The Traditional Foods Feast was an inspiring success that left our communities and our guests well fed in body, mind and spirit. Tribal ancestral teachings include traditional cultural knowledge that has been refined and retained though centuries upon centuries of interdependence with the land and its abundant resources. As our elders and teachers remind us, it was common for Native people of this area to live beyond 100 years of age; interacting with the natural world and eating our traditional foods were some of the main factors in achieving this longevity.
In the spirit of “Teachings of Our Ancestors,” the Traditional Foods Feast was envisioned as an opportunity to serve and showcase our traditional foods, and to truly emphasize sharing and education to spark increased interest in and memories of traditional foods knowledge.
For many months, Charlene Krise (Squaxin Museum Director, Squaxin Council member) had been inviting community members, neighbors and canoe families to bring their traditional foods to Canoe Journey to participate in this Traditional Foods Feast. Many people participated in envisioning this exciting event, and a great diversity of food contributions were anticipated from the community as the Traditional Food Feast planning was underway.
With the support of the main food committee, the meal for August 1st was planned to include a base meal that included a menu of the more widely-available traditional foods to feed the thousands of guests that were expected that evening. Community food contributions were an additional, separate layer of food offerings to be served separately from the main meal.
As the dining tent opened that evening at about 4:30 p.m., excited guests were greeted with a different set-up than other evenings in the dining tent. Beautiful decorations, including red, black and white tablecloths, sand dollars, salal, grasses, Oregon grape, cedar boughs and ferns, were displayed along with paddles, wood, rocks, netting, and carved feast dish art borrowed from the Tribal Center and museum. Eight lines of buffet-style food were ready for the guests, and night’s main menu included oysters, clams, king salmon, veggies, geoduck fritters, and many desserts with wild berry sauce!
Then, set up just for that night was a special center table that featured chefs cutting venison roast under heating lamps, oyster chowder, elk stew, hominy stew, bison & nettle stew, fish head soup, smoked clams, hard smoked salmon, camas, venison sausage, nettle pesto, sea beans, nettle-mint tea, berry tea, an ancient chia seed beverage, fresh comb honey, hazelnuts, pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries, blueberries & cherries, fresh thimbleberries, red huckleberries, wild blackberries. Stories, blessings and prayers were offered and guests began to eat and appreciate the evening’s meal.
The excitement for traditional foods was abundant! Guests and community members were sharing stories and memories of their own experiences with traditional foods and people were enthusiastically asking so many questions. Information and resources for further traditional foods research were available as well. Elders talked with youngsters about their favorite foods (fish head soup is always a winner) and many people tried foods that were brand new to them. The expressions of awe and gratitude for such a gathering and presentation of traditional foods were great to witness. The laughter was strong that night, and the teachings of our ancestors were shared and practiced on a grand scale.
From vision to set up to execution, the Traditional Foods Feast went very well, thanks to the efforts and contributions of the Little Creek Casino staff and event support, Squaxin staff, volunteers, community members who brought food and a variety of community and tribal financial donations. Community elders John Krise and Ray Krise spent time teaching, gathering, harvesting and preparing traditional food for the Feast, supported by young people who helped with the preparations as well. Community members dug clam pits and Redwolf Krise and his crews spent several evenings of the Journey cooking clams and oysters in the traditional way. These were served throughout the week, including the night of the Feast. So much effort was put into the event and deep gratitude goes out to all who contributed.