you like the world to learn from your Vision for 2050?

We would like the world to have a strong understanding of and appreciation for the Indigenous Peoples who were the first people on the land, and the rich and varied cultural and culinary traditions and knowledge unique to every place on earth. We would like the people of the world to see each other and the earth as interconnected and sacred, and live respecting all living things accordingly.

Please share a visual that communicates the structure and operation of your food system in 2050. Describe the visual.



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