The Feed Radio Show on KKNW 1150 AM
I am so stinkin excited.
My radio show 'The Feed' will be starting again (KKNW 1150 AM; New Urban Unlimited; Second Saturdays of the month at 2:00 p.m.). 'The Feed' focuses on all aspects of food: health, nutrition, farming, politics, production, etc
What I'm most excited about though is our guests <3 Check it out:
October 14th show Dr Landon Kalaua'e Opunui! He'll be discussing the impact of western influences on Hawaiian health and strategies to restore and empower health in Hawaii (http://www.dropunui.com/about/)
Ramon Shiloh Has discussed in the past use of food as a tool in the fight for Indigenous rights
Here's an article about Ramon:
"Eating Culture, The Anthropology of Food" San Jose State University (Anthropology Dept) 2017 By Tim Rodriguez
In the United States of America, the dominant culture exerts its brand of capitalism via hegemonic forces; such as food, television, movies, music, and trade. However, in the face of these erosive cultural forces, Native Americans are once again using traditional foods to reconnect with their culture, to form social identities, and to express their cultural sovereignty; as they have for several millennia.
I had the good fortune of being introduced to Ramon Shiloh, a Native chef who uses food as a tool in the fight for Indigenous Rights. Ramon was born in the San Francisco Bay Area to a mother who was incredibly active in the Civil Rights Movement. Growing up seeing his Mother fight the good fight instilled a notion of activism in a young Ramon; a belief that you are supposed to use whatever tools you have at your disposal to address social injustices. This humanitarian way of looking at social problems eventually led Ramon to focus on the cultural centrality of food as a way of helping to strengthen his people, both spiritually and physically. Ramon now focuses most of his effort on helping Indigenous children. He uses his knowledge of food and culture to help these children to reconnect not only with their traditional cultures, but also with good health; something that is in short supply on many Indian Reservations. After conducting two in-depth interviews with Ramon, my entire view of food and what constitutes a healthy diet was changed. For starters, Ramon’s view of “good food” initially seemed contradictory to me, until I saw it through the lens of his cultural worldview; which he had been graciously painting for me with his words. To Ramon, “good food” is food that allows him to be the best Ramon that he can possibly be. Good food gives him the appropriate amount of energy so that he may undertake his daily duties with the proper amount of zest and vigor. It should also contain the adequate vitamins and nutrients for sustaining optimal health, so that his body is operating at peak efficiency; so as to make proper use of the food’s energy for undertaking his daily tasks. So, for Ramon, good food is whatever his body is craving/requiring, in the proper amounts; which remains in a constant flux, and requires listening to his own body, intimately. Ramon’s view of good food seems so different from the hedonistic approach towards flavors and portions that popular culture exalts. It seems so very utilitarian, but then that makes sense. Ramon does not believe in idle eating, munching, and over indulging because those activities transform food from a tool into a weapon; that is used against oneself. Food is meant to sustain life, to support life, to give life, and improve life, but we misuse food in popular culture; to our own detriment. Then, through the forces of hegemony, we force our unhealthy relationship with food onto Indian Reservations that are surrounded like an island by a sea of popular culture on all sides.
Native Americans have been a marginalized ethnic group ever since the colonization of the Americas, but now they are using food as a tool in the fight for their indigenous identity (Alkon 2011). Native American cuisine is based on a careful knowledge of local ecology and harvest cycles, in which local food has been sourced, prepared, and consumed in ways that have been culturally practiced for thousands of years (Kavena 1980). For these reasons, Ramon tries to forage as much as possible, but due to property rights, and legal issues concerning the collection of certain natural products, this is not always possible. So, to practice his traditional culture he must sometimes participate in the capitalist system of industrial food production by purchasing readily found ingredients from the grocery store. This pulls him further from his own tradition and more towards Capitalism and our culture. However, each attempt at foraging is in itself an act of political dissention, and by extension an act of cultural sovereignty (Bates 1975). Each time he forages – as his ancestors did – Ramon is removing himself form the capitalist system of food production, which reinforces both his cultural identity as well as his traditional connection to the land and to the local ecology (Anderson 2005). This is a way of using food to both shift social power, and to subvert it (Fairbairn 2012). Before I had the privilege of speaking with Ramon I had never considered using food to deal with the negative effects of “Political Economy” and hegemony. It had never occurred to me that food could be a useful weapon in the fight for social justice, nor did it occur to me that food could also be a useful tool for rebuilding culture and social identity (Paxson 2012).
