This past March, I had an amazing opportunity to learn and gain more experience with Nettles (Urtica dioica). Hosted by Tierra Madre Fund’s Ya-howt Food Justice program and the Community Alliance for Global Justice held at the Chief Seattle Club, in downtown Seattle, WA.
This one day workshop offered an opportunity for the urban Native community to come together to share around our traditional foods, paying special focus on one plant that is popping out of the Pacific NW grounds as I write; Nettles.
Native men, women and even a baby gathered from all over the Seattle metro area to the Chief Seattle Club to learn. Once all us were settled, we were gifted the unique opportunity to tour the Chief Seattle Club which offers, “a place for urban American Indians and Alaska Natives, many of whom are homeless and low-income, to share a meal, speak their own languages, access social services, and find peace, without fear of public censure or discrimination (Chief Seattle Club).”
The tour was led by the club’s program manager. He spent lots of time with us, sharing personal stories and anecdotes humbling us all by the work he does each day. Once the tour ended, we headed back our workshop. I felt so grateful to be in such an amazing space; whose work is devoted to serving urban Natives in need.
The workshop was led by three extraordinary Native women, including 2013 NYLA Fellow Winona Bearchum. They took turns sharing, showing, and encouraging us all to dive right into the hands-on workshop. First on our agenda were Nettle smoothies. We were given gloves to handle the fresh, locally harvested nettles to clean, blanch and prepare for our smoothies. Nextmeal we made was a nettle soup and to top it off was a very delicious nettle pesto. Throughout the day each of the ladies took turns sharing their knowledge on Nettles; it has more calcium than milk, high in vitamin D, and lots of great minerals.
Throughout the day, myself and the other participants shared about their own relationships with food and traditional foods. We also got to hear from a woman from the Community Alliance for Global Justice about our food systems here USA. She took us through the journey of an apple; who gets to grow, pick it, sell it, buy it and eat it. We had an enriching discussion on the overwhelming problems that dominate our food systems today, but also solutions that are occurring now and our positive impact by choosing to eat our traditional, local foods.
I reached cloud nine, at first sip of my fruity, nettle smoothie, but they kept hitting us with more amazing stuff! During our lunch we had the privilege to hear a story on how nettle’s saved the people, from a renowned local story-teller. We engaged with the story and talked about the lessons we all learned from it.
To end the amazing day, we were given wild crafted rosehip, nettles, and mint tea, a notebook with nettle facts, a full belly, lots of nettle knowledge and gratitude.