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The Power of Indigenous Hands

In October, Miguel Mateo, a staff member from the Manos Campesinas co-op, visited our roastery in Minneapolis. If you’ve ever enjoyed our Guatemala Single Origin, you’ve had his coffee. Peace has proudly partnered with Manos Campesinas since 2000. They are our longest-term trading partner, which is one of the reasons why we wanted to make his visit extra special. So on his last night with us, we took him to the much-lauded Native American-owned restaurant Owamni, where his Guatemalan single origin is served.

In the late 1800s, Guatemala began to focus on coffee as a major export. Indigenous communities had been growing coffee, but government land reforms meant that land ownership was taken from them and incorporated into large plantations.  Although not all were forced to leave their communities, many were forced to work on the plantations, which had previously been in their ownership. Over time, some Indigenous people were able to buy back their lands and continue to grow coffee, and many of these farms are now owned by members of Manos Campesinas. This is a point of pride for Miguel, picking cherries when he was young and growing up on his parent’s coffee farm demonstrated to him the value and importance of land sovereignty.  

More than just a meal

Owamni: By the Sioux Chef is the James Beard-award-winning restaurant is located near the banks of the Mississippi in downtown Minneapolis.  Christina Sierra, the restaurant’s manager, explains the significance: “Owamni means ‘where the waters fall and churn together’…they’re known as St. Anthony Falls now, but they were a sacred waterfall back with our ancestors.”

Owamni celebrates North American Indigenous food and cuisine, serving up modern dishes through a decolonized lens, omitting the use of colonial ingredients such as wheat flour, cane sugar, and dairy. The restaurant was founded in 2021 by the Sioux Chef, Sean Sherman. Today, it operates as a for-profit subsidiary of Sherman’s nonprofit, NATIFS (North American Traditional Indigenous Food Systems).

“By choosing to work with Indigenous suppliers, we’re celebrating Indigenous people from all over the world and the different industries that Indigenous people are tapped into.”

— Christina Sierra

Christina explains the story behind wild rice, also known as the good berry, as a way that Indigenous people serve as stewards of the land. “Before colonialism, the Anishinaabe people were in the northeast area, northern New York and Canada, and they were moving west on a spiritual trek to get to the land that would sustain them. And so when they found wild rice, they knew that this was the land that they were meant to be on.”

When Owanmi looks for suppliers for the restaurant, Christina makes clear, “We work with a lot of different Indigenous purveyors that are looking to support the land.” While their focus is on North America, their menu incorporates items and goods from Indigenous purveyors around the globe, like wine from New Zealand or coffee from Miguel’s own co-op in Guatemala. We encourage everyone to visit Owamni and taste for themselves their award-winning decolonized cuisine. Check out our Instagram to see what we enjoyed on our recent visit, and book yourself a table their ASAP!

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Published by Peace Coffee on November 22, 2023.

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