Register Groups Members List Search Today's Posts Mark Forums Read

Forum Home - Go Back > General > Native Life > Native Issues Back to Native American Roots Back to Native American Roots

Reply LinkBack Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
Old 05-19-2005, 02:58 PM   #1
Honey Connoissuer
Blackbear's Avatar
User InfoThanks / Tagging InfoGifts / Achievements / AwardsvBActivity Stats
Blackbear has a reputation beyond repute
Blackbear has a reputation beyond reputeBlackbear has a reputation beyond reputeBlackbear has a reputation beyond reputeBlackbear has a reputation beyond reputeBlackbear has a reputation beyond reputeBlackbear has a reputation beyond reputeBlackbear has a reputation beyond reputeBlackbear has a reputation beyond reputeBlackbear has a reputation beyond reputeBlackbear has a reputation beyond reputeBlackbear has a reputation beyond reputeBlackbear has a reputation beyond reputeBlackbear has a reputation beyond reputeBlackbear has a reputation beyond reputeBlackbear has a reputation beyond reputeBlackbear has a reputation beyond reputeBlackbear has a reputation beyond reputeBlackbear has a reputation beyond reputeBlackbear has a reputation beyond reputeBlackbear has a reputation beyond reputeBlackbear has a reputation beyond repute
Join Date: Nov 2000
Location: Alaska
Posts: 9,817
Credits: 546.23
Savings: 1.00
Back to Native American Roots

************************************************** ******
This Message Is Reprinted Under The Fair Use
Doctrine of International Copyright Law:
************************************************** ******


Back to Native American Roots

Fry bread out, indigenous foods in as old ways prove more healthful

Barbara Yost
The Arizona Republic
May. 18, 2005 12:00 AM

Elaine Reyes is a modern American woman. She works, is raising four young
daughters and puts food on the table.

But Reyes has one eye on the past.

A member of the Tohono O'odham community in Sells, she and her girls have
just finished the spring cholla bud harvest, plucking fruit from the spiny cholla
plant. They'll eat some, sell some and use some as currency to barter for
goods with other Native American tribes.

"That's a way of life out here that the Tohono O'odham have done for
centuries," Reyes says. "God has blessed us with that."

The traditional Native American diet, mostly plant-based with some wild meat,
is a healthful one, relying on fish, game and a little red meat. It's elk,
rabbit, dove, wild turkey, even prairie dog and porcupine. It's also corn,
squash, tepary beans, mesquite beans and desert plants believed to contain
compounds that help control blood sugar levels and prevent diabetes.

Native Americans who began to stray from that diet decades ago, turning to
processed foods and fast foods like much of the rest of the country, are
recognizing that it's time to return to their roots in the wake of alarming increases
in obesity and diabetes. Non-Indians are embracing the cuisine as well, much
as they have turned to healthful Asian and Mediterranean foods.

"In the non-Native world, it's trendy. In our world, it's survival," says
Terrol Dew Johnson, co-founder and co-director of Tohono O'odham Community
Action, an organization that works toward revitalization and sustainable economic
development on the Tohono O'odham Reservation.

By survival, Johnson means not only physical health but the preservation of a
culture. He believes that food is the way to reconnect young Native Americans
with their heritage.

In the Gila River Indian Community, nutritionist Chaleen Brewer, a Lakota and
Hopi, says the elders are already on board. Brewer is helping the Pima people
embrace better health through cooking classes that stress traditional foods
and the cultivation of home gardens. Now, she says, "It's a matter of getting
young people interested."

Tradition goes trendy

Young people will discover that tradition is trendy. Anton Brunbauer,
executive chef at the tony Westin Kierland Resort & Spa in Phoenix, chose Native
American cuisine for one of his three spa menus, along with Asian and
Mediterranean. It's more than a gimmick, Brunbauer says. It's a healthful way of life.

"A lot of us sit around and think we have to eat tofu for the rest of our
lives," he says. "If we went back to eating what Native Americans ate, we'd all
be healthier."

At the upscale Kai restaurant at the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort & Spa
near Chandler, executive chef Sandy Garcia is giving an ancient cuisine a
21st-century spin.

Garcia, 40, grew up on the Santa Clara Pueblo reservation of New Mexico. Like
many Native Americans, his family chowed down on mac and cheese and spaghetti
in true American fashion. But on Sundays and feast days, it was all
tradition. Garcia's father would roast buffalo tongue. His aunts baked round loaves of
bread, pies and cookies in an outdoor oven called an horno, made from adobe
and lined with mud.

When Garcia opened Kai in summer 2002, he drew on those memories and put
indigenous American foods on his contemporary menu: buffalo, wild turkey, wild
boar, cholla buds, prickly pear and a ciabatta bread much like the loaves his
aunts once baked.

"We have this vastness in our back yard we haven't investigated," Garcia
says. "It creates a new experience."

Tribal distinctions

There are so many back yards to explore - perhaps not all suited for a fine
dining experience. Though common threads wind through all Native American

kitchens (bread is a staple), each tribe has distinctions, many based on geography.

