Wild Bearies Feature at The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Food Lab Fundraiser

By Gary Garvin

     The beat of a drum echoed as the Red Bull Singers rendered a song in a room filled with spectators who were in attendance in support of a first of its kind fundraising event hosted by internationally renowned The Sioux Chef, Sean Sherman. 
     On Apr. 2, assembled within the Jefe Urban Hacienda Hall of Kings, in Minneapolis, were many indigenous chefs from across North America and the Middle East. Every chef presented a respective dish crafted with ingredients gathered from their own regions. 
     Accompanying The Sioux Chef were an inter-tribal body of indigenous chefs from the: Ho-Chunk Nation; Anishinaabe Nation; Oneida Nation; Navajo Nation; Northern Cheyenne Nation; Sicangu Lakota Sioux Nation; Kaesha Baloch (Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan); Central Mexico; and Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Nation.
     Each chef connected in a common goal in food sovereignty and education on indigenous foodways.
     Representing the Ho-Chunk Nation were the Wild Bearies, founder Elena Terry was joined by Angie Cleveland. The Wild Bearies is a community outreach program that helps tribal members reconnect to their communities through ancestral foods.
     The Wild Bearies featured their dish Hinukcapara Taani, the three sisters – made up of corn cake, cranberry drizzle, pumpkin sauce, and micro greens.
     The Indigenous Food Lab fundraiser aimed to raise support and awareness about The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Food Lab which will open its doors in the Minneapolis area this year. The Indigenous Food Lab will include an Indigenous restaurant, an educational training center, and research and development of Indigenous food knowledge. 
     “It’s a live restaurant. It’s got a training kitchen so we can teach people about indigenous foodways. For those who want to come and learn about native agriculture, seed saving, soil management, wild foods, plant identification, cooking techniques, and food preservation, we will be teaching all of that there,” Sherman said. 
     “It’s going to be really important to have a space focused solely on indigenous education, which is largely around food. Our goal is to take the indigenous food lab and to work with the tribal communities around us and to help them to develop their own indigenous access point,” Sherman said.
     “It could be a café, a restaurant, a catering company, something that can create food that is relevant to those indigenous communities, their history, their language, their people, their land and their flavors. We want to help them and to be a support system for them,” Sherman said. 
     “Our biggest goal is to take Indigenous Food Labs and move it everywhere we can. Put Indigenous Food Labs in cities across the nation, Canada, Alaska, and Mexico,” Sherman said.
     “Once we get this one up and running, we want to try and help other tribes in Minnesota start something similar on or near their reservations so they can do the same thing that we are doing. We want to put together like a blueprint or template for other people to follow our business and educational practices, and then ultimately, we want to expand that across the whole country,” Executive Chef Frank Haney, of The Sioux Chef’s staff, said. 
     “And hopefully we can bring the recognition of the value of indigenous food back to the forefront of North American cuisine. It is kind of a big goal, but it’s what we are into,” Haney said. 
Wild Bearies founder Elena Terry has been mentored by The Sioux Chef Sean Sherman for a year, and she is excited for what the future holds. “I’m going to be doing my internship with him, working on the plan for the Indigenous Food Lab – the educational component,” Terry said. 
     “Sean has been so supportive of everything that I’ve been working on. It’s priceless to me, how much Sean has been able to give to me on this journey,” Terry said.
     Elena Terry has been cooking traditional ceremonial food since she was a child, learning from her grandparents how to dry corn and squash, process wild game, and forage in every season. Terry volunteers with tribal communities and works with the Intertribal Agriculture Council and Native American Food Sovereignty Alliance.
     Angie Cleveland is a senior member of the Wild Bearies and aids in many of the venues Wild Bearies caters to. 
     The Indigenous chefs belong to a supportive community that prides themselves in Indigenous cuisines. 
     “We get to learn from each other quite a bit. It’s really fun when a lot of us get together because we all get to be creative, think of different things, try out new recipes, and play with new ingredients. We get introduced to a bunch of new stuff,” Sherman said.
     “There are always more and more Native chefs coming around. It’s just a lot of fun to see that and to be a part of it,” Sherman said. 
     “I love the inquisitor conversation with everybody that came up to taste my dish,” Terry said.
     “I absolutely love my crew. I don’t get to see everybody very often, so when we do get to see each other it’s like we were never apart,” Terry said. 
     “There has been obviously a tough history for a lot of native communities. And myself growing up on Pine Ridge, I just wanted to do something that was positive and that could really help with the community in the long run – really help with a lot of our problems with our economics and diet and health situations, and we can do a lot of this through a viewpoint of food,” Sherman said.
     “It really recharges me and reminds me of why I’m doing what I’m doing. To see that everybody comes from their respective areas together and to do something like this, it’s like family. It is nice,” Terry said. 
     “I love how the Ho-Chunk community is receiving the food movement. It’s rewarding,” Terry said.
     The Sioux Chef Sean Sherman will be receiving his second James Beard Foundation Award for his work with Indigenous cuisines. Sherman received the award in 2018 for his book “The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen,” the award recognizes culinary professionals in the United States and is referred to as the Oscars of the food world.