First Foods Celebration set for Saturday, April 25

04.14.2015 Dean Rhodes Culture, Events

The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde Culture Committee invites community members to attend the First Foods Celebration on Saturday, April 25, at Chachalu Museum and Cultural Center, 8720 Grand Ronde Road.

The celebration begins at 10:30 a.m. and runs until a closing prayer.

The gathering is made possible through a partnership with the Land and Culture Department, Youth and Adult Education programs, Youth Council, the Elders Committee, iskam mfkHmfk haws (the Grand Ronde Food Bank) and Tribal Council, as well as community Elders, youth and parents.

The First Foods Celebration will officially welcome spring and the return of abundant plants and animals to the area. It will include a family-style dinner honoring the importance of food in the lives of Tribal families.

Organizers said they hope that they can inspire Tribal members to think about food in old and new ways, as stated in their slogan: “Food is history. Food is life. Food is medicine.” 

“There are edible and medicinal things all around us,” says Culture Committee Secretary Sarah Ross. “Many Tribal members have their own family traditions and teachings about the many uses of plants. Some Tribal members want to learn more about plants as medicine or food. This is a good way to bring our families together to share those stories and experiences.”

This year’s event also marks the first time the First Foods event will be held at Chachalu.

“The First Foods ceremony is just what Chachalu is for. In addition to a museum, the purpose of the Cultural Center is for these sorts of community gatherings,” says Land and Culture Manager Jan Looking Wolf Reibach.

The First Foods Ceremony has been a long-standing tradition sponsored by the Culture Committee. Past events have included demonstrations of traditional food preparation. Two years ago, families were invited to crack acorns and grind them with a mortar and pestle to prepare an acorn mush that they ate after it was cooked. 

“That experience is something my children still talk about,” says Ross. “We want to offer this opportunity to the community to come together with the focus being something as simple and yet hugely important as food.”

Acorn soup, or nupa, will be served again this year. 

 “It’s important to introduce these First Foods to people who may have never even tasted them or eaten them in the past. We are celebrating the foods that our ancestors ate so that they don’t go away, and so the younger generations will know what foods are traditional,” says Betty Bly, Culture Committee chair.

Faye Smith, Culture Committee member and Tribal Elder, holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Nutritional Science and spent 18 years working for the Women, Infants and Children program with the Puyallup Tribe. She said that many diseases can be prevented by eating nutritional foods.

“Nutrition is one of the most important things about life. It would be nice to get the Tribe back to being healthy by eating more traditional foods. Food can be our medicine,” Smith said.

In the future, Smith said she would like to see more Tribal members going out with youth or Elders to collect wild harvested foods, as well as see Tribal members learn how to prepare and preserve them.

On the menu are a variety of wild meats, fowl and fish including deer, elk, rabbit, quail, turkey, duck, salmon, eel, crab and shellfish. Recipes including fruits, such as huckleberries, strawberries and blackberries, will be served, along with acorns, hazelnuts and pine nuts. Guests also will have the opportunity to taste camas, tarweed and wild harvested spring greens. 

 “This celebration is a continuation of our ancestral practices for giving thanks for all that Creator provides,” Ross said.

The Culture Committee hopes to inspire Tribal members to learn more about traditional foods going into the new food gathering year.

For more information or to bring food, contact Ross at 503-879-2006.