Melissa K. Nelson
Melissa K. Nelson

Melissa K. Nelson

Title: Contributing Writer

Location: San Francisco, California
Phoenix, Arizona

Education: Ph.D. in Ecology, University of California, Davis
B.A. in Ecology, University of California, Santa Cruz

Expertise: Indigenous science, traditional ecological knowledge, Indigenous food systems, Indigenous activism, biocultural heritage restoration
- Professor of Indigenous Sustainability at Arizona State University
- Most recent publication: "From Soil to Sky: Mending the Circle of our Native Food Systems"
- Host of the Native Seed Pod podcast


Melissa K. Nelson is a Native ecologist and Indigenous scholar-activist. She is a professor of Indigenous Sustainability at Arizona State University and chair of the Cultural Conservancy, a Native-led Indigenous rights organization, which she directed for more than two decades. Her work is dedicated to Indigenous rights and cultural revitalization, protecting biocultural heritage and Indigenous food systems, restoring land stewardship and traditional ecological knowledge, and renewing community health and cultural arts. Melissa is Anishinaabe, Métis and Norwegian (an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Chippewa Tribe).

Melissa writes, speaks, conducts research and leads programs on native foodways, Indigenous food systems and Indigenous health. For over two decades she has been involved in the Native American food movement in North America and in the Indigenous food sovereignty movement internationally. She publishes essays in academic and popular journals and books, and documents Native food issues through audio and video recordings. She is also the co-founder, writer and host of the Native Seed Pod podcast.
The Cultural Conservancy supports Native Americans in eating well, indigenous style, by focusing on the protection and revitalization of Indigenous cultures and ancestral lands.
Salmon Nation refers to the land stretching along the Pacific coast from Alaska to Northern California. Coho salmon once populated the small creeks and large rivers that feed San Francisco Bay and braided a salmon tapestry along the riverine basins of the North Coast Mountains. Salmon is a precious fish relative, an integral part of Indigenous communities in this region, and its protection is an act of resistance. Melissa K. Nelson, chair of The Cultural Conservancy, a nonprofit based in California's Bay Area, shared this recipe featuring wild salmon paired with another food native to North America—chokecherries, a shrub belonging to the rose family. The astringent cherries are commonly made into jellies, preserves and syrups; the latter is used to glaze this salmon. This recipe is part of our spotlight, There's a Movement to Revitalize Indigenous Cuisines and Knowledge—Here's Why That Matters.