The Thanksgiving hype may have already come and gone, but for Rohani Foulkes, owner of the Corktown cafe Folk, she’s using this time of year to shift the narrative about the holiday, by focusing on ways to share the stories of Indigenous foodways — one gift basket at a time.
This year, Folk received grant funding from the Native American Food Sovereignty Alliance that would allow the team to give away Harvest Baskets, filled with Indigenous-grown or made ingredients, to members of the community in need. Foulkes tells Eater that she’s been especially interested in providing access to — and reconnecting — families with their heirloom ingredients. The staples include Michigan-grown wild rice, beans, teas, and other pantry basics — all of which are also available to the general public for purchase.
“It’s just like a way to kind of give thanks to the people that grow these beautiful provisions and make them and, tend to the land in a lot of traditional ways that their ancestors did, and kind of continue to tell that story,” says Foulkes.
So far, Folk has given away 20 boxes and plans to gift another 10 or so packages.
To help get the word out about the provisions giveaway, Foulkes says she’s reached out to several other local food-makers, including Meiko Krishok of Pink Flamingo and Guerilla Foods, Sarah María Acosta Ahmed, director of healing and community justice at Centro Multicultural La Familia in Pontiac, and Kirsten Kirby-Shoote, an advocate for uplifting Indigenous food sovereignty.
Foulkes says she’s been on her own journey — as an immigrant from Australia with Indigenous lineage — to better understand the history of Native foodways, as well as the history of Thanksgiving. Metro Detroit occupies the ancestral lands of the Anishinaabek, the Three Fires Confederacy of Ojibwe, Odawa and Potawatomi peoples, yet the contributions of these communities aren’t exactly told in history books. Foulkes points to a recent conversation she had with her own school-aged daughter about the holiday and realized just how skewed history lessons continue to this day.
“I think it’s really important to pay honor and respect to the traditional owners of the land and their foodways, and the ways in which they have contributed to the fabric of what our communities look like today,” she says.