Renata Birkenbuel Joins Civil Eats as Indigenous Foodways Reporting Fellow | Civil Eats
Indigenous Foodways Fellow Renata Birkenbuel at Belt Creek in Monarch, Montana.

Renata Birkenbuel Joins Civil Eats as Indigenous Foodways Reporting Fellow

During the 2022–23 fellowship, Birkenbuel will report in-depth on issues of Indigenous food sovereignty, food security, cultural traditions, and more. 

Civil Eats is pleased to introduce our 2022-2023 Indigenous Foodways Fellow, seasoned journalist Renata Birkenbuel, a member of the Montana Little Shell Chippewa tribe. This is the second year of the fellowship, designed to support a journalist as they deepen their reporting skills and voice, receive mentoring in food systems reporting, and publish a strong portfolio of work. This year’s fellowship is underwritten by a generous grant from the First Nations Development Institute. Birkenbuel follows Andi Murphy in this role.

Birkenbuel began her newspaper career as a daily sports writer, but eventually evolved into an education and business reporter who also covered food co-ops, food banks, and food security—sometimes intertwined with other social issues, as well as unions, health care, the arts, and pay equity.

Based in Missoula, she mentors young writers as a college adjunct writing instructor. She also spent time working as an editor at Prairie Populist, an online-only advocacy conservation publication covering on-the-ground agriculture and sustainability stories in Montana missed by the mainstream press.

Birkenbuel specializes in features, thrives on telling human-interest stories, and making connections for readers.

She has worked as a contract reporter for Newsweek and Missoula Current. From 2013 to 2017, she served as an education, business, and features reporter for The Montana Standard in Butte, Montana. In the 14 years preceding that, Birkenbuel was a contributing writer for The Seattle Times and published articles in about 40 other Northwest publications.

She looks forward to immersing herself in the food systems work of Civil Eats. “I’m anxious to dive head-long into food sovereignty issues and help put a human face on food security and Indigenous traditions,” she says. Her mother and her mother’s siblings did not live long enough to see the Montana Little Shell Chippewa tribe finally secure federally recognized status in 2019, but Birkenbuel is proud to be an enrolled member. “My mother was caught between two worlds, so as a storyteller, I am ready to share my work and perspective on Indigenous foodways as I collaborate with Civil Eats staff,” she says.

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A Montana native, Birkenbuel spends her free time outdoors—dog-walking, floating down rivers, lap swimming, recreational golfing, and soaking up nature in Big Sky Country. A literature lover and a punster, she appreciates classic physical comedy, storytelling around the campfire, and a good, hearty laugh.

“I am grateful to Civil Eats for giving me an opportunity to flex my wings and write about Indigenous foodways in all its forms: food sovereignty, food security, and innovative cultural programs that reawaken age-old traditions in a new light for new and dedicated readers,” she says. “Civil Eats provides a stellar outlet for readers improving their lives by taking local control of their food sources and quality. I’m honored to write stories that highlight the powerful wave of back-to-the-earth food efforts and the leaders of all ages paving the way for future generations.”

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