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The preparation of food for a feast always goes back to intent. Why a person/family/organization is hosting or ‘putting one on' is the main navigator for how it will all take place. There are feasts for many different situations such as partnerships, accomplishments, giving thanks, initiation and/or conclusion of programming, changing of seasons, honoring loved ones, honoring ceremonial items, and memorials, which is the honoring of those who have left this world.
Once you commit to this undertaking, there is protocol to follow. First and foremost, tobacco is given to the people who will help. The main people who help at a feast are the Pipe Carriers, and their helpers. We hold a special place for them because we know that what they do must be correct and repetitive. At a Cree Feast it is customary for men who are chosen by the head server, to serve the food to the women and children. At a Dakota/Nakota/Lakota Feast, the hosts are also the servers.
Our Elders train each helper, and he/she must do the same things over and over until they are 'promoted' to another level. This process can take years and it is to ensure a person is on the right track, and that no one rushes ahead of the Pipe. This process is applied to all of our ceremonies. Other significant people at a feast would be the person who announces what is taking place, the singers, the servers and the cooks.
There are different ways to carry out a feast and this would mainly depend on what Nation you are from. The Saulteaux, Dakota, and the Cree in this region have differing ways of carrying out this ceremony according to their customs. Learn from those Nations who follow a traditional lifestyle. Although each Nation is different, there are some universal things that are recognized by all.
Now you may be wondering what food to prepare for this feast. If you don't know what to cook, ask someone who has cooked for one before about what you should prepare. An Elder would be a good teacher as well, remember to have tobacco for this and write down the instructions. If you ask other women to help you, follow the usual protocol in asking for help. Traditional feast foods are simple and healthy. Make sure you have soup, it can be wild meat or domestic but wild is preferred. You will need to have bannock, tea, and berries as well. Once you have enough of those 4 main items, then go ahead and get other food items.
Visit the people around you, including those you came with even if you see them everyday. The children you bring can be, well, kids.....you know how kids are. It's good to bring them as long as they know they must be relatively still during the prayers and serving of food. This is where good parenting, role modeling, and positive discipline come in. Patience is one of the main lessons EVERYONE can benefit from.
Remember, no one is perfect, nothing is perfect, if you do not know something, ask, or better yet..........watch and listen.
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