Courtesy Lynn Thomas
Though the wind blew marquees, newspapers, and cups of coffee around the fields of the Kahnawake Sports Complex on October 15, spirits remained high.
The community was out in full force to share a meal, sell their wares, and catch up with friends and family at this year’s Community Fall Festival, hosted by Kahnawake Tourism and Kahnawake Collective Impact (KCI).
“The key motive behind the gathering was to cultivate a space to honour and celebrate our local cultivators and creators,” said Brooke Rice, a member of the Food Sovereignty Action Team at KCI. “What celebration occurs without food?”
The event came about as a result of Kahnawake Tourism and KCI combining ideas, ultimately creating a day focused on food sovereignty.
“We have our Harvest Food Fest throughout the month of October, and we wanted to do an in-person event,” explained Jordan Diabo, tours and events coordinator at Kahnawake Tourism. “So we decided to partner up with Kahnawake Collective Impact and collaborate.”
The day was packed, featuring Kastowa-making led by Tahatie Montour, an animal hide workshop led by Watio Splicer, longsword fencing demonstrations from Iokennoron McComber and the Ardimento team, and a meal cooked by celebrity chef Tawnya Brant over an open fire.
“It’s really great to see all of our vendors and attendees share the day,” said Diabo. “We’ve got 24 vendors here today, so it’s a great turnout.”
The festival itself is a project formed through Tka:nios, a grassroots initiative born to enhance and promote local foodways and relations with food. Rice has been involved in the Tka:nios initiative for some time, and brought the themes of the project to the event last week.
In the afternoon, attendees were invited to Trader’s Blanket, where folks brought handmade crafts, garden harvests, and produce for trade. Items such as a wooden lacrosse stick, elderberry elixir, reishi mushroom, and a deep red braid of corn were laid out for trading.
Chef Brant’s meal was a huge hit, the preparation, cooking, and serving of the food being an extremely collaborative process. The community feast menu consisted of a moose shepherd’s pie, berry seedy salad with pawpaw peach vinaigrette, Indian cookies, sunbutter cookies with rose-hip jam, and blueberry sweetgrass lemonade.
Local hunters Frank McComber, John and Sonny Lazare, Joey Barnes, and Thokwirih’shon Goodleaf donated moose meat, and Angus Horne and Ahonwakerane Stacey prepared a delicious corn soup. “
The (McComber) family came through and helped immensely. Auntie Erica McComber and uncle Eric McComber offered to set up the fire pit,” said Rice, who also commended the community’s donations of firewood for the feast.
“It was awesome to see people’s interactions with Tawnya, and her generosity, sharing knowledge and recipes. Community events take a community to create.”
Across the field, the team at 392 Pepper Company put in a double shift, assisting a sometimes endless line of eager clients looking to purchase their hot-pepper products.
“It’s been an awesome experience,” said owner Jonn Mayo. “Seeing our customers in person, getting feedback… they give you back a review right away, and you can see on their face whether they like it or not.”
Attendees were excited to share the community meal.
“I feel blessed. My family doesn’t hunt, and I can’t either,” said one young attendee. “It’s so good. I’m really blessed. I don’t get to eat this kind of food normally.”
Rice hopes that going forward, more in-person events focused on community-building and food sovereignty occur.
“We see more and more people remembering the ways of our ancestors by harvesting, foraging, hunting and fishing, hide-tanning, crafting, beading, beekeeping, seed-saving, and overall connecting with the land,” she said.
Specifically, Rice is committed to furthering the fight for food sovereignty in the community.
“Once we are in charge of our foodways the rest falls into place: socially, economically and politically,” she said. “Food is an integral part of our tradition. Our ancestral seeds help us remember that Indigenous continuum we are a part of when we continue what our ancestors did.”