Chef Crystal Wahpepah
Crystal Wahpepah is an enrolled member of the Kickapoo nation of Oklahoma. She was born and raised in Oakland, California, on Ohlone land, surrounded by a multi-tribal, tight-knit, urban Native community. Crystal’s objectives for Wahpepah’s Kitchen are threefold: (1) to acknowledge that we live on stolen land; and (2) how that acknowledgement connects to the reclamation of Native food ways (food sovereignty); as well as (3) to educate communities and organizations on the health benefits of Native food ways using the knowledge passed onto her.
In addition to Crystal’s inimitable experience with food in ancestral and community settings, Crystal has received extensive training from prominent organizations in Oakland and San Francisco on how to run her business. She received the Indigenous Artist Activist Award and has been inducted into the Native American Almanac for being one of the first Native American women to own a catering business. In 2016, she was the first Native American Chef to compete in the Food Network’s show, Chopped. Crystal has also been featured in Oaklandside.
Crystal has catered and done educational talks in many forums that span local community settings, the tech world, non-profit organizations and educational institutions. Crystal has worked with the American Indian film festival, Facebook, Twitter, Google, Salesforce, WeWork, UC Berkeley, Cal Poly, UCSF and the National Indian Health Board. This is a small sample that illustrates the diversity of Crystal’s reach. She has traveled all over the country attending food summits and building networks with other Native American and Indigenous farmers, land stewards and chefs.
Crystal values deeply the reciprocal practices of mindfully choosing Indigenous food sources with which she creates her cuisine. Her ingredients come from people and lands to which she is connected and has a relationship. She views her business as a portal to food sovereignty and a reclamation of ancestral knowledge in Native and Indigenous communities. Crystal has plans for herself and her community that give voice and claim ground for an ethical and sustainable way to nourish ourselves on this planet. Watch the horizon closely for what’s next for Wahpepah’s Kitchen.
~ Chef Crystal Wahpepah
The Kickapoo (Kickapoo: Kiikaapoa or Kiikaapoi) are an Algonquian-speaking Native American tribe. According to the Anishinaabeg, the name "Kickapoo" (Giiwigaabaw in the Anishinaabe language and its Kickapoo cognate Kiwikapawa) means "Stands here and there".
It may have referred to the tribe's migratory patterns. The name can also mean "wanderer". This interpretation is contested and generally believed to be a folk etymology.
Today there are three federally recognized Kickapoo tribes in the United States: Kickapoo Tribe of Indians of the Kickapoo Reservation in Kansas, the Kickapoo Tribe of Oklahoma, and the Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas.
The former two groups are politically associated with the Texas band. Others live in small groups throughout the western United States. Around 3,000 people claim to be tribal members. There is also a small community in Douglas, Arizona. Another band resides in area of Múzquiz, in the Mexican state of Coahuila.