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Revitalizing traditional foods and sharing lifelong food skills

Revitalizing traditional foods and sharing lifelong food skills

Why do we eat what we eat? What are the links between food, people, language and land? Furthermore, what are the links between mothering/homemaking, art, technology and food? This is the focus of study by EUC PhD student and SSHRC Doctoral Fellow Chandra Maracle on the psychology of eating and how to use food as a tool and strategy for personal transformation and social change.

Chandra loves cooking, gathering, growing, eating and talking about food.  She is the founder of Kakhwa’on:we/Real People Eat Real Food and co-founder of Skaronhyase’ko:wa/The Everlasting Tree School. The school is located at Six Nations of the Grand River territory and combines a Waldorf model of education — emphasizing art, community and nature — with Mohawk language immersion and cultural teachings. Food and mealtimes are part of the curriculum. Students are provided with a healthy lunch and snacks every day, using local ingredients wherever possible. (Students learn life-long food skills through Six Nations school program).

"The link between food and language and culture [is] inextricable," said Chandra Maracle, who initiated the school's nutrition program. A member of the Mohawk First Nation, Chandra teaches about Haudenosaunee food history and eating psychology. Accordingly, her work towards revitalizing traditional food systems personally represents what she calls the Haudenosaunee national food policy, that is, the need to share healthy beautiful traditional food for the benefit of all.

Students learn life-long food skills through Six Nations school program |  CBC News
Photo credit: CBC

“Food sovereignty is being in control of what is on the end of your fork (or however it is that you eat your food). That includes knowledge about and access to what it is that should be on the end of your fork,” she explains. “Freedom of choice is not enough. It includes support while in recovery from food related trauma and trauma that is being played out through food,” she says.  Chandra adds that knowledge of historical injustices, particularly those that have been perpetrated through food, can help on the path towards healing our collective indigestion.

Chandra has presented in several gatherings focusing on Indigenous food ways, security and well-being with a strong belief that women are at the heart of food sovereignty. In 2018, Chandra brought together nearly 150 people to celebrate life and corn at Six Nations at an event she called, “The Law Is In The Seed: A Community Cornvergence.” In 2019, she was part of the Indigenous Food Sovereignty Incubator project at the First Nations Technical Institute where she was involved in the planning process for a new program to assist with food related projects and partnerships at the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory. In 2020 at the Seneca Nation of Indians, she demonstrated an easy to follow recipe for cooking tamales from traditional white corn and stressed why it is important to stay healthy during a crisis.

A collaborator in Deborah Barndt’s SSHRC project, Chandra planned, developed and facilitated an Earth to Tables Legacies gathering on “Ohwentsya:ke Tsi Niyo:re Atekhwahrahne/Legados de la Tierra a la Mesa to learn about Haudenosaunee and Six Nations culture and history at Ohswe:ken, Six Nations of the Grand River Territory. Also a collaborator on the Healthy Roots Committee, she developed the Haudenosaunee Food Guide  for the Community Challenge, intended to increase and inspire awareness of foods known to be within the Haudenosaunee territory prior to European arrival. Notably, Haudenosaunee agricultural knowledge and skill are well developed in the region with an extensive amount of foods being cultivated from the garden.

A mother with four daughters, Chandra enjoys family gatherings with lots of food and good conversation. Family to Chandra is whoever happens to be at the dinner table. She has worked as Youth Leader at Native American Community Services in Buffalo, Graduate Assistant in Native American Studies at UB and Cultural Resource Specialist at the Native American Magnet School. She was a Diversity Educator with the National Conference for Community and Justice, co-founder of the Indigenous Women’s Initiatives and has certifications as a practitioner of Massage, Reiki and Yoga.