Food has meaning! The cultural meaning that infuses and surrounds food helps to create social identity, as well as individual identity (Paxson 2012). Indians eat Indian food! They cook traditional foods in an Indian way before eating that food in an Indian way. So, can you see how good Indian food leads to healthy Indians, and how bad food leads to no Indians? After all, what do you call an Indian that has no access to traditional Indian cuisine? How can you practice a unique culture if you are not allowed to eat unique foods, that are prepared in unique ways? Yet, we somehow expect Native Americans to practice their traditional culture, and to continue being Indians, even though our government has enacted laws that prohibit the gathering of certain natural resources, which are critical to the expression of these Indigenous cultures (Worthen 2009). And, that is not even addressing the culturally significant items that are no longer obtainable due to extinction, endangerment, or toxicity from human related activities; such as the cancer epidemics experienced by Indigenous California basketweavers stemming from the government’s use of pesticides on culturally significant plants (Pfeiffer 2007).
The power of culture is evident in their food systems (Fairbairn 2012). Our food system oppresses Indigenous people and makes it difficult for them to practice their culture without us even having to try. By simply taking part in the existing food system we reinforce its ability to restrict Native Americans via a series of hegemonic forces (Alkon 2011). First, we make traditional resources scarce by exploiting the environment in unsustainable ways (Pfeiffer 2007). Second, we use ownership of private lands as a way to restrict Native American access to the ecology in which their traditional foods are found (Platt 2011). Third, we provide Native Americans with unhealthy and highly processed foods as a way to sustain them, cheaply (English-Lueck 2017). In this way, Native Americans are stripped of their ability to eat traditional foods, that have been sourced in traditional ways. That means that every time that we obtain our food from the capitalist mode of food production we are quietly reinforcing the social power structures that created these restrictions on Native cultures. These restrictions on traditional diets has led to epidemics of health disparities within Native American populations as they see their traditional foods and diets becoming increasingly replaced by highly processed nonlocal foods that are the byproduct of a “capitalist agricultural model” (English-Lueck 2017). Showing us the negative cultural and health outcomes that stem from stretching our food chain farther than the human eye can see.
As Native American diets become increasingly dependent on the nontraditional food products of our large scale industrial agricultural model, their traditional health outcomes have drastically shifted (English-Lueck 2017). This has led to the appearance of health epidemics on Indian Reservations, such as diabetes and hypertension (Jones 2006). According to Ramon, these modern changes in Native American health outcomes are the result of abrupt social changes, that our culture has created, which prohibit Indigenous people from taking part in the local, seasonal, and healthy diet that they have physically evolved to consume. As Ramon puts it, “Eat what your culture has eaten for thousands of years, and you will be healthy.” He also says, “We have forgotten how to listen to ourselves. You just have to fast for three to four days, let your body detox, and then just listen to your body. Your body will tell you exactly what you need, and how much of it you need to be healthy.” This is a statement that highlights Ramon’s beliefs that good health should not be the domain of popular culture, who tells us via the media what constitutes a “healthy and balanced diet”. Instead, Ramon believes that we should stop listening to Nutritionists, Doctors, and The Food Network. Ramon thinks that we have forgotten how to listen to our own body, and instead listen too much to outside “authorities” who have never even met us, do not know our medical history, or dietary restrictions. Therefore, Ramon thinks that the first step you should take towards good health is to stop listening to outside sources at the expense of listening to your own body. Ramon believes that we need to reconnect with our bodies before we can restore those bodies to good health! Furthermore, we need to stop thinking about food as a commodity – which is a byproduct of our society’s capitalist worldview – and instead, start looking at it as a life sustaining resource, which is more in line with Ramon’s views about “good food”. Ramon chooses to focus on helping Native American children, because he believes that they are not fully indoctrinated into the popular worldview of our society, just yet. Children have not spent 30 years becoming accustomed to ignoring their body, their health, and