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Sean Sherman (Oglala Lakota Tribe)

Sean Sherman, 46, founder of the Sioux Chef and Indigenous Food Lab, is working to teach Indigenous people about ancestral food traditions. Sherman’s approach to education incorporates foraging, ancestral recipes and business training, in hopes that someday soon, there will be more people creating Native cuisine in Minnesota. was born and raised on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, as were his parents, and grandparents, before him. After his mother moved his family to Spearfish, South Dakota, he began working in local restaurants, and cooked all through high school and college. He also worked as a field surveyor for the forest service, a job that provided him an extensive knowledge of native plants, which would prove invaluable later in his career. He moved to Minneapolis, and continued working in restaurants, becoming an executive chef while still in his mid-20s, where he was immersed in the farm-to-table philosophy during a time when few restaurants were purchasing directly from local vendors.  He realized as a chef in a vibrant food scene that celebrated exotic flavors and far-flung cooking styles, nothing represented the land they were currently on, or what the people indigenous to this area ate. After some research, he found this was true throughout the country: there were no Native American restaurants anywhere throughout most of North America. Traditional foodways had been almost entirely wiped off the map. This set him on a journey to discover what his direct ancestors were eating, storing, growing, harvesting, foraging, trading, and sharing just a few generations earlier. After several years of researching Native foods, he started The Sioux Chef, a company focused on creating regional Indigenous foods utilizing products from tribal producers, Native heirloom agricultural products, regionally foraged wild foods, and protein alternatives to beef, pork, and chicken. Through his travels, Chef Sherman has had the opportunity to build deep connections with tribal communities, academic institutions, culinary leaders, and thought leaders from local to international. He’s witnessed the varying degrees of Indigenous food knowledge across many communities and has seen the need for change apparent everywhere.

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