Tracker Pixel for Entry

HPR speaks with the Sioux Chef

by HPR Contributor | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | All About Food | April 24th, 2019

SXC team at Beard House - photograph provided by Dana Thompson

By Ben Myhre
benmyhre35@gmail.com

When Colonial Americans forced Indigenous Americans onto reservations, many Native American food traditions were lost. Dana Thompson and Sean Sherman, of Minnesota-based The Sioux Chef, seek to revitalize Native American Cuisine and that heritage. They have a goal of empowering Native communities all over North America by reconnecting people to their traditional foods.

The Sioux Chef is a Twin Cities-based catering company who travel all over the world educating communities about indigenous foods and ingredients. Sherman’s cookbook The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen won the 2018 James Beard Foundation Food Book award for “Best American” cookbook.

Owners Sean Sherman and Dana Thompson - photograph by Dana Thompson

Sherman and Thompson also created the nonprofit North American Traditional Indigenous Food Systems (NATIFS.org), whose mission is education, creating a culinary training center that is a working restaurant, and creating indigenous food satellites across the nation that help communities use their own local ingredients.

Thompson, a descendant of the Wahpeton-Sisseton and Mdewakanton Dakota tribes, says this reconnection to Native foodways is important because it can bring healing to Native American communities.

Mixed berry Wojapi - photograph by Dana Thompson

First, it brings literal medicinal healing, Thompson says. “We start by eliminating the colonial ingredients… wheat flour, dairy, and refined sugar to start…we go so far as to remove beef, pork, or chicken just to prove a point that it’s possible.” She goes on to say that doing this results in many Native ingredients that would “...eliminate a lot of the foodborne illnesses that have been plaguing Native communities since the onset of the commodity food programs.” The removal and moderation of these ingredients can help combat type II diabetes, hypertension, cancer, and obesity.

The food programs began when the American government took native tribes away from their traditional hunting and foraging grounds. This created a dependency that still can be seen today in food programs. Thompson believes that the food program was never about nutrition, but more a farm supplement program.

Chokecherries - photograph by Dana Thompson

Also, beyond literal physical healing, Thompson says that finding these traditional foods can be healing for ancestral trauma. It should not surprise any American (Native or otherwise), that there was some pretty horrific stuff going on as Colonial Americans moved into Native lands. “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee,” by Dee Brown, is a good place to start if you are interested in learning about some of the atrocities that took place.

Bounties were placed on the heads of women and children. Substandard food and farming land were provided to many people. It was not a nice or pretty time in the history of America. Genocide was the most egregious, but part of it was the systemic strategy to intentionally remove Native culture from the landscape. We did not want Indigenous people to retain their culture, but to force a new way of life on a people who did not want that.

Elderberries - photograph by Dana Thompson

Removing the Native American people’s traditional food and common ingredients was a means of oppression and control. Thompson says, “We have found documentation at the Smithsonian and other institutions that says that ‘If you can control the food you can control the people’ and that’s pretty dark stuff.” Regaining control of those foods and the culture is one way to help heal the ancestral trauma.

“Sean had a few of his Lakota recipes handed down to him by his mother and grandmother, but a lot of the recipes that have been handed to him seemed like they came out of a Lutheran cookbook. He knew there needed to be more research.

Hard harvested wild rice - photograph by Dana Thompson

The fact is, that a lot of these recipes were systematically removed by the government and that’s part of that mass oppression that happened.” Thompson went on to say that “this isn’t going to undo all of the terrible things that happened in tribal communities over the past several hundred years. What we are trying to do is set up a foundation so that other people can take the ball and run with it…. We feel like what we are doing is going to be multiple generations of work.”

Finally, for both native and non-native citizens, learning about these ingredients provides a way to get excited about food. These are different ingredients that often can be found in our backyards. Since NATIFS has a nationwide goal of education, this can mean something much different for a community in Alaska or California than for those of us in the Dakotas.

Calendula - photograph by Dana Thompson

Thompson tells me that one does not have to look far to find some of these foods. In our area, we can go for a hike and find spruce tips, fiddleheads, and wild ramp leaves that all can be used for nutrition and flavor. There are maple and birch trees all over and the syrup as a sweetener that has some health benefits. We are including a recipe from The Sioux Chef for Mixed Berry Wojapi, which is a traditional native dish and can be used as a dessert topping, a topping for cornbread, even as a sauce for wild game, or like a pudding. If you are daring, replace or add in some of our local chokecherries or buffalo berries to the recipe.

