April & Kelly: Cooks of the Covenant Chain

People of the Two Row

From the March 2013 PNL #822

by Emily Bishop


At the end of Sharing the River of Life, the stage was full of Two Row Wampum
Renewal collaborators. Photo: Tania Barricklo


Editors’ note: The Two Row Wampum Renewal Campaign is a statewide education and advocacy campaign inspired by this year’s 400th anniversary of the first treaty between the Haudenosaunee and Europeans. The treaty outlines a mutual commitment to friendship, peace and living in parallel forever. A campaign focal point is a symbolic enactment of the treaty, with Native people and allies paddling side-by-side down the Hudson River.

April Tarbell and Kelly Edwards, two women from the Onondaga Nation, will be sharing their love (and well organized method) of cooking for several Two Row Campaign events. Kelly participated in the trial run for the symbolic enactment last summer, and April has cooked on a grand scale for a variety of gatherings, such as the Healing of the Waters in Minnesota. They both described the considerations of organizing to take care of large groups, especially when it involves sustaining paddlers.

Kelly and April are used to it, they say, “We both cook for our ceremonies. April goes on the road and cooks when our people take trips… we have to think of every little detail!” And there is a lot to think about when you anticipate cooking for 200 people for two weeks; but they are determined to provide nutritious and delicious meals every day. The menu includes venison and corn stew, a lot of hot scones, spaghetti, greens, and “American food” —like hot dogs and hamburgers. “We’ve added some vegetarian dishes, too!” they stated at an enactment meeting in February, “but we know our people have to get their meat!”

From the trial run, the group discovered a lot of things they didn’t initially consider, such as the need for a significant supply of sunscreen and bug spray, clotheslines, and weather procedures. April and Kelly are part of the Ground Crew committee, which includes traveling ahead of the group to set up for meals and paddlers’ campgrounds, along with clean up; they asserted, “we aren’t going to be cleaning camper’s dishes!” The enactment committee is trying to be as green as possible, with biodegradable soap, mess kits, and reusable water bottles on the gear list. 

Kelly and April are aware they must expect the unexpected while traveling down the Hudson. Aside from self-care and food portions, they shared stories that are symbolic to the spirit of the Two Row. They recalled many people greeting them who had read about the trip in newspapers and who were kind enough to share their local knowledge of the areas. Kelly emphasizes the purpose of the trip from the Onondaga perspective, “We are always told that you don’t turn people away. We aren’t about that. And who knows, they might have something to offer too.”

Emily is from Syracuse and is interning with the Two Row Campaign, working on the enactment, grant writing and publicity.