their culture. So, Ramon thinks that the best way to effect change, is to target those for whom the change will be easiest; the children. As Ramon says, “Sometimes it is hard to get the adults to change, they are just too set in their ways, but it is not too late for the kids. If I can just appeal to their taste (the kids), and use that to teach them about good food and how to eat properly, then maybe I can help them.” Personally, I think that it is very smart for Ramon to focus on Indigenous children; for several reasons. First, Ramon is an activist who loves to help people, but he is only one man with all the limitations of a human being. That means that he cannot help everyone, or single handedly save the world. However, Ramon has chosen to focus his limited time and resources on the Indigenous population which he could have the greatest impact on; the children. After all, if he teaches a child how to eat healthy, how to eat traditionally, how to eat properly, then that child can carry those lessons throughout their entire life. Also, reconnecting children with their traditional culture is more effective than reconnecting an old man who might only live for a few more years. This is just cold hard pragmatism, if you help a child you get more bang for your buck! Changing a child’s eating habits will have a greater impact on the life trajectory and health outcomes of the individual than would changing an adult’s established eating habits. However, Ramon does not forsake Native American adults, he simply focuses his limited time and resources on helping their children; so as to make the best possible use of his limited time and resources.
So, just to briefly recap a little bit of U.S. history, We have hindered the expression and preservation of Native American culture. First, via colonization and disease (Field 2009). Next, through “Manifest Destiny”, genocide, and the removal of Indians from their ancestral lands (Field 2009). Then, through the environmental degradation of those native lands (Platt 2011). Then, we further marginalized Indigenous people via our laws and the application of those laws, and finally via the expansion and pervasiveness of capitalism with its propensity for exploiting any and all resources in unsustainable ways (Platt 2011). Through all those hegemonic forces we have not only stifled the ability for Indigenous people to participate in their Native cultures, but we have also damaged the local ecology on which those cultures were founded (Garibaldi 2004). Urbanization and industrial food production have managed to damage ecological niches that previously supported Native lifeways and unique cultures for several millennia (Paxson 2012). Now, Native Americans must find ways to practice their traditional cultures in creative ways, using culturally significant resources whenever possible, but filling in the cultural gaps with resources that are born from our capitalist society (English-Lueck 2017). This is turning these expressions of traditional Indigenous culture into something new; a “reification” of old traditions that reflect who those people are today, as well as the challenges that they currently face (Gemignani 2003). This is cultural adaptation at its finest. Finding new ways to express old traditions, that connect who the people once were with who the people are now (Gemignani 2003). This is where visionaries like Ramon come in to the picture. Ramon is using his vast knowledge of food, culture, and health to help Native communities reconnect with traditional cultures and good health by using the resources that modern food production makes available. Rather than throwing his hands up in the air and saying that it is now impossible to do things “the old way”, Ramon is focusing on using new resources to fulfill old customs and traditions. Adapting Native American traditions to meet current environmental pressures, and providing a perfect example of “reification”. So, in conclusion. Ramon is turning the everyday act of sustaining life, which is what he believes “good food” should do, into an everyday affirmation and expression of cultural identity. He hopes that by helping his fellow Native Americans to reconnect with their traditional culture, that he can also help them to reconnect with good health. This is because the health trajectories/outcomes stemming from our government trying to feed Indians cheaply, while restricting their traditional ways of feeding themselves, has led to epidemics of diabetes and hypertension on Indian Reservations. These negative health outcomes are a byproduct of the hegemonic forces that “Political Economy” has leveraged against Indigenous peoples in the United States. However, in the face of these erosive cultural forces, Native Americans are once again using traditional foods to reconnect with their culture, to form social identities, and to express their cultural sovereignty; as they have for several millennia.
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