Sean Sherman’s New Endeavor Re-Establishes Native Foodways to Address Health and Economic Crises

Sean Sherman, Oglala Lakota, born in Pine Ridge, South Dakota, has been cooking across the U.S. and around the world for the last 30 years. His main culinary focus has been on the revitalization and awareness of indigenous foods systems in a modern culinary context. Sherman has studied on his own extensively to determine the foundations of these food systems and learn more about Native American farming techniques and culture, wild food usage and harvesting, land stewardship, food preservation, and more to bring a sense of Native American cuisine to today’s world.

In 2014, he opened The Sioux Chef, a catering and food education business in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. In 2015, in partnership with the Little Earth Community of United Tribes in Minneapolis, he also helped to design and open the Tatanka Truck food truck, which featured pre-contact foods of the Dakota and Minnesota territories. Sherman and his vision of modern indigenous foods have been featured in numerous articles and radio shows, along with dinners at the James Beard House in Manhattan and Milan. He also has shared his knowledge during events at Yale, the Culinary Institute of America, the United Nations, and many more.

His latest endeavor, NāTIFS (North American Traditional Indigenous Food Systems), is dedicated to addressing the economic and health crises affecting Native communities by re-establishing Native foodways. With a vision for a new North American food system that generates wealth and improves health in Native communities through food-related enterprises, NāTIFS is establishing an Indigenous Food Lab in Minneapolis. It will house an indigenous restaurant and training center covering food service; research and development; indigenous food identification, gathering, cultivation, and preparation; and components of starting and running a successful culinary business based around Native traditions and indigenous foods. Sherman plans to replicate this model bioregionally throughout North America.

He believes reclamation of ancestral education is a critical part of reversing the damage of colonialism and forced assimilation, and sees food at the heart of this reclamation. Sherman’s goal for NāTIFS is to drive sustainable economic empowerment and prosperity into tribal areas through a reimagined North American food system that also addresses the health effects of injustice.

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Sean Sherman (Photo by Heidi Ehalt)

Here are some highlights from the interview:

  • What’s alive in Sherman’s heart and mind after this year’s celebration of Indigenous People’s Day.
  • A window into his background and the genesis of The Sioux Chef, The Tatanka Truck, and NāTIFS.
  • Stories from traveling across the world sharing North American Indigenous cuisine.
  • The grand vision of NāTIFS as regenerating indigenous people from the impacts of genocide and cultural erasure, and reclaiming indigenous wisdom.

LIFT Economy is an impact consulting firm with a mission is to create, model, and share a locally self-reliant economy that works for the benefit of all life.

B the Change gathers and shares the voices from within the movement of people using business as a force for good and the community of Certified B Corporations. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the nonprofit B Lab.

Reweaving Sacred Relationship Through Food and Right Livelihood was originally published in B the Change on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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