Marveling at Heirloom Corn on an Oneida Homestead

Ukwakhwa aims to bring us all closer to Native foodways

“Every time an Indigenous person plants a seed, that is an act of resistance, an assertion of sovereignty, and a reclamation of identity.”

For the April issue of Condé Nast Traveler, Minnevangelist co-founder Ashlea Halpern profiled Rebecca and Steve Webster, Oneida Nation citizens who recently transformed Ukwakhwa, their 10-acre homestead on the Oneida reservation near Green Bay, into a nonprofit where community members and nontribal people alike learn the ins and outs of planting, growing, and harvesting Native foods.

Ukwakhwa co-founder Rebecca Webster

Photo by Kevin Serna

“Through all of our trauma — boarding schools, removal, assimilation — corn has remained by our side and been an integral part of our ceremonial and daily life,” Rebecca says. “But there’s a lot of embarrassment and shame when Indigenous people don’t know how to grow food or speak their native language. They don’t know because they weren’t taught, because their parents weren’t taught. We want to create a safe space for people to learn this stuff.”

Ukwakhwa is open to nontribal people because the Websters believe it’s important to have good allies. While some community members are understandably skeptical, Rebecca would rather “control the narrative.” That’s why she and Steve launched a YouTube channel in early 2020 covering everything from seed saving to braiding corn-husk flowers.

Food made from heirloom corn at Ukwakhwa

Photo by Kevin Serna

Traditional cooking and crafts are taught at Ukwakhwa, and its commissary abuts a new trading post where the shelves are stacked with Tuscarora white corn, blue vervain tea, and handwoven baskets. Future plans include opening guest cabins and launching a a reservation-centric food business.

When visiting Ukwakhwa, book a room at the Oneida-owned Radisson Hotel & Conference Center, about 10 minutes away. Native influences can be spotted everywhere from the Woodland Indian Art displays in the lobby to the Oneida-inspired dishes (fork-tender bison pot roast, white cornbread with apple-sage butter) at Cedar & Sage Grill House, the excellent hotel restaurant. To learn more about Oneida history and people, visit the Oneida Nation Museum or book a tour of the Oneida Long House (by appointment only).

Click here to read Ashlea’s full story for Condé Nast Traveler.