Culinary Program Associate
Riva Garcia (they/them/theirs) grew up right here in Minneapolis. Riva is mixed race Ojibwe, Dakota, Mexican, and European and identifies as Two-Spirit. While not enrolled, their grandmother is from White Earth Reservation.
Growing up, Riva attended an alternative school called Second Foundation School. Prior to working at NATIFS, they have worked at Ain Dah Yung Center and the Streetworks Collaborative in service to Native youth experiencing homelessness and/or sexual exploitation. Riva has also worked in several kitchens including Seward Community Cafe and Open Arms of Minnesota.
Here at NATIFS, Riva works in the Indigenous Food Lab kitchen on the culinary team. They like learning about Indigenous foods and making food that will feed the community. Riva says, “Making tortillas from scratch is challenging, but pretty cool.”
In regards to traditional food systems, Riva believes that the return of Indigenous Food Systems is one of the only ways forward towards a sustainable and just future. They say:
“One huge difference between Western and Indigenous foodways is that Western colonial culture sees food as a commodity to be exploited for profit at the expense of the earth and the people. Nature and Ecosystems have become something to conquer and have control over while in Indigenous Foodways we see that we are as much a part of the ecosystem as any plant or animal and that our role is not to conquer nature but to live in balance with it. These animals and plants sustain our life so we should sustain theirs in return.”
Outside of their work at NATIFS, Riva is a small business owner. They are a founding member of the Full Spectrum Outreach Team that is part of Gaia Democratic School, which works through outreach and resource navigation for youth experiencing homelessness with an emphasis on LGBTQ/BIPOC and/or youth who are parents.
While not at work, Riva likes to relax, make art, read, play video games, spend time with friends and with their two dogs Florence and Zuko.