Mini Choganyapi was one of the options available to taste at the Indigenous Food Lab Market's grand opening on Tuesday, May 30, 2023. The "Three Sisters" (corn, beans, and squash) or turkey options come together with wojapi, mixed greens, corn, and pickled squash.

A drum circle performed a blessing and celebration for the opening of the Indigenous Food Lab’s new marketplace last week as attendees held hands and participated in a circle dance. 

“We have big, big dreams for Indigenous Food Labs,” James Beard Award-winning chef Sean Sherman told a crowd gathered for the event last Tuesday. “A lot of our work is really based on two principles: We’re trying to create access to Indigenous food, and we’re trying to create access to Indigenous education.

“The market space and the classroom we have built over here is really for this community. It’s to make sure we have a place to find cool Indigenous food products from cool Indigenous food producers.” 

The market is located inside the Midtown Global Market in south Minneapolis, and will serve up a variety of foods inspired by Indigenous traditions from around the world. The space includes a plethora of products from Indigenous makers and producers, including ready-to-eat food, beverages, game meats, soaps, cookbooks, and more. 

A classroom with a full studio will enable chefs to record cooking lessons and recipes from various cultures to share with a larger audience, while also providing space for educating community members in person.

The market and lab are the brainchild of North American Traditional Indigenous Food Systems (NATIFS), a non-profit co-founded by Sherman, the founder and CEO chef of the restaurant, Owamni by The Sioux Chef. The group’s goal is to provide greater access to Indigenous foods, culinary education, and to create a platform for Native creators to reach a wider audience. 

Indigenous Food Lab also provides catering, and helped cook and distribute thousands of meals during the COVID-19 pandemic and in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder by Minneapolis police in 2020.

Last week’s opening featured several dishes for attendees, showcasing miniature birria tacos, pecan and mushroom salad, grain “spoonies,” and other miniaturized samples of the food the market has to offer. 

“It’s great to be here in community with all of you, and to look around and see all of your faces and know that this is what we were doing all of this work for—to build something for our community, for all of the diversity that it represents,” said Jason Garcia, the market’s manager.

With a diverse team in the kitchen focused on using indigenous ingredients, the food counter looks to provide creative takes on traditional foods. Laura Garcia, Yairany Galiano, Aura Manski, and Janeth Vergara Medina formed a team dedicated to perfecting Nixtimal, the process of turning corn into masa for the market’s tortillas. 

Francesca Garcia, an herbalist, has concocted several tea blends using ingredients like nettle, chipotle peppers, passionflower, and cedar. The menu eschews foods brought to North America during colonization, and does not offer chicken, pork, dairy, or wheat products. Instead, customers will find ingredients like corn, beans, and squash (known as “The Three Sisters”), wild greens, and meats such as turkey and bison.

Indigenous Food Lab Market is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Midtown Global Market, 920 E. Lake St., Minneapolis. Hot food will be available Tuesday through Saturday.

Aaron Nesheim is a freelance photojournalist based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Educated at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, he primary focuses is on documenting social justice, the environment,...