One thing that got me interested in tracking down the family rumors that I have Cherokee ancestry is the work of a Bastyr University graduate, Ms. Valerie Segrest. Ms. Segrest is a nutritionist and a member of the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe of the beautiful Pacific Northwest. She has done extensive, if under-recognized, research with tribal elders to preserve the tribe's native ways of food preparation.
I ran across this press release from Bastyr University about Ms. Segrest last year while perusing the university's website, and I was intrigued. Unfortunately, the only other information I've been able to find about her research so far is limited. I did locate her TEDx Talk (2014), which you can watch here:
She also gave this radio interview in 2013; and here's a presentation she gave at Fairhaven College (2014). She also briefly uploaded some resources to her blog, "Feeding the Spirit." Additionally, she co-authored a book in 2010, which sadly I cannot find a copy of anywhere because while it was initially released to the tribe only, and the authors intended to make a subsequent copy available to the general public, it hasn't happened so far. There is a PDF with a summary of the book's main concepts, as well as some beautiful photos from the Muckleshoot Food Sovereignty Project.
Anyway, Ms. Segrest's work to preserve her cultural heritage through food is really inspiring, and I wanted to share it with you. Native populations around the world have so much to teach us about living and eating in harmony with the natural world. As Ms. Segrest puts it in one of her lectures, we are now living with three main food systems, which are superimposed on top of one another: 1) Native food culture; 2) Traditional agriculture; and 3) Modern, commercial agriculture or Agribusiness. She argues not just for a return to small-scale food production, but for getting back to the sustainable methods of hunting and gathering practiced by the Muckleshoot and other Native American tribes for thousands of years. (She admits this is extremely difficult these days.) Native American populations managed to preserve their environmental heritage in a beautifully sustainable manner for all that time...and in the last few generations, we've done a thorough job of not just depleting natural resources, but also of contaminating or destroying them for future generations.
Ms. Segrest's research raises some thought-provoking and fraught questions about what our role is in putting a stop to the damage to our native food sources (if possible) and returning to the ways that worked in order to preserve these for our children (again, if possible,)