This April, Whitman College, Whitman graduate Roger Amerman (Choctaw), the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR), and the Whitman Mission National Historic Site collaborated to erect a plateau long tent on the college’s Ankeny Field.
The long tent is a traditional structure of the tribal peoples of the Inland Northwest/Columbia River Plateau region of North America and is meant to facilitate the gathering of large numbers of people for lodging and ceremonial events.1
At Whitman, the tent served as a space for a full week of programs and activities put on by visiting dignitaries and elders from Plateau and other tribes, including the Walla Walla, Nez Perce, Yakama, and Umatilla who shared their wisdom with the community.2 Events included Riparian Restoration and First Foods with Wenix Red Elk (Umatilla) and Kris Fischer of the CTUIR, as well as a Food, Health, and Lifeways discussion led by Mildred Anne Quaempts (Yakama) and Linda Sampson, lead teacher at the CTUIR, among many other events.
The Bon Appétit team contributed to the Long Tent programming by catering the opening and closing ceremonies that bookended the week’s events. Executive Chef Jon Sodini and the team worked closely with Roger, who acted as a consultant and helped the Bon Appétit team to assemble menus and cook First Foods dishes that represented the traditional foods of the indigenous peoples of the Plateau region.
On the afternoon of April 18, over 350 people from Whitman and the surrounding Walla Walla community gathered on Ankeny Field for a talk given by Don Sampson, the hereditary Chief of the Walla Walla people and CTUIR, that kicked-off the week’s events. Guests enjoyed a menu crafted by Roger and Jon that included wild salmon, wild rice pilaf, roasted corn, melon and berry salad, and even a huckleberry peach cobbler. The food was served on boards from local Walla Walla artist Ray Sample.
Beyond just employing traditional ingredients, Roger helped advise the team on traditional preparation techniques, even ensuring that the corn was cut before it was served. For the closing ceremony, the team cooked up smoked wild salmon, as well as charred root vegetables, both of which hold a special place in the culinary traditions of the indigenous peoples of the Plateau.
The Long Tent provided a space for indigenous leaders and community members to come together with students, faculty, and staff, connections that the Bon Appétit team were glad to help facilitate through food.