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Showing posts from September, 2011

Going home: Navajo ballet star takes a new documentary to Dinétah and the world

A version of this article appeared in Indian Country Today in March 2008.

New York City, N.Y. — Respect, caring and sharing, the pillars of all Native communities, are underlying themes of Jock Soto’s life and of Water Flowing Together, a new film chronicling his story by Gwendolyn Cates. One of the greatest dancers of his generation, Soto, who’s Navajo on his mother’s side and Puerto Rican on his father’s, recently retired from the New York City Ballet at age 40. Presently him as sure-footedly as he supported the many ballerinas he partnered in his 24-year career, Cates follows him as he rehearses for his farewell performance, contemplates his future and travels to the Navajo reservation and Puerto Rico to reconnect with his heritage. (For photographs and a trailer, see www.waterflowingtogether.com.)
Soto, who is gay, told Indian Country Today that he asked Cates to make the film as an homage to his parents as well as to encourage closeted gays to come out. For Cates, whose 2001 book,

Savoring the Native-foods legacy: Chef Lois Ellen Frank at the Santa Fe Wine & Chile Fiesta

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Published in Indian Country Today in December 2007.

The recipes were modern, but their ingredients were ancient — legacies of the millennia-old cultures of the Americas. “Pre-Contact” and “First Contact” were the terms the chef, Lois Ellen Frank, Kiowa, shown right, used to describe the corn, squash, chiles, buffalo, cherries and other foodstuffs she dished up during her Native-foods lecture-demonstration at the Santa Fe Wine & Chile Fiesta, in New Mexico.
These were the foods that indigenous people hunted, gathered and grew before and shortly after they encountered Europeans, Frank explained. However, she told her audience at the Santa Fe School of Cooking, she did not include a third category of fare: the U.S. government-issued provisions that appeared more recently in Native people’s larders. “The government commodity foods included white flour and sugar, lard, canned meat and other such items. I decided to spare you,” Frank joked.
Santa Fe’s annual Wine & Chile Fiesta showc…

The world on their plate: Native youth prepare for culinary careers

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Published in Indian Country Today in October 2007.

Orson Patterson and kids like him are the future,” said chef, cookbook author and photographer Lois Ellen Frank, Kiowa. Patterson, Navajo, shown left with Frank, assisted her during her indigenous-foods demonstration at the Santa Fe Wine & Chile Fiesta, a prestigious fall showcase for fine food and wine in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Patterson is one of several Native students who recently earned a professional chef’s certification from Santa Fe Community College (SFCC). He’s also working toward an associate of arts degree from the school and, with the recommendation of the culinary arts program’s lead instructor, Michelle Roetzer, has just earned a spot as a banquet chef at Pointe South Mountain Resort, a Phoenix-area luxury vacation spot.
Boyd Howeya, Acoma Pueblo, and Franklin George, Navajo, also earned their credentials while working in SFCC’s well-appointed kitchens with Roetzer. She placed Howeya with an adventure-travel outfitter…

Standing Rock botanical sanctuary threatened by cell phone tower

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Published in Indian Country Today in July 2007.

Porcupine, N.D. — The district council of Porcupine, one of eight districts that make up the Standing Rock Sioux Nation, in North and South Dakota, voted on Thursday, August 9, to close down a botanical sanctuary within its boundaries. The 85-acre tract shelters many species of traditional medicine plants, including some that may have been planted by Lakotas of generations past, according to experts who certified the refuge as part of a continent-wide network.
           Elder Kenneth Painte, Sr., Lakota, called threats to the continued existence of the sanctuary “a downgrade for Standing Rock.” When reached by Indian Country Today, the district’s chairman, Benjamin Harrison, refused to comment.
For the district’s decision to go into effect, the Standing Rock tribal council must ratify it. Doing so would presumably clear the way for a cell phone tower to be built on the land; the installation would be one of 29 to be placed around the 2.3-m…

Book reviews — Bounty from the Northwest

Published in Indian Country Today in August 2007.
Where People Feast: An Indigenous People’s Cookbook The dishes that drew diners to Liliget Feast House, the Vancouver restaurant run by award-winning chef Dolly Watts, Gitk’san, are on show in her new book from Arsenal Pulp Press. The handsome volume, with its stylish food photographs and carefully crafted recipes, is a collaboration with her daughter, Annie Watts, Gitk’san/Nuu-chah-nulth, as was the restaurant, one of the first Native fine-dining establishments in North America. The two women were among the groundbreaking chefs who during the last few decades created a cuisine out of Native cookery, until then a family and community activity.
Dolly, who has a degree in anthropology from the University of British Columbia, did not plan to become a restaurateur. However, one day she offered to make and sell bannock to help Native students at the university earn money for a field trip. Her fried breads were such a success, they became a bus…

Cell phone tower to be built near sweat lodge

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Published in Indian Country Today in July 2007.

