COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ty Smith is a tribal member of the Confederate Tribes of Warm Springs Oregon.
Opportunity brought Smith and his wife Masami to Ohio, where they've operated the Native American Center of Central Ohio (NAICCO) for 11 years.
Just last summer the Smiths added the NAICCO Cuisine food truck to the mix, offering Native American street food, as well as a presence in the community.
“It's viability, it's us raising awareness. It's us allowing our presence to be out here and recognized," said Smith. "Doing it in a class act way, offering very awesome food."
Mariah Simplicio is an Ohio State University graduate student and New Mexico native.
She's part of the NAICOO food trailer crew serving anything from fry bread to buffalo burgers and taco bowls.
Simplicio said, although she's a thousand miles away from New Mexico, her fellow NAICOO members make her feel at home.
“Feels really great to have a sense of community and feel connected to other Native people who aren't exactly where I'm from but share similar values and traditions,” said Simplicio.
For the Smiths, NAICCO will continue to focus on three pillars: social and economic development and cultural preservation and restoration.
The organization has already raised more than $140-thousand to purchase a 20-acre plot of land before developing the land as a community gathering space.
“How do we work the land? How do we get in tune with nature? How do we incorporate our teachings from all the different inter-tribal peoples who are represented within our community, that we're moving in the same direction," said Smith. "And at the end of the day it's about, how do we do this in a way that is with integrity, it's honoring our past. It's really kind of like a stepping forward time here in the now."
NAICCO is hoping to raise $250,000 before the end of 2022.
All proceeds from the food truck will go towards programming and the #LandBackNAICCO campaign.