Three Indigenous chefs share passions for Indigenous cooking
By NativeWelleness.Life staff
Photos courtesy of chefs
Three Indigenous chefs from different locations around the world share a similar journey in food sovereignty. They transitioned from learning about cooking to teaching others the value of preparing dishes rooted in Indigenous ingredients and sharing knowledge with future generations.
Chef Krysia L. Villon
Tribal affiliation: Quechua/Andean, Peru, South America.
Years a chef: 12
Current: Chef Owner of Chiqui’s Kitchen and a Boston University online facilitator.
Experience: As a Peruvian American, I always loved our food. I studied and cooked in Lima early in my career and I could see that the foundation of many dishes was built from deeply-rooted Indigenous ingredients. Later, my obsession with quinoa led me to research Peruvian Indigeneity as expressed on the plate.
What are you trying to do as a chef? I hope to continue to explore and teach about Indigenous Andean foods and their origins in culinary programs as well as grow my small business.
What are your future goals as a chef? I hope to open a brick-and-mortar space where I not only can feature Indigenous Andean prepared foods but also sell a select offering of Indigenous packaged foods and offer food demos as well.
Tell us an interesting fact about yourself. When I was 5, I had a recurring dream: Flying through the clouds, I landed on a mountain with large terraces covered in green. At 13, I saw a poster of Machu Picchu (Peru) and realized it was the place from my dream that no one in my family had ever been.
Web address of restaurant: www.chiquiskitchen.com.
Chef Samuel Anglin
Tribal affiliation: Saginaw Chippewa Tribal Nation, Michigan.
Years a chef: 20 years
Current: Recovery coach, case manager, group facilitator and Indigenous chef.
Experience: I started working in restaurants at age 15 as a dishwasher and worked my way up. After culinary school I started working for my tribe at the Soaring Eagle Casino and Resort (Michigan), where we received a four-star rating. In 2018, I got involved with our Native farmers market preparing samples of healthy Indigenous foods. I began attending nationwide traditional food summits learning about different food, tools, and cooking techniques of the local tribes.
What are you trying to do as a chef? Spread knowledge about our traditional food systems, showing others how to heal to our bodies with these foods, and bringing a sense of pride to our lives. We are the answers to our ancestors’ prayers, and we have a responsibility to pass this knowledge on to the next generation.
What are your future goals as a chef? To bring awareness to mino-bimaadiziwin (the way of a good life) by spreading my knowledge of traditional food. I would love to travel to different tribes and help promote healthy living within their recovery communities, so please reach out if you’re interested.
Tell us an interesting fact about yourself. I was on a “Let’s Make A Deal” episode May 3, 2021, and won! I was able to promote Indigenous food to Wayne Brady who was very interested about learning what Native foods were and pitched me the idea of a Native food truck.
Podcast: Red Road to Enlightenment Podcast. Youtube Channel: “Ancestral Food Videos and The Red Road Podcast.”
Contact email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Chef Elena Terry
Tribal Affiliation: HoChunk, Wisconsin.
Years a chef: Professionally, five. Ceremonial cooking, 35 years.
Currently: Executive chef, Wild Bearies.
Experience: Always enjoyed cooking at ceremonies and in our community for special events. I knew the value of our Indigenous ingredients and I knew how they made me feel when I cooked with them. From a young age, I was taught about the connection we were supposed to have with these foods and that connection grows every day. I love that I’m constantly learning. I’m not ashamed to say I like to process things, I mean, butchering wild game is my specialty, but I also enjoy preserving foods and agricultural harvest in various ways. I transitioned to cooking primarily with our Native ingredients several years ago, and the more I’m around them, the more I want to be around them.
What am I trying to do as a chef? Help my community find their definition of “food is medicine.” For me, that is honoring the ingredients by creating these beautiful, delicious, intention-filled bites. For someone else that medicine may come in the cultivation of ancestral crops or seed saving, or in the construction of the garden fencing. However that medicine comes, I want our community to see that we all have that connection somehow, and it’s beautiful.
My future goals as a chef? Do all I can to support the next generation of chefs that, from what I’ve seen, are inspired by our traditional food systems on a whole new level.
Interesting fact about myself? I love going to tribal communities to learn about their traditional foods, from the knowledge keepers, and honor the work that is being done to reclaim and continue that connection to our ancestors. It’s a beautiful thing to witness.
Unspoken Words keeps it real
Former drug users’ podcast uses humor to encourage sobriety
By Orville Desjarlais Jr.
NativeWellness.Life editor in chief
Josiah Hugs of the Apsáalooke tribe greets me and my sister, Debbie, at the front door of the Billings First Church in Billings, Mont. It’s closed and empty. Our footsteps echo as we follow him through empty hallways, upstairs and around dark corners until we get lost. Unlike Hansel and Gretel, we have no bread crumbs.
We eventually end up in a tiny room with rickety chairs, office supplies, and other odds and ends. It appears this podcast team is on a shoestring budget. Half the room looks like it’s used for storage and the other half barely has room for a large, round table. Furry and professional-grade microphones affixed to a tabletop stick out like Rolex watches in a Dollar Store.
From behind a microphone, Apsáalooke and Nakota tribe’s J.C. Beaumont rises to greet us. He jokes that we can’t take his picture because it will steal his soul. He provides a little more background information until the third team member, Randy Beardon’twalk, also from the Apsáalooke tribe, walks in. The Unspoken Words podcast team is now complete.
