LOS ANGELES — Teaching the art of basket weaving is an important form of cultural revitalization for Ramaytush Indigenous Elder Cata Gomes.
“I’m going to start wrapping towards the end,” Gomes said as she shows how to weave a basket.
She’s the founder of the Muchia Te’ Indigenous Land Trust, an organization committed to Indigenous stewardship and returning land to the Ramaytush people.
She said this bi-monthly basket circle is a way of fighting the erasure of Native culture in the U.S.
“One of our goals is to bring awareness to the community at large, that we are still here, we do exist, and we have a traditional culture that is really beneficial to the needs of our current world,” Gomes said.
She’s teaching this workshop at TomKat Ranch, a science learning lab that’s on a mission to change our food system using regenerative agriculture.
But it’s not a new concept, it’s deeply traditional to Native Americans.
For TomKat Ranch Founder Kat Taylor, it’s necessary to include and empower Indigenous communities in their work.
“They were keenly aware that they needed to work in concert with nature, so first and foremost, recognizing, respecting the traditional food ways that went before us,” Taylor said.
Including all communities in the food system is an important piece of the ranch’s purpose.
In addition to Gomes, Talor partners with Bryant Terry, a chef whose work is dedicated to food justice.
“Clean air, clean water, clean soil and really pushing back again the corporate hegemony that’s largely caused a lot of the problems that everyday people have to contend with,” Terry said.
In 2021, TomKat Ranch hosted chef Terry’s Black Food Summit, an event bringing people together to eat food inspired by the Black diaspora and holding conversations around health and agriculture.
“Our missions are aligned. I certainly understand the importance of this regenerative agriculture framework and lens through which we should be thinking about addressing things like biodiversity, and repairing our soil, and addressing climate change,” Terry said.
Gomes’ mission is also aligned here at TomKat Ranch, as Indigenous communities have long understood the interconnectedness of humans and the Earth.
With the effects of climate change happening now, she said their ancestral knowledge is valuable in today’s society.
“Our survival depends on it. We can’t do it with the mode of operation that’s been happening,” Gomes said.
And her vision for the future means having a voice and a seat at the table and moving forward together.