My trip to Wisconsin was delicious and enlightening.
We started the tour performing for the Oneida Nation tribal school. The school is built in a circle for the circle of life. They collect sap from the maple trees to make syrup. They have a school garden. They take a cultural dance class to learn about their heritage. They have their own language and recite poems honoring the earth and its creators at the beginning and end of each day.
They worship the earth, the water, the sun, and “the three sisters” representing squash, beans, and corn—in honor of sustainable agriculture: the corn grows tall, the beans sprouts support the corn from falling over, the squash is prickly to keep the raccoons from scavenging the fruits of their labor. Rather than mass cropping just one, the three sisters honor a way to feed the body and the earth. A religious ceremony is built around a change in the season or a harvest. As a professional foodie, I was head-over-heels intrigued.
I visited Ted Skenadore at Tsyunhehkwa Organic Farm (pronounced joon-hek-qwa, meaning “life sustenance”), a farm on the Oneida reservation. Ted was one of the most welcoming people I had ever met. We bonded immediately because he, too, is a musician. Check out The Strong Medicine Band! He entertained all of my questions, and encouraged my exploration of his culture, everything from politics to religion to food.
Ted’s work at Tsyunhehkwa serves the Oneida people and the surrounding community with fresh fruits and vegetables (people can rent plots to grow their own, too), eggs, and meat. He showed me the process of corn production, from the growing, drying, cooking and canning, to the store where the finished products are retailed. Obesity and diabetes run rampant in the Oneida community. These issues are rooted in the feast and famine cycle; the human body is not designed to coexist with so much high calorie food. American Indians develop diabetes at one of highest rates of any race. Tsyunhehkwa provides access to the healthy cultural foods that can help the Oneida return to a more traditional diet. I hope that my message of rock ‘n roll nutrition could make a real difference to encourage the Oneida to use this amazing resource.
We also performed in Green Bay Public Schools and toured Lambeau Field. I bought a Brett Farve jersey at the Goodwill. After an extensive search found some Wisconsin cheese curds. All in all, it was an amazing experience that I will remember for the rest of my life.