Besides being Indigenous Montanans, they have other things in common: None has a broadcasting or podcast background, they’re recovering drug addicts and they have a story to tell.
Their stories about drug dependency help them relate to their listeners in the throes of addiction.
“Our main goal is to bring sobriety to as many people as we can, particularly Native people,” said Beaumont, from Pryor, Mont. He runs the soundboard for the production.
“We get to tell our stories, share our experiences and offer strength and hope.
“Our listeners connect with us because they’re hearing people who look like them, talk like them, who have similar backgrounds,” Beaumont said.
Podcast crew ringleader Hugs—of Fort Belknap, Mont.—agrees.
“We’re just three rez kids with a tape recorder talking about stuff,” said Hugs, Crow, from Arrow Creek District, Pryor, Mont. “If people are having a hard time with their addictions and come across our podcast, start laughing and get serious with us, then we’ve found a way to reach those people.”
Like Hugs said, all three make others laugh. Beardon’twalk, from Lodge Grass but living in Billings, is the crew’s self-proclaimed funny man.
Here’s how we meet him.
Beardon’twalk enters the room and introduces himself.
“My name is Beardon’twalk,” he says.
Then he spells it out: B-E-A-R-D-O-N-T-W-A-L-K.
“There’s also an apostrophe between the N and the T.”
“Oh, is there?” questions Hugs. “I’ve been telling people there isn’t.”
“That’s fine,” Beardon’twalk said. “I can’t put the apostrophe on a driver’s license or anything.”
The banter continues.
“If you can't put an apostrophe on your name, how come there's other people with weird names and they have apostrophes and hyphens?” Hugs asked.
“I don’t know! Want to see my driver’s license? It doesn’t have an apostrophe in there,” Beardon’twalk exclaimed.
Beaumont said it would be easier just to call him the Algerian Nightmare because it’s one of the names he uses on the podcast.
This, all over the spelling of a name Beardon’twalk has used his entire life.
The three use humor like a tool, many times joking about themselves, or kidding one another, to get a point across. It’s doesn’t appear to matter. But it’s as somber as death itself.
“Even though we talk about serious things, many of which are life and death for a lot of people, including myself, we use humor,” Beaumont said. “We use it in our stories to entertain, stay sharp and to keep our listeners guessing. There’s a balance there.”
The trio tackle tough subjects like mental health, suicide prevention and the long road to staying drug-free or sober. Nothing is sugarcoated because their audience will instinctively know.
“We deal with a population that knows survival skills and can read people well,” Beardon’twalk said. “When we’re not genuine, they know it.”
As such, the three must “stay real.” They edit nothing out of their podcasts. What you hear is what you get. To keep it genuine, they must reveal their innermost thoughts and secrets to the world.
“This is me. Uncut and raw,” Beaumont said.
“We’re opening up our hearts and our souls,” Beardon’twalk added. “That’s what we’re giving up. And that’s hard to do. But you get what you give.”
“I show people that it’s OK to be vulnerable,” Beaumont said. “It’s OK to feel this way. When they hear Randy tell a story, they relate to that. When they hear Josiah share his experience, they can relate to that, too.”
When COVID-19 hit, the podcast tackled how the pandemic negatively affects their vulnerable listeners.
Pandemic fuels suicides and addiction
Hugs attends suicide prevention training periodically. Called Question, Persuade and Refer, the three steps teach how to spot suicide’s warning signs. They also show how to prevent it from happening.
At his last training, Hugs learned that young adults normally think about suicide now and then. It’s called suicide ideation.
“They just think about suicide as an option, but they don’t really plan to act it out,” Hugs explained.
He said a study found that suicide ideation jumped from 10% in 2019 to 25% in 2020, when the pandemic hit. Not only did suicide rates rise, but drug overdoses surged by nearly 31%, climbing to a record high, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stats show.
“And not only drug and alcohol abuse, but depression, loneliness, hopelessness --all these other things—were magnified by that isolation,” Beaumont pointed out.
Educating their community about the dangers of the pandemic is the team’s priority. Which means they must continue to ensure their podcast’s survival so they can continue to offer help and encouragement to their listeners.
Podcast survival, their survival
It’s been more than a year, since November 2021, that the team began borrowing equipment and learning how to podcast. Hugs is the only team member with a bit of experience. He was an emcee for birthday parties and powwows.
The three work full-time but faithfully meet every week at the church to create the Thursday podcast. Sponsors like Riverstone Health and Barjon’s Books help with funding, and the Billings First Church donates the office space. Shure donated two of the professional microphones and offered the other two at half price, which another donor paid for.
“They believe in what we are doing,” Hugs said.
As we left, I remembered a story Beaumont told us when I didn’t have the tape recorder on. Eight years ago, he was deep into drugs. He got into trouble. Spent time in prison. He saw suicide as his only way out. When released from prison, he was off drugs, but the real challenge was staying sober.
Then he met Hugs and got involved with the Unspoken Words podcast. Beaumont said the podcasts continues to help give his life meaning—that of hope and usefulness.
Everyone on the podcast team says sobriety and staying drug free is a choice they consciously make every single day.
The podcast helps drug-dependent Natives and other listeners. Just like it helps the hosts.
The Unspoken Words broadcasts every Thursday. Google “Unspoken Words: A Native Podcast” and pick the app you wish to use. Contact the podcast team at email@example.com