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Fort Dearborn Day and Indigenous Cuisines of the Americas

Fort Dearborn Day and Indigenous Cuisines of the Americas
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  • Fort Dearborn Day and Indigenous Cuisines of the Americas

    Post #1 - August 15th, 2012, 9:05 am
    Post #1 - August 15th, 2012, 9:05 am Post #1 - August 15th, 2012, 9:05 am
    Fort Dearborn Day and Indigenous Cuisines of the Americas

    Today, August 15, is Fort Dearborn Day, the 200th anniversary of the fight that took place in what is now the Southside of Chicago (18th and Prairie). Residents of the fort, which used to be at Michigan and Wacker, evacuated and were a few miles out when most of them were killed by Potawatomie. Some call it a "massacre," and others dispute the term. No doubt, neither side had a problem with killing civilians.

    And on the subject of terminology, I've come to the conclusion that the very word "indigenous" is disingenuous. If by "indigenous" we mean "belonging to a place," then who's to say who belongs where?

    Our honored "native" American brothers and sisters did not spring from the soil of North America: they journeyed across the Bering Straits from elsewhere.

    The only truly indigenous people are probably in Africa, from which we all, to the best of my knowledge, came. So we're all, basically, African-Americans. But that's another issue. What I'm concerned about is food.

    Last week I was at a Dave Mason* concert in Seattle. It was part of the Festival on the River, held every year by the Stillaguamash. In the picture, check out the SS insignias on the backwoods biker half-wits sitting in front of me; a different sort of tribe, I guess, and one with a much less sympathetic history.

    Image

    The food served at this celebration were bison and fry bread, both generally accepted as Native American cuisine.

    I had the bison burger, and it was terrible. I like bison; this was just a sad-ass preparation, basically a cheese burger with un-melted cheese, over-cooked meat, just a stupid sandwich. I will seek better versions, soon.

    Image

    The fry bread I had, however, was quite satisfying: I went "deluxe" with an Indian taco, which is fry bread topped with some spicy condiments, very tasty.

    Image

    But here's what's strikes me as odd about this beloved food.

    This dish, fry bread, which is now so completely identified with the food of upper North America's native peoples, could not have been eaten before Euro-Americans put them on reservations and gave them distributions of wheat flour and oil, neither of which are traditional or "indigenous" foodstuffs. As my Cherokee sister-in-law mentioned, "We didn't do wheat and oil."

    I'm eager to try some food actually eaten by pre-contact people in upper North America, but even at pow-wows it's pretty much bison and fry bread, the latter of which is a very late development.

    Still, pretty tasty. I like fry bread.

    History is twisted.


    *You know Mason's tunes: "There ain't no good guys, there ain't no bad guys," etc.
    "Don't you ever underestimate the power of a female." Bootsy Collins
  • Post #2 - August 15th, 2012, 9:53 am
    Post #2 - August 15th, 2012, 9:53 am Post #2 - August 15th, 2012, 9:53 am
    "Indian" Fry Bread is common in Santa Fe, especially at Fiesta in September, my first introduction in 1973. I don't recall bison at Fiesta, but now that I live in Colorado bison is picking up tempo all the time.
  • Post #3 - August 15th, 2012, 10:28 am
    Post #3 - August 15th, 2012, 10:28 am Post #3 - August 15th, 2012, 10:28 am
    David, thanks for drawing attention to the bicentennial of the Battle of Fort Dearborn. Patrick Reardon has a nice, balanced essay in the Tribune today about that event.

    I have a lot to say about the issues of indigenous cuisine that you raise in your post and will try to write a longer reply later.

    miigwech,
    Amata

    p.s. Didn't you have fry bread/Indian tacos with us at the Chicago powwow some years back?
  • Post #4 - August 15th, 2012, 10:38 am
    Post #4 - August 15th, 2012, 10:38 am Post #4 - August 15th, 2012, 10:38 am
    Amata wrote:p.s. Didn't you have fry bread/Indian tacos with us at the Chicago powwow some years back?


    What a memory you have! Yes, I ran into you, Tony and the lad just as I was getting ready to chomp into an Indian Taco with bison. It was pretty good, as I recall.

    I was guessing you'd jump in here, and I'm glad you did. I've been reading a lot of histories around Little Big Horn, and I have to say it's been an effort to get a handle on linguistic groups as distinct from tribal groups (which frequently went by multiple names) as distinct from smaller socieites within the larger groups -- and then all the shifting alliances among groups. I'm going to Montana tomorrow and plan to spend some time at the Crow agency -- I'm guessing they will have a different perspective on the battle, as some of their ancestors fought (and died) with Custer against Sioux (or should one say Lakota? Are the Lakota/Dakota/Nakota okay with being called Sioux?).
    "Don't you ever underestimate the power of a female." Bootsy Collins
  • Post #5 - August 15th, 2012, 11:01 am
    Post #5 - August 15th, 2012, 11:01 am Post #5 - August 15th, 2012, 11:01 am
    David Hammond wrote:... Are the Lakota/Dakota/Nakota okay with being called Sioux?).


    I'd guess that most folks wouldn't mind, but Lakota, etc. is their own name for themselves. 'Sioux' is what was written down by a French speaker -- it's actually just the final syllable of a polysyllabic Ojibwa word for enemy (na:towe:ssiw). The person who recorded it obviously only caught the tail end of what was said.

    Have fun in Montana!
  • Post #6 - August 15th, 2012, 11:12 am
    Post #6 - August 15th, 2012, 11:12 am Post #6 - August 15th, 2012, 11:12 am
    Ok, off the top of my head:
    Cedar planked salmon
    Pemmican
    Maple Syrup
    Wild Rice
    Lots of roasted or stewed meats... but I don't know what seasonings would have commonly been used.

    Pecans, Hickory nuts, Corn, potatoes, squash, chiles, tomatoes, blueberries, cranberries are all native to the areas now the US -- the potatoes and tomatoes perhaps less than the other items, as they were back-imported later, but had some use in the southwest. If you count southern Cal, Avocados fit in too.
    What is patriotism, but the love of good things we ate in our childhood?
    -- Lin Yutang
  • Post #7 - August 15th, 2012, 1:00 pm
    Post #7 - August 15th, 2012, 1:00 pm Post #7 - August 15th, 2012, 1:00 pm
    Ah Fry Bread, that great cosmic joke...basically a food born of the reservation period that is now sold back to White guys as a treat. You're right, it didn't exist pre-contact. It's a food created from subsistence supplies given to Native Americans who were driven onto reservations in the mid-late 19th century. It's just flour, water and fat with a pinch of salt.

    In addition to foods already listed, don't forget chili peppers, squash, potatoes and corn (teosinte) when you list foods native to the Americas. Cucurbitaceae (squash, melons, etc) show up in archaeological sites all over the Americas. They were widely cultivated. Turkeys were domesticated early in the Americas and traded from Mexico to Michigan. (Copper went the reverse route.)

    One great place to learn about some Native cultures and taste native foods (blue corn Piki bread!!) is the Museum of Northern Arizona. They host