Porcupine, N.D. — The tribal council of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe voted on Monday, July 2, not to relocate a 197-foot-tall cell phone tower planned for a site in the watershed of the Cannonball River, west of the village of Porcupine. The tower is one of 29 to be installed around the reservation by 2009.
Tribal members had objected to its placement near a sweat lodge, shown above right, and a bald-eagle nesting ground and within the boundaries of a botanical sanctuary that shelters traditional medicine plants. “Progress has taken us back, and it’s causing self-destruction,” said elder Kenny Painte, Sr., Lakota, who resides in Solen, North Dakota. “I’m scared for the kids.”
The vote was four in favor of moving the tower to a less sensitive spot and six against, the tribal chairman’s office confirmed on July 3. One council member abstained. Chairman Ron His Horse Is Thunder, Hunkpapa Lakota, would not comment further. Jesse Taken Alive,…

Book review — Canyon Gardens: The Ancient Pueblo Landscapes of the American Southwest

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Article published in Indian Country Today in May 2007.

Past is prologue in Canyon Gardens: The Ancient Pueblo Landscapes of the American Southwest (University of New Mexico Press: 2006). Editors V.B. Price and Baker H. Morrow have assembled 15 essays on the millennium-old Puebloan landscape. Leading archaeologists, architects, landscape designers, paleoethnobotanists and others offer nuanced commentary on its history and find lessons for today. The most important lesson, writes Price in his introduction, “is that it is possible to ‘design with nature’ … while at the same time altering natural flows and engineering landscapes to better serve human needs.”
Architectural historian Rina Swentzell, Santa Clara Pueblo, shows what happens when this teaching is disregarded or even quashed. In the chapter “Conflicting Landscape Values,” she compares the psychological consequences of two physical settings. One place is Santa Clara Pueblo itself, in a valley and oriented around the people’s emerg…

Jack Strong takes Manhattan: Kai restaurant chef brings luxury Native cuisine to NYC

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Published in Indian Country Today in May 2007.

Chef Jack Strong, Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians, spooned buffalo tartare — chopped raw meat, minced pickled cactus pads, capers and more — into little cones fashioned from miniature tortillas. Strong, the 31-year-old chef de cuisine of Kai Restaurant at the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort & Spa (shown left), was in a sleek demonstration kitchen in midtown New York City. He and fellow chefs from the Phoenix-area resort, an AAA Five Diamond property managed by Starwood, were showing their innovative, heritage-food-based cuisine to food and travel journalists.
Many of the dishes included ingredients that were cultivated or gathered in the desert by the Akimel O’otham (also called Pima) and Pee Posh (or Maricopa) members of the Gila River Indian Community, which owns the resort, or obtained from other indigenous enterprises. The rich, tender buffalo in the tartare was from grass-fed animals raised on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reserv…

Book reviews — Earthworks: Native American Writing

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Published in Indian Country Today in April 2007.

The power of storytelling permeates Earthworks, a two-year-old paperback book series featuring Native American writers from Salt Publishing, in Cambridge, Great Britain. The recent arrival in bookstores of the 2006 offerings brings the number of published volumes to 13, with more to come in the years ahead, according to series editor Janet McAdams, Alabama Creek, a poet and a faculty member at Kenyon College.
On the cover of one of the books — Carter Revard’s How the Songs Come Down — an endorsement from revered Acoma Pueblo poet Simon Ortiz emphasizes the importance of the telling of tales and their function as lifelines from the past to the present. Ortiz describes Revard’s work as “fine, fine poetry, of course, but they’re stories too [that] sustain us and our land, culture and community.” 
In Revard’s poems, the past may be a truly ancient one. With a conversational tone that makes his erudition seem effortless, Revard ranges over vas…