What is Indigenous Terra Madre… and what’s for lunch?

A quick note about what is happening here: I am attending the first Indigenous Terra Madre. Terra Madre is a gathering of food communities from around the world who unite around the values of good, clean and fair. It is linked to Slow Food who acknowledged the fundamental importance of indigenous systems of knowledge, food, governance and land management for advancing good, clean and fair food systems.

The Sápmi people (indigenous people from the north of Sweden, who are traditional reindeer herders) have coordinated this first meeting to see if there is interest in moving forward with an Indigenous Terra Madre. Delegates (171 of them from over 50 food communities) will be discussing the main issues faced by indigenous peoples, ways to protect their cultures, how to transmit knowledge, how to promote participation, implications of climate change, and pastoralism.  The Conference will last for three days and include dancing, singing and of course, eating.

We have been divided into groups for meals. The groups will be rotating through the Jokkmokk restaurants throughout the Terra Madre. Yesterday, the blue group ate our first lunch at a lovely restaurant, a short walk from the conference site. Laila Speak was our local food guide. Laila explained that her family name “Speak” was given to her family by the Catholic church when they came to translate the Sápmi names into Swedish. The priest misheard their family name and gave them the name Speak instead. Laila’s grandfather told her to never lose the last name as it is a symbol of their history, their family’s fight against oppression and their efforts to preserve their culture: the Sápmi culture.

The importance of language is one that has come up several times so far at this meeting. As one Sápmi woman stated:  “in our mother tongues we have our ethics, our ways of thinking and the connection between us and nature.”

At lunch, there was a reindeer dish in cream sauce as well as mashed potatoes. There was a lovely flat bread called Gáhkku and lingonberry juice and lingonberry with cabbage.

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