Ron Carlos, 35, grew up on the Salt River Reservation, a member of the
Piipaash (Maricopa) tribe. He remembers the food he ate as a boy:

"All burned," he says with a laugh. Because most Piipaash food is cooked over
a wood fire, "everything has that smoky taste." His sister makes tortillas
over a coal fire in her back yard - all nicely blackened.

His Salt River neighbors ate chili stew, made with potatoes and carrots. They
hunted, and ate jackrabbit stew and roasted cottontails. Cottontails are the
tastier, he says.

A stew with the consistency of cream of wheat was a staple on the Navajo
Reservation when Ruth Roessel was a girl there about 60 years ago. Roessel is now
director of Navajo Studies at Rough Rock Community School near Canyon de

Her family members would gather wild celery, boil it and add cornmeal, salt
and lard. They would harvest wild onions and prepare them the same way. In June
the Navajos would go into the mountains to pick sumac berries, grind them
into flour, add cornmeal and eat it as a soup or stew. These dishes would be
eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Food is holy, Roessel says.

"The plants come up from the earth and we pray to them. We'd pray for good
health and a good life."

Centuries ago, Navajos also became sheep farmers, adding mutton and lamb to
their menu and using sheep oil for cooking over outdoor wood fires. Navajos
reinvented their culture to include sheep, says Devon Mihesuah, a Choctaw and
professor of applied indigenous studies and history at Northern Arizona

While many Anglos think of Indian fry bread as the quintessential Native
American food, fry bread is "absolutely not" traditional, Mihesuah says. "Fried
bread (or more inaccurately 'fry bread') is something unhealthy created by
Natives after they were introduced to wheat."

Fry bread was born out of the imprisonment of Navajos and Apaches by the U.S.
government in 1863. Their rations consisted of wheat flour and lard, and they
made the best of their rations, says Tristan Reader, co-director of Tohono
O'odham Community Action.

Return to roots

Tohono O'odham Community Action began a decade ago to promote a return to the
tribe's culinary heritage.

The tribe operates a farm in Sells that uses an ancient farming method called
"ak chin." This system of planting crops in flood plains takes advantage of
the short growing season of such foods as tepary beans, which resemble pinto
beans, Reader explains. The crops germinate quickly and can be harvested before
the earth dries up again.

The cultivation of cholla buds is another way the Tohono O'odham link past
and present. In ancient times, the picking was done with dried cactus ribs
lashed together with rawhide thongs. Now Reyes and her daughters use metal barbecue
tongs, and it has become a family outing that begins early each morning
during harvest season.

"It's a family thing," Reyes says. "We get the girls together . . . . They
need to respect what God has given us."

Buying ingredients for traditional Native American dishes can be done online
or by telephone. Tohono O'odham Community Action works with Heritage Foods
USA, an American company that sells indigenous products to the public: meats,
fish, poultry, fruits and grains, all derived from small family farms. By next
year, Heritage will have a product list of 500 items.

Next year, the Tohono O'odham organization also will put its name on a Native
American cookbook with the working title Harvesting the Desert: Traditional
Foods of the Tohono O'odham. Edited by Tucson food writer Mary Paganelli, the
book will contain recipes from such Arizona chefs as Janos Wilder (Janos, in
Tucson), Scott Uehlein (Canyon Ranch Health Resort, in Tucson), John Sharpe (La
Posada, in Winslow) and Garcia, from Kai.

Garcia believes it's time to take these tasty foods and discover the next
great cuisine. Nouvelle Native American could take its place alongside French and

"It's a great culture," he says.

Pork Carnitas Stuffed Quail
Indian Squash

Reach the reporter at (602) 444-8597.
Don't worry that it's not good enough for anyone else to hear... just sing, sing a song.
Blackbear is offline   Reply With Quote Share with Facebook
Sponsored Links


Currently Active Users Viewing This Thread: 1 (0 members and 1 guests)
Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is On
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off

Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
Native American Station Programming Smokin' Ace Archives 18 10-05-2002 01:39 AM
Native American Station Programming Smokin' Ace Archives 10 10-02-2002 04:23 PM
Veteran's Day Smokin' Ace Archives 8 11-18-2001 09:46 PM
Native American Actors and Musicians.... Dezimber Archives 7 11-14-2001 02:50 PM
INDIAN, AMERICAN INDIAN OR NATIVE? bluewolf Archives 32 07-03-2000 04:07 PM


Join the online community forum celebrating Native American Culture, Pow Wows, tribes, music, art, and history.

Join Today!

Your Guide to Native American Pow Wows Since 1996

Register For Free

Enjoy the benefits of being a member of!

Join our Native American online community focused on Pow Wow singing, dancing, crafts, Native American music, Native American videos, and more.

Add your Pow Wow to our Calendar

Share your photos and videos

Play games, enter contests, and much more!

New Threads

Pow Wow Calendar Search

Month: Year:

Facebook Profile Images


Featured Articles

Dance Styles