Native American Advisory Committee

Food sovereignty leaders to host educational workshops at OU

Events include a tea-making workshop, a plant walk and medicinal food presentations

food sovereignty, Native American, Knutson, Peiser, Black Elk, plants, tea,

icon of a calendarMay 3, 2023

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Food sovereignty leaders to host educational workshops at OU
Luke and Linda Black Elk

Luke and Linda Black Elk, food sovereignty activists and teachers of traditional plant uses, gardening, food preservation and foraging, will share their knowledge at Oakland University during the weekend of May 13-14.   

Luke and Linda Black Elk

Luke and Linda Black Elk

Food sovereignty in its most basic definition is the idea that people have the right to culturally-appropriate and traditional foods and food practices. The Black Elks will host a series of events centered on food sovereignty, including a tea-making workshop, a plant walk and medicinal food presentations.

The idea that food is medicine is a culturally important concept, says Dr. Andrea Knutson, associate professor of English and co-chair of the Native American Advisory Committee (NAAC) at Oakland University. 

“Food is medicine because of its nutrition, but it's also medicine for all the ways that traditional foods restore ancient moral and spiritual relationships with the land,” Knutson explained. “There is no ‘medicine’ in the western sense at these workshops. Focusing on food sovereignty means teaching these moral relationships through storytelling, but also learning about how to identify plants, prepare and cook traditional foods and how to preserve them. Food sovereignty is, therefore, important to recovering and strengthening Native cultures and ensuring that these cultures thrive – along with the planet – into the future.”

Event Details

Learn to brew the perfect cup of tea during a tea-making workshop at 6 p.m. on Saturday, May 13, in the Oakland Center Gold Rooms. 

Explore Native American culture during a plant walk and medicinal food presentations on Sunday, May 14, at the Native American Heritage Site on Oakland University’s campus.  

The plant walk will begin at 10 a.m., followed by a potluck at noon. Bring a dish to pass if you can, and to reduce waste, please bring your own utensils and plate. 

A presentation on medicinal food preservation and storage will start at 1 p.m., followed by a presentation on medicinal soup spice blends and food sovereignty at 3 p.m. Download the event flier.

All events are free and open to the public. 

The Black Elks spend their time collecting and preparing traditional foods and medicines for Indigenous peoples and communities in North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and beyond. 

Luke is one of the founding board members of the Tatanka Wakpala Model Sustainable Community, which is a Native non-profit on the Cheyenne River Nation focusing on traditional building design, permaculture, food sovereignty and a return to Lakota spirituality as a guide for everyday life. 

Linda is the Food Sovereignty Coordinator at United Tribes Technical College, where she teaches ethnobotany and traditional skills. Together, Luke and Linda sit on the board of Makoce Ikikcupi, a Native non-profit, which is a Reparative Justice project on Dakota lands in Minnesota. The couple make sure their three sons stay involved in all of this important work, so they may learn about the importance of feeding themselves and their communities with food and medicine that nourishes and heals mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. 

The events are sponsored by The Judd Family Endowed Fund, Kresge Libraries, Division of Student Affairs and Diversity, Student Activities Funding Board, School of Engineering and Computer Science, Department of English, and Women and Gender Studies program. 

For more information, contact co-chairs of the NAAC, Dr. Andrea Knutson or Dr. Megan Peiser (Choctaw) at

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