GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Wild game, turkey, herbs, weeds, duck, duck eggs, root vegetables and fish were all a part of the diet that the Indigenous people of Michigan ate centuries ago, said Myriah Williams of the Pokagon Band of Potawatami Indians.
“[It’s] really looking at what is in this area. There’s beaver. There’s squirrel. There’s moose. There’s deer,” Williams said during an interview with FOX 17. “So, there’s a lot of variety in the diet locally.”
Monday, she prepared a super juice made with maple syrup, water, pine needles, winter greens and cranberry juice. She made it for the people attending the Decolonized Diet program at Grand Rapids Community College.
“Tonight we’re going to do a cooking demonstration of all recipes that come from the decolonized diet and this started a couple of years ago by professor up at Northern Michigan University [Dr. Martin Reinhardt],” Williams said, who took a class on it last summer. “The recipes are all ingredients that can be derived here in the Great Lakes region before colonization or pre-contact.”
Williams was among the chefs, historians, and Indigenous people preparing foods and speaking to attendees, both in person and online, about Anishinaabe history and culture.
“Post colonial, and during this colonial time period, we have to adapt. We have to finds ways to continue these healthier foods, these indigenous foods of both North and South America, and recognize where these foods come from and how healthy and nutritious they are for us,” said Rachel Beecher, president of the Native America Student Association at GRCC. “A lot of phytochemicals are nutrients that we can absorb and be better off of. We could fight diseases with fungus alone. We could improve the environment and fight diseases and bring together not just our community but all communities.”
Now, the foods are processed and unhealthy, she said.
Beecher wrote the grant that helped put on the cooking and history class. She said so far Monday’s event was the only one scheduled. Dozens of people from all over the country signed up for it. However, she hopes people will walk away inspired to eat healthier and learn more about Indigneous people and foods.
“For me it was connecting back to my people and my ancestors and a way of eating that was not lost but we were disconnected from,” Williams said. “And, wanting to appreciate what’s around us.”