Food is such a crazy thing, isn’t it? It connects people, communities, and us with our heritage. Traditional recipes, no matter the background, are a celebration of an ancestral wisdom that can bring people together. Losing these traditions and the ancestral wisdom that enable these connections is a disservice to us all. The Sioux Chef and NATIFS work to save these connections for native communities that are in danger of being lost.

You can find The Sioux Chef and NATIFS.org online. There may be an event coming up in Bismarck in September, but hasn’t been solidified. There is a for-profit restaurant they are working on in coordination with the Parks Board that tentatively is opening in 2020 called Owamni by The Sioux Chef and will likely be right in downtown Minneapolis on the Mississippi River. They are also working on a non-profit restaurant and culinary training center through NATIFS.

Indigenous blue corn - photograph by Dana Thompson

I asked if they can cater events in our area and she indicated that time is the biggest hurdle, but they have a team of people who are available for catering events throughout the region.

RECIPE

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 pinch mineral salt
  • 1 cup blackberries
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 1 cup raspberries
  • 1 cup strawberries, tops removed
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup

Bring the water to a simmer in a medium saucepan; add the mineral salt and the berries. Let simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, continuing to stir as the berries break down. Cook to your desired consistency. Remove from the heat and stir in the maple syrup.

[Editor’s note: Ben is the mind and the tastebuds behind https://ramshacklepantry.com/]

Recently in:

FARGO - Rain or shine, the Fargo Antiques ROADSHOW is scheduled to last all day on June 1 at Bonanzaville. The show is part of a five-city tour, and the venues are chosen for their historic significance. As all tickets are…

Shodan has been called the “scariest search engine on the internet.” It has the ability to expose and allow access to many devices including servers, computers, phones, fridges, traffic lights, security cameras and even control…

Wednesday, May 29, 5-8 p.m.Plains Art Museum, 704 1st Ave N, FargoThis event is an open house style maker’s session. Participants will receive an 11 inch canoe model and access to a supply buffet. Artist Hosts will be available…

Editorial

Congrats grads!

by Sabrina Hornung

It’s that time of year again. Recent grads are unleashed and set out to make their mark on the world. It’s funny how something can be simultaneously liberating and terrifying. If we could spread any pearls of wisdom to these…

Guns, Lockdowns, and Panic ButtonsThe girl is now a seventh grader at Sandy Hook Elementary. In 2012 she was the only survivor of her first grade class of 21 in a mass school shooting. Among the first words by this six-year-old to…

To say that this year’s Bartenders Battle was the best display of talent in the six years since its creation would be an understatement and a disservice to not only the bartenders who made it into the competition, but also the…

Quiche is a great addition to any brunch. It’s almost like a wardrobe staple that you can dress up or dress down. I made one for my 90-year-old grandma for mother’s day last weekend. She’s a good critic when I try out a new…

There is a golden oldie by Peter Allen called “Everything Old is New Again”, and that is certainly true about vinyl records. It is no secret that vinyl records are no longer just your parents’ musical format. Their…

Impossibly beautiful lead performers underline the YA fantasy aspects of Ry Russo-Young’s translation of “The Sun Is Also a Star,” based on Nicola Yoon’s bestseller. Russo-Young’s sharp handling of the 2017 adaptation of…

The Plains Art Museum is ready to take you back in time – or forward, if you prefer – for their 23rd annual Spring Gala. The theme for this year’s event, which takes place on Friday, May 3, is Time Machine.The Spring Gala is…

Countless examples can be found throughout the history of great art that was only recognized as such after the life of the artist that created it. Such is true of Georges Bizet’s opera "Carmen."  While its reception during his…

Stand-up comedy is traditionally a one-way exchange. Outside of the odd question addressed to a random audience member, the limit of the spectators’ contribution to the conversation is their laughter at the comedy stylings being…

By Gabrielle Herschgabbyhersch@gmail.comThink & Drink is coming to Fargo! Organized by Humanities North Dakota, Think & Drink is a happy hour series that hosts a facilitated public conversation about big issues and ideas. Lead by a…

I’m a big man, I’m tall and powerful, but this also causes some issues in the body department. I suffer from acute scoliosis in my lower back, and pain radiates from this area on a daily basis. I have only ever had one massage…

by Devin Joubertdevinlillianjoubert@gmail.comIt’s that beautiful time of the year that’s filled with seasonal decorations, sparkly lights, warm family gatherings, and delicious feasts. I love everything about this time of the…

Last Word

Meritocracy is a lie

by HPR Contributor

By Gary Olsonolsong@moravian.eduIn 2017, Sociology Professor Rachel Sherman wrote “Uneasy Street: The Anxiety of Affluence,” a book which drew from 50 in-depth interviews with uber-wealthy New Yorkers in order to obtain a…