These are just some of my thoughts reflecting on an abnormally harsh winter and how feasting and feeding the spirits has helped aid the emotional damage. In talks with friends and family on the subject, whether I initiated or others brought it out, an overwhelming sense of pain and loss was noticeably widespread.
Now it’s spring time, with the promise of renewal with the season’s brand new green grass, sunshine, budding on the trees and our birds returning. Yes, the past is gone yet residual heartache remains. As I grow in age, I am learning to accept this as the simple course of life, the ying and yang, the joy and the pain. And so, this season has developed my younger naivety into a mature appreciation and profounder gratitude for the daily blessings that I once overlooked.
I’ve heard cross culturally a universal practice for spring time is feasting and celebration. Riding the aftershock of this winter, I am very lucky to have had the chance to help prep for community meals. This brought some light to my world.
A couple weeks ago, I had the honor of catering a large traditional meal for our community at an Ojibwe language and culture immersion camp. Despite my lack of experience and general unfamiliarity with cooking for large groups (just a month before I was nervous when I had to cook for a birthday party), I was very grateful to have the event to focus on, to feed the people.
I was incredibly nervous to take this on as I have no previous catering experience. I am indebted to the support and encouragement from Becca Adams, Bois Forte’s Wellness Program Coordinator, who offered the opportunity our way. It can be really fun trusting the universe, and so I accepted the invitation to cater the meal as well as provide education during dinner on Food Sovereignty. I was confident in my circle of support that I could take this on knowing that there are teachers and helpers out there if you seek them. I met a new friend named Michael Seybert at the White Earth Indigenous Farming Conference in February. He offered to not only help me acquire from buffalo meat for the meal, but also offered to help with the cooking. Michael then asked if he could present on the spiritual significance of bison in its great potential in land restoration. My presentation covered the 4 components of the Food Sovereignty movement, which I covered in my last blog, which you can find by clicking here.
Our traditional meal consisted of three main dishes: Wild Rice with Almonds, Bison Roast, and a Dried Cranberry Coleslaw with homemade Blueberry Vinaigrette. We served this up with some Cedar Tea following a simple recipe by the Sioux Chef.
When we feed the people, we also feed the spirits that are working hard in the next world to help take care of us. In appreciation of their diligence, guidance, and miracles, we offer what is called a spirit dish, which has small portions of each course of the meal on a piece of birch bark. Most often, the spirit dish is offered to a fire. Though, more recently, we have been remembering to offer the dish to feast the lake, giving the portions to the spirit of Lake Vermilion. These small portions we are told go far in the spirit world, so it’s not necessary to pile the birch bark plate too high.
I got to help my aunties and uncle prepare a fundraiser for the Lake Vermilion Traditional Pow Wow, which is being held at June 21-23, 2019 at the Vermilion Government Center 1610 Farm Point Road S. in Tower, MN (about a mile passed Fortune Bay Resort & Casino). Just spending the day with them doing something positive for our community was so heart warming. This goes to show how useful food is for building connection between individuals, families, and community.
The magic of preparing and sharing feasts with family and friends has healed some of the residual gloom left over from such a wicked winter. The offering of the spirit dish on top of spending quality time with my community has added another level to the healing, creating this reciprocal relationship of hope as we remember to gift and appreciate what the spirit helpers have done to help us survive and thrive.
As a call to action – I encourage you that if you are feeling down, look for some opportunities to help serve your people (tribe, family, whatever) a meal. It is hugely satisfying work to bring out the best in yourself and others.