January 10, 2023 – The Foothill Indian Education Alliance facility in Placerville is more than a tutoring center, it provides cultural activities for young people in Eldorado and Amador counties affiliated with various Native American tribes. I’m here.
In addition to traditional crafts such as drumming and jewelry making, the center last summer began providing food through a partnership with UC CalFresh Healthy Living, one of the state’s institutions that teaches nutrition to SNAP participants. have started. (Supplemental Nutrition Support Program).
“Many children don’t know much about their history or food because they don’t live on reservations or their families may not be connected to the local tribe,” says a CalFresh nutrition educator. said Cailin McLaughlin, UC’s Healthy Living based out of his UC Cooperative Extension office in Eldorado County. “Food is at the heart of many cultures and customs, and it’s a good way to explore all of our heritage because we share our meals and the stories behind them.”
Last spring, McLaughlin teamed up with Hal Shelley, head tutor of the Foothill Indian Education Alliance, to create a new five-week “summer camp.” backyard garden.
Sherry said the experience provided the participants (10 elementary school students and 7 middle or high school students) with an important perspective on the interconnectedness of all living things.
“Part of the purpose of the program is to help them understand that each of us is part of the natural order of things and that we need to do our part to fit into that cycle,” he said. “A sort of ecological lesson is also being learned…and we don’t want to poison our bodies, and we don’t want to poison our environment either.”
Program combines cultural lessons, nutritional information
For the summer program, McLaughlin chose a garden-based, nutrition-focused curriculum that incorporated elements of Indigenous diets.
“We primarily chose ingredients that are culturally significant to Native American communities — blueberries, blackberries, pine nuts, pumpkins, and more of that nature,” she said. “So we can explain the history of that ingredient, why it is important to indigenous communities, and give[students]nutritional information about it.”
After the youth prepared the chia seed parfait, staff members from the Foothill Indian Education Alliance asked Native hunters to: I told you. Eat chia seeds for strength before a long hunt.
Many of the attendees had never eaten chia seeds, and the parfait was, in McLaughlin’s words, an “absolute favourite.”
“I wish I had made it more often!” said Lacy, a fifth grader who participates in the center’s program year-round.
In addition to working outside in the garden, Lacy said she also likes cooking in the kitchen during summer camp.
“It was all the kids doing, but[McLaughlin]was supervising and making sure we were doing it right. It was really good.
Sharing within the family beyond the tribe
According to Sherry, the active participation of young people is one of the program’s strengths. He expressed admiration for McLaughlin’s engaging teaching style, which avoids “lectures” and instead engages participants in lively conversations about the nutritional content of ingredients.
“Hopefully they will retain some of that knowledge and information and remember. Eyesight will be better,” Shelley said. “That’s a really big part of what we want them to do.”
At the end of the summer program, participants also took home a binder of recipes from the Native American cookbook, Young, Native and Healthy: Recipes Inspired by Today’s Indigenous Youth. James Marquez, director of the Foothill Indian Education Alliance, said he’s heard from his students that he takes many lessons from the program back to his home.
“I have heard similar stories from parents and grandparents. They say they are,” Marquez said.
This important knowledge sharing also occurs among staff members and students, as the center is made up of members of many tribes from Lakota, South Dakota to the Navajo.
“We serve native people. We don’t care which tribe they come from. They are all welcome,” Marquez said. “Because what we do is representative of many different tribes, we are sharing information from one tribe to another. I can understand what the has to bring to the table.”
Sixth grader Talia, who attended the summer program, says she enjoys sharing cultures.
“I love the way I learn new things…and I love the way I learn more about the people around me,” she explained. “I also enjoy learning about other people’s cultures and Native Americans.”
McLaughlin is partnering with the Foothill Indian Education Alliance on a “Cooking Academy” program this fall, with another Spring/Summer program planned for 2023. The ongoing teaching and sharing of dietary habits is just one part of a long process to restore and rebuild Native American cultural traditions.
“Unfortunately, there has been a very concerted effort to wipe out the culture of the indigenous peoples of this continent. “It was a terrifying effort,” Shelley said. It’s like there is…and it’s happening all over the country.”
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