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A Taste of Indian Country: New Magazine Dishes Up Native Cuisine, Health and Food Sovereignty

Sassy, friendly, erudite, helpful: Native Foodways is a handsome new food magazine from food-and-health nonprofit Tohono O’odham Community Action (TOCA), in Sells, Arizona. The publication dishes up, and dishes on, food-related topics from around Indian country.

“My favorite section is Foodways Champion, about people who are keeping our cultures alive through food,” says publisher Terrol Dew Johnson, TOCA’s Tohono O’odham co-founder, president and CEO. “I was blessed to grow up with my grandparents and eat our traditional foods. In my travels, I have seen that other tribes have the same passions we do.”

This issue’s Champion is Ruby Chimerica, who cultivates the desert at her home at Hopi. The cover features Diné chefs Bertina Cadman and Walter Whitewater, who are part of a survey of Native culinary stars introduced by Apache/Diné chef Nephi Craig, head of the Native American Culinary Association.

There’s a rant in support of food sovereignty by Winona LaDuke from the White Earth Nation (“it turns out that our ancestors had it right’), a rant against “temptress” fry bread by Potawatomi chef and food historian Loretta Barrett Oden, a paean to prickly pears and a sumptuous photo essay on Native baskets by Lois Ellen Frank, Kiowa chef and photographer.

The 64-page magazine is sprinkled with useful service information and recipes sweet and savory, including an extended one for chile (and a whole lot more) by brilliant and wise Acoma poet Simon Ortiz. He writes, “[P]ay the utmost attention to everything, and that means the earth, clouds, sounds, the wind. All these go into the cooking.”

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The magazine, which is supported by a United States Department of Agriculture grant and advertizing, is distributed free to Native wellness programs; you can also read it online or buy it through the website ( Frequency is now twice a year, with plans to move to four times in the near future; the next issue will come out in November 2013.

In addition to creating a food-and-culture forum for Native people here and abroad, the publication wants to encourage Native writers, photographers and illustrators. “We welcome all queries,” said editorial director Mary Paganelli Votto.

It’s about sharing, wrote Johnson in his publisher’s letter accompanying the first issue. “I look forward to the friends we will make and the stories we will hear. Please make this publication your own.”


Watch Chimerica make piki bread, a traditional Hopi food: