Eating the Landscape: American Indian Stories of Food, Identity, and Resilience

Overview

"Eating is not only a political act, it is also a cultural act that reaffirms one’s identity and worldview," Enrique Salmón writes in Eating the Landscape. Traversing a range of cultures, including the Tohono O’odham of the Sonoran Desert and the Rarámuri of the Sierra Tarahumara, the book is an illuminating journey through the southwest United States and northern Mexico. Salmón weaves his historical and cultural knowledge as a renowned indigenous ethnobotanist with stories American Indian farmers have shared ...

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Overview

"Eating is not only a political act, it is also a cultural act that reaffirms one’s identity and worldview," Enrique Salmón writes in Eating the Landscape. Traversing a range of cultures, including the Tohono O’odham of the Sonoran Desert and the Rarámuri of the Sierra Tarahumara, the book is an illuminating journey through the southwest United States and northern Mexico. Salmón weaves his historical and cultural knowledge as a renowned indigenous ethnobotanist with stories American Indian farmers have shared with him to illustrate how traditional indigenous foodways—from the cultivation of crops to the preparation of meals—are rooted in a time-honored understanding of environmental stewardship.

In this fascinating personal narrative, Salmón focuses on an array of indigenous farmers who uphold traditional agricultural practices in the face of modern changes to food systems such as extensive industrialization and the genetic modification of food crops. Despite the vast cultural and geographic diversity of the region he explores, Salmón reveals common themes: the importance of participation in a reciprocal relationship with the land, the connection between each group’s cultural identity and their ecosystems, and the indispensable correlation of land consciousness and food consciousness. Salmón shows that these collective philosophies provide the foundation for indigenous resilience as the farmers contend with global climate change and other disruptions to long-established foodways. This resilience, along with the rich stores of traditional ecological knowledge maintained by indigenous agriculturalists, Salmón explains, may be the key to sustaining food sources for humans in years to come.

As many of us begin to question the origins and collateral costs of the food we consume, Salmón’s call for a return to more traditional food practices in this wide-ranging and insightful book is especially timely. Eating the Landscape is an essential resource for ethnobotanists, food sovereignty proponents, and advocates of the local food and slow food movements.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Salmón, head of the American Indian Studies program at Cal State University East Bay, is descended from the Rarámuri, an indigenous people from Sierra Tarahumara, Mexico, and his lineage serves at the touchstone for this episodic volume, each chapter of which introduces the reader to a different mode of traditional land stewardship. Readers travel with Salmón to the Pueblos of New Mexico, where a former Native leader fears that his people’s youth are “not returning to farm the dry and barren fields” that are their birthright. They also meet a farmer who “coax heirloom Hopi crops from the sandy soils of the Colorado Plateau, as well as Lois Ellen Frank, an American Indian chef who asks why her culture’s foods are “not considered a cuisine equal to that of French, Italian, and Asian.” As Salmón wryly notes, his project doesn’t focus on an “heirloom tomato that can be purchased for an outlandish price at a swanky farmer’s market,” but instead argues for “renewing whole traditions” that have their basis in indigenous concepts of man’s relationship to his landscape. Though the cause is worthwhile, and the author dedicated, he is not a skilled enough writer to turn workaday prose into compelling narrative. Photos. (May)
From the Publisher

 "Salmón's lineage serves as the touchstone for this episodic volume, each chapter of which introduces the reader to a different mode of traditional land stewardship." —Publishers Weekly

"This is very fine work reminiscent of the style and substance of the best by other stalwarts in the field of Indigenous knowledge like Gary Paul Nabhan, Greg Cajete, and Winona LaDuke." —Devon Peña, author of Mexican Americans and the Environment: Tierra y Vida

"An intimate geographical and cultural journey."—AlterNative

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Enrique Salmón is head of the American Indian Studies Program at Cal State University East Bay in Hayward, California.  He has been a Scholar in Residence at the Heard Museum and a program officer for the Greater Southwest and Northern Mexico regions for the Christensen Fund. He has published several articles and chapters on indigenous ethnobotany, agriculture, nutrition, and traditional ecological knowledge.

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Table of Contents

Figures ix

1 In My Grandmother's Kitchen 1

2 Sharing Breath: The Grass is Not Always Greener on the Other Side 12

3 Pojoaque Pueblo and a Garden of the Ancients 31

4 We Still Need Rain Spirits 48

5 Bounty among the Saguaro 67

6 Small Fields for Large Impacts on the Colorado Plateau 85

7 Highways of Diversity and Querencia in Northern New Mexico 106

8 Singing to Turtles, Singing for Divine Fire 122

9 A New American Indian Cuisine 138

10 The Whole Enchilada 155

Further Reading 163

Index 167

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