National Museum of American Indian marks Earth Day with Living Earth Fest

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews the Living Earth Festival (Part 1)

The Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian is celebrating Earth Day with a virtual Living Earth Festival running this Thursday through Sunday.

“We look at every day as Earth Day,” Assistant Director of Programs Shawn Termin told WTOP. “This is our 14th year to celebrate it. This year we’re focusing on the business of agriculture in Indian Country. We have been supported generously by the National American Agricultural Fund.”

The festival kicks off with an opening statement by golfer Notah Begay III (Navajo/San Felipe/Isleta), four-time PGA Tour champion, sportscaster and founder of the Notah Begay III Foundation, which provides health and wellness education to Native youth.

“His message, which opens our festival, gives a great, overarching view of why it’s important for Native communities and businesses to focus on food sovereignty,” Termin said. “How it affects every aspect of life when you can control your own future on your land and provide businesses that provide income and healthy living for the community.”

Events include “Youth in Action: Sustainable Agriculture” (April 22-25) where moderator Michaela Pavlat (Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians) will host a 45-minute conversation with panelists Kelsey Ducheneaux-Scott (Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe), Jack Pashano (Hopi) and Marco Ovando (Shoshone-Paiute Tribe).

“Giving Native youth a platform to discuss a variety of topics,” Termin said. “Their focus will be on sustainable agriculture. … They’re all young people dedicated to getting the message out about what individuals can do to make a change.”

You can also enjoy a special “Cooking Demonstration” (April 22-25) hosted by chef Mariah Gladstone (Blackfeet/Cherokee Nation), the founder of Indigikitchen.

“She has her own YouTube channel where she does cooking, so she’s going to share her story about how she developed her business,” Termin said. “Then she has some demonstrations where she takes bison and squash to make lasagna.”

Next is “Building an Agriculture Business in Indian Country” (April 22-25). Native Business magazine editor Carmen Davis (Makah/Chippewa Cree/Yakama) will moderate Dawn Sherman (Lakota/Lenape/Shawnee), CEO of Native American Natural Foods; Mark N. Fox, chairman of Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation; and Leonard Forsman, chairman of the Suquamish Tribe.

“We have really noted business leaders in Indian Country coming together,” Termin said. “They’re talking about how their nations are taking agriculture business to the next level in different ways. … It’s all about sustainability and food sovereignty on Native land.”

Finally, there are “Film Screenings” (April 22-25) with Sanjay Rawal’s “Gather,” Nancy Ghertner’s “Voices from the Barrens: Native People, Blueberries and Sovereignty,” Tsanavi Spoonhunter’s “Crow Country: The Right to Food Sovereignty,” Natasha Deganello Giraudie’s “One Word Sawalmem” and Mauricio Telpiz’s “Guardians of the Seeds.”

“We’re really excited to have films included this year,” Termin said. “This is the plus side of going virtual for us, because this is the first time that has happened. We do have an annual Native cinema showcase in November, but to get it into this festival is a plus for Native filmmakers. We have two features and three shorts streaming on demand.”

Find out more information on the Smithsonian website.

“I want to encourage everyone to join us,” Termin said. “It’s going to open your eyes to the possibilities of how we move forward in a really inspiring way in food sovereignty — and how we look at everything we do agriculturally that helps us grow communities.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews the Living Earth Festival (Part 2)

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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