The Chief Meskokonaye All Nations Camp will be back in Madison on Monday, Dec. 16 with a five-course game dinner to be held at the Lussier Family Heritage Center at Lake Farm County Park. The "Mino-Wiisinin. Mino-Bimaadaziiwin" benefit meal (the phrase means "Eat Well. Live Well") will be prepared by the Underground Food Collective.
The camp is year-round, and uses ancestral migratory food routes to teach youth from the Red Lake band of Ojibwe in northern Minnesota their language, culture, subsistence and other life skills. The campers hunted and shot a buffalo recently that will be served at the dinner, along with other food campers have hunted, fished, or gathered -- including elk, deer, moose, and walleye.
Darwin Sumner, Chief Meskokonaye camp director, says 154 children participated in the camp this year: "In addition to the core group of 50 students, we had youth from all over the Midwest and Southwest, as well from the Philadelphia Stained Glass Project and Penn State University to come to share our culture and traditional customs."
Last year, a camp benefit dinner was held at Madison Sourdough as part of an Eat for Equity fundraiser in collaboration with Casey Bilyeu. The campers helped prepare their foods with the assistance of Johnny Knight, a former cook at Forequarter and Salvatore's Tomato Pies.
This year's collaboration with Underground Food Collective is a new direction for the camp and they hope to do more dinners across the country. "We anticipate working with restaurant folks in multiple markets," says Eric Brodt, a member of the camp's advisory council, including New York, Chicago, Minneapolis, Austin, Seattle, Portland and San Francisco. "But," he adds, "we are going to start in this most excellent way with Madison, Wisconsin, and Underground Food Collective."
Bret Thompson, another advisor, says the dinners are an opportunity for camp participants to bring their efforts full circle as "part of teaching the children healthy skills, encouraging respect of self and of others, and broadening their world view."
Madison creative agency Art & Sons has provided artwork, packaging and branding for Chief Meskokonaye wild rice, as well as the Eat Well-Live Well-themed dinners.
Jonny Hunter from Underground Food Collective says anticipation for the dinner is high, and attendance will be capped at 60 diners. Tickets are $50 and can be purchased online.
Hunter became involved when he met a member of the camp's advisory board, Madison physician Erik Brodt, through a catering job. Later, "He called us and asked if we could prepare things like elk and bison. I was so thrilled at the opportunity," says Hunter.
The Meskokonaye dinner will feature roast of elk and moose, bison and wild rice sausages, as well as morel and walleye brandade, according to Hunter. The dessert planned is a wild raspberry mouse.