Skip to main content

Back in March, the Coronavirus pandemic put a stop to many businesses in the U.S., most effected were chefs who found their restaurants closing and all catering business going away. And that's when Brian Yazzie stepped up. They are feeding elders and those who are unsheltered during this pandemic.

And the newscast wraps up with an elder who is making sure everyone's counted in the Census - all across the country. Tribal leaders are busy trying to get tribal members to fill out their census form. The deadline is a week from today. Patricia Whitefoot is a retired educator who volunteers her time as an advocate, she's a supporter of the group Yakima Yakima, El Census, 2020 Coalition.

Here are a few comments:

Chef Brian Yazzie:

We started back on the 24th of March. After being home for a couple of weeks of self quarantine I wanted to do something more than being active on social media to help. I reached out to a friend of mine who's a former executive chef here at the Minneapolis American Indian Center’s cafe, to ask if they were working with the community or if they're planning, planning scheme, because I wanted to do something. Not just to be out cooking on the line, but out helping the community where we can. He was able to connect me with their director here, Mary Lagarde. And we started a project with a team and to this day, we're feeding an average of 200 elders a day daily meals, five days a week.

We tried to commit at least 50% of Native ingredients within the daily lunches that go out. Now we support a lot of Native food producers on farmers and, you know, have some traditional hunters who stopped by and dropped off anything that is in season right now. We started the project with blue cross blue shield Minnesota, and we went into transitioning to receiving support from World Central Kitchen. We're having these different grants and sponsors who are helping us continue throughout the year, or as long as the elders need us during this time.

We receive a lot of positive feedback for sure. We receive a lot of poster sized thank you cards from some of the elders at the nursing homes. It's funny because they actually have their apartment number on the thank you card to let us know that they always love to receive Native inspired food.

I took on the new position at the Gatherings Café here as a new Executive Chef. Right now we’re looking into slowly opening back up to the public. This Friday was our first curbside pickup. We're doing an Indigenous barbecue night, we have some barbecue bison on the menu. We have some roasted squash and sweet potatoes. We have a chia seed pudding, just some stuff off the menu. We had a limit and we were able to sell out in a day. Now because there's only a handful of restaurants who do this type of work, focusing on Native food. People are seeing what we're doing on social media and they want to be a part of that. It's also part of raising funds to generate back into purchasing supplies and volunteer support as well.

Patricia Whitefoot:

It's been a busy time. Just thinking about what we have learned from this process with the diverse community that we're working with. Which is representative of our Asian Pacific Islander communities, Hispanic, African American, and people of color populations in our community. So it's very, very busy. And the last meeting we had we were just talking about some of the issues that we encountered with the census. Some of those issues have to do with the data and how the data is reported by the census. It's something that I've been asking about because we've been at this for over two years now. If we had some of these questions and answers at the beginning I think it would have benefited us. If we took a closer look at the history of the census. With regard to the data, when you look at the numbers that are being shared by census, you don't know what the total is, and you don't know how many households that those numbers are being derived from. What you're asking yourself is where does this number come from? And not getting straight answers from the US Census Bureau.

For our account here, we're at 53.8%, but again, that goes back to, what does that actually mean? Where does that 53.8% come from? I would like to say that we're the largest tribe in the Northwest. And of course we have a very large and unique land base. We have not only the Yakima reservation, but many of our tribal citizens live on or near the reservation in tribal villages all up and down the Columbia river basin. From Northern Washington down to the border of Oregon. That in itself is important to us to make certain that we're being inclusive of all of our tribal citizens and, and Native people live in on or near the Yakima reservation as well. So it's very intensive work because you're talking about that work that needs to go on and in terms of education and outreach to this vast territory of our Homeland.

Oh my goodness. That is an important question. It's something I've been involved with the past two years, advocating for us to seriously take a look at where these numbers come from and how it establishes the redistricting in our state. I've also been working with a redistricting coalition. Two years ago I worked on legislation however it didn't pass in our state on this topic. So we're continuing to move forward and making certain that we're continuing to educate one another, but also educating our state legislature as well on this issue. Because the last go round the Yakama Nation plus the Colville reservation, our communities were split with part of our reservation being in one legislative district and another being in another legislative district. That really impacted, for instance, the Colville reservation when Joe Pakootas, former chairman of the Colville tribe ran for a congressional seat. The Colville tribe was split in different legislative districts. So that's a tragedy that occurred. And that's the reason that we've joined forces with other coalitions as well to address this issue.

This version has been updated to correct the embedded video

Patty Talahongva, Hopi, is executive producer of Indian Country Today. Follow her on Twitter: @WiteSpider. Based in Phoenix, Arizona. Talahongva enjoys hiking, reading and traveling to new places.

Indian Country Today is a nonprofit news organization. Will you support our work? All of our content is free. There are no subscriptions or costs. And we have hired more Native journalists in the past year than any news organization ─ and with your help we will continue to grow and create career paths for our people. Support Indian Country Today for as little as $10.