dustin skenandore | yl voice | dec. 2018
“We are what we eat,” is a common saying. For Native people, it is more accurate to say, “We are made sick from the abundance of processed foods available that we eat.” Cheese, flour, and pork fat were staples of the commodity programs and have contributed to the disproportionate level of diabetes and obesity in Native communities. Chef Arlie Skenadore is looking at food, not just as sustenance, but medicine to heal our bodies.
Arlie Doxtator, called Lonehla'kwas (“he is amazed”) in the Oneida language, is a premier Native American chef who specializes in healthy cultural foods. His guiding principle is shiak?washutlane' yukwa'kkwa, which translates to “re-connecting with our foods.” Chef Doxtator spent over 30 years in the food and beverage industry, with 20 of those years as an executive chef at the Oneida Hotel and Casino. Today, you can find him working in the gardens, presenting at Native food summits, or cooking alongside some of the best cooks in Iroquois Confederacy, preparing meals for the recitation of The Great Law of Peace and the constitution of the Iroquois Confederacy.
Coupled with his innumerable past accomplishments, he has been featured in Native People's Magazine, Chef magazine, the Green Bay Press-Gazette and the Kaliwisaks (the Oneida tribal magazine). It is his current work studying the Oneida language and Iroquois cuisine that has the most profound impact in Chef Arlie's career. Some of his current work includes translating culinary terms into Oneida and teaching healthy foods to youth at the Oneida Head Start Program. He is also experimenting with ancient cooking tools and techniques like hand-built, pit fired clay pots; foraging for local herbs, roots, berries and greens, and using ancient seed plants and wild animals in his cooking.
This summer the Oneida Community Education Center presented a special meal prepared by Chef Arlie featuring, “Oneida Cuisine: Past, Present, and Future.” Forty people enjoyed a meal that celebrated the best of Native foods. The food was delicious and good medicine for our bodies. After the meal, Chef Arlie spoke to the audience on his experience in becoming a chef and reconnecting to ancient foods. He shared stories of cooking with his grandmother, formal training and his journey back to his great-great grandmother's foods. He spoke of the profound experience he had while cooking wild game for the delegates at the recitation of The Great Law of Peace. The spirit of his people and the food as a medicine was palpable to him and the other cooks.
The Oneida Nation Community Education Center will be hosting Chef Arlie Doxtator on Tuesday, December 11 at 5:30 p.m. located at 2632 Packerland Drive in Green Bay. The event has no associated cost and includes a tasting plate of Three Sisters Salad (in Oneida culture, the three sisters — corn, beans and squash — are the cornerstone of Oneida cuisine), Cedar Roasted Venison and Onondaga Roasted Corn Mush (the Onondaga, like the Oneida, are members of the Iroquois Confederacy). You can register at Oneida CommunityEducationCenter.org.
Dustin Skenandore is a recent graduate of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. He currently works for the Oneida Nation Community Education Center and the Oneida Nation Arts Program.