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Written By: KAREN SHADE | Cherokee / Diné

When all the right ingredients come together, good things happen. Caterer Tricia Fields-Alexander only uses the best whole foods, fresh seasonings and her memories to make her business succeed.

The aptly named Spirit Soup, for example, is carefully prepared with quality ground bison or venison, fresh vegetables and deliberate thought of how the elders prepared food -what they used and the people they served at the table. Cooking is about respect and responsibility.

“Whenever I cook, I just think of all of that stuff. I think about the way they were raised. I think about the food they got and didn’t get at boarding schools. I think about where they camped,” she says. “Some people, whenever I tell that, … get all sarcastic, you know, and say something smart or rude, like ‘You think about all that when you’re just making soup? I don’t. I’m just watching TV.’”

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Cherokee Nation's Kawi Café serves up more than good coffee

TAHLEQUAH – The faces behind the counter may change from month to month, but when you buy that specialty blend of Cherokee coffee or any of the treats off the menu, you are contributing to the future success of an entrepreneur in training.

The Cherokee Nation Commerce Department developed the Kawi Café as a program to provide hands on instruction in food service business ownership. Participants in the program may be citizens of any federally recognized tribe, but Cherokee preference is given. It’s a four-month program and participants dedicate 32 hours a week to work in the café and spend eight hours with a coach to develop and write their own business plan – all while earning a stipend.

Café manager Cheryl Williams was there from day one, when the first class was initiated back in April.

“When I started there were boxes. Just large boxes sitting in here,” she said as she gestured around the space that is today filled with neatly arranged seating and fronted by a counter and glass case filled with fresh muffins and cookies.


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