Indigenous Treasures

Universally recognized as having rich oral traditions and being the custodians of biodiversity, Indigenous people continuously risk losing their land and ways of life. Slow Food supports these groups of people to maintain their culinary traditions and hand down their knowledge. As Carlo Petrini said, “It would be a nonsense defending biodiversity without also defending the cultural identities of people and their right to preserve their land. The right of people to have control of their land is inalienable.”

In 2011, in Jokkmokk (Sápmi, Northern Sweden) Slow Food organized the first edition of Indigenous Terra Madre. The event was attended by 200 delegates from 31 countries, 50 indigenous communities and 70 different ethnic groups to share experiences and make their voices heard: the message they wanted to convey is that the traditional knowledge and sustainable use of natural resources can contribute to a better future through food production.

The next meeting will be held in India in 2014.

At the Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre, the indigenous communities present will have their own space. Those interested in the topic can signal the conference, “Indigenous Peoples and Local Food Sovereignty – A struggle for self-determined development” in their diaries for Friday, October 26.

We offer some of the products protected by the indigenous peoples in the Slow Food network worldwide:

An Ancient Spice Mix – Chile
In Temuco, Chile the Mapuche Indians make a traditional seasoning known as merkén, a spice mix made primarily from ground aji chili together with lightly smoked coriander seeds and sea salt. It was traditionally used to flavor many dishes, and was always found on the table in Chilean homes, ideal as seasoning or grilled, roasted and stewed meat, fish and vegetables. Disregarded by new generations as a ‘poor’ food, the Merkén Presidium is working to reintroduce this natural seasoning to the local diet and encourage the Mapuche to continue cultivating the aji chili and coriander. Presidium merkén must be made according to the authentic recipe and from local ingredients.
Photo: Ana Paula Guasti

Diniz Reindeer Suovas – Sweden
Reindeer meat is the traditional food of the indigenous Sámi people living in theSápmi region, an arc of land spreading across the north of Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Russia. Here, winter lasts 200 days a year, during which temperatures sometimes dip below –30°C and the traditional food supply remains almost entirely dependent on the giant herds of reindeer that migrate annually to the mountains. The Reindeer Suovas Presidium supports the production of this cured meat, prepared by salt-drying and smoking reindeer loins in a traditional peakedhut for eight hours. 

The Amazon’s Guaranà Farmers – Brazil  Guaranà, or waraná in the indigenous language, means “the beginning of all knowledge”. The Sateré-Mawé Indians have semi-domesticated the plant for hundreds of years in Brazilian Amazon, collecting wild seedlings and transplant them in forest clearings. When the fruits split open part of the seed and white flesh, which resembles a human eye, is revealed. According to legend, the Sateré-Mawé are descended from a murdered and resurrected child, whose eye, buried like a seed, grew into the first waranà plant. They use the fruit and seeds to make bread, juice, syrups and other drinks, prizing it for its contents of caffeine, phosphorus, potassium, vitamins and tannins which work together to combat fatigue and stimulates cognitive functions and memory. The Sateré Mawé Native Waranà Presidium protects the authentic waranà, collected and processed within a designated area.
Photo: Jacques Minelli Satoriz pour Guayapi tropical

Traditional Mullet Botargo – Mauritania 
Small-scale fishing in Mauritania is threatened by industrial fleets, mostly foreign, which are plundering its rich waters, causing serious impact to fish stocks and local communities’ livelihoods. In Mauritania, this situation has almost stopped the production of mullet botargo, a traditional product made by the indigenous Imraguen women. To obtain the botargo, the women buy mullet from local fishermen, extract the eggs, rinse them, salt them and let them dry naturally. Slow Food is working with a local NGO to support groups of women united in the Imraguen Women’s Mullet Botargo Presidium to preserve local knowledge, strengthen their technical skills and improve hygiene conditions.
Photo: Alberto Peroli

Wild Forest Honey – India  In the tropical monsoon forests of the Nilgiri mountains in southern India, the giant rock bee (Apis dorsata) forms its honeycombs high on cliff tops and tall trees. For generations, skilled honey harvesters from the indigenous Irula and Kurumba tribes have been collecting this precious food from dangerously precarious heights using long natural-fiber rope ladders and smoking methods. Jenu, as the honey is called locally, was once a valuable commodity in the bartering system between tribes, and still now plays an important part in their diet, cuisine and medicine. Multi Flora Forest Honey was recently added to Slow Food’s Ark of Taste.
Photo: Keystone Foundation

The Black Spice of Malaysia
The agricultural area around Malayasia’s Rimbàs river is home to the Ibans, the largest indigenous group of Sarawak, who cultivation of the local variety of black pepper called Kuching. For centuries the spice was their “black gold” and was traded around the world, today global competition and the rise of more lucrative local crops, such as palm oil, have left the pepper industry in crisis. The Rimbàs Black Pepper Presidium is working to safeguard this pepper variety by making its cultivation a sustainable livelihood: increasing yields, improving processing and product quality and accessing new markets at a fair price. Photo: Alberto Peroli

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