Growing Native

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Food is my final addiction frontier. Unlike alcohol, drugs and smoking, however, it is a stubborn presence that will remain a part of life forever.

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What does Growing Native mean to you? That is a question we posed to the Growing Native Advisory Council as we went through pre-production. The answers we received were varied, but connected – it’s growing us as a people in a way that sustains us as a people, it’s taking things that we knew and that worked in the past and building on that, it’s illustrating the interconnectedness of everything that we do.

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This February, I was blessed with the opportunity to travel up to Alaska to film the latest episode of Growing Native. This trip would be the first of two as host Chris Eyre explores Alaska and all its Native cultures has to offer. I’m sure you’ve heard it before, but it bears repeating: Alaska is a special place. Having never been to Alaska before, I was anxious to discover for myself just what exactly all the hoopla was about, and I figured two days would be enough. I was coming to Alaska with a mission – locate that elusive quality that takes the breath away and get it on film.

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The production team for the upcoming Vision Maker Media series Growing Native recently came together to put the finishing touches on the Northwest episode. Chris Eyre (Southern Cheyenne/Arapaho) stopped by our offices in Lincoln, Nebraska on his way to the Sundance Film Festival.

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Happy new year! Back in the office and off the Christmas couch! What are your favorite holiday foods? Oyster stew on Christmas Eve is a tradition that my mother brought to our table. What a delicacy! At our house, the stew took on a different look this year. Daughter Bonita and I are somewhat lactose intolerant these days, so instead of cream, we used broth. Making tamales is a tradition that my husband Tom and I started (by reading a cookbook by Diana Kennedy).

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I spent last winter in northern Italy on a fellowship. Something that struck me was how differently people viewed food. For example in a village where I was staying, shopping for food was an every day event. People would walk through a open air market, see what was fresh, and buy enough for a day or two. The vegetables, the pastas, meats, fish or dairy, were all sold by the farmer, fisher or rancher. The food chain was quick and visible.

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It's harvest time here in New Mexico and the abundance of traditionally grown foods are everywhere. I recently brought out a visiting scholar and artist Ron Bull from the Maori Tribe in New Zealand to visit the Tesuque Pueblo Farm. We were given a tour of the farm by Emigdio Ballon (Quechua) who is the head of the agricultural initiative at the farm. We watched local school children pick ripe apples, sampled blackberries and raspberries on their vines, saw the abundance of crops ready to be harvested from medicinal plants to traditional corn.

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The corn is almost ready to harvest now and Northern New Mexican families are busy making the corn into chicos. Chicos are a traditional dried corn. They are made from field corn that is harvested, tied into ristras (strings), and hung to dry. Some Native American and Hispano families (that settled in this region hundreds of years ago) make chicos by roasting the corn in the horno adobe (earthen) oven overnight and then hang them to air-dry. After the corn is dried, the kernels are rubbed off by hand and then stored to be used throughout the winter.

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Every once in a while, the very idea of a documentary series exactly matches what’s going on at home. Such is the case with Growing Native.

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The footage from the 24th Annual Canoe Journey in the Pacific Northwest has been processed.  Here is a sneak peek at some of that footage as host Chris Eyre (Cheyenne/Arapaho) speaks to the indigenous people of the area about their culture and traditions.

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Vision Maker Media recently traveled to the Northwest to film the 24th Annual Canoe Journey. We started at 6 a.m. documenting the launch from Tulalip. This amazing event will be part of the Growing Native series Vision Maker Media is producing for PBS.

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Vision Maker Media seeks stories that can be included in the seven-part series, Growing Native, which will focus on reclaiming traditional knowledge and food ways to address critical issues of health and wellness, the environment and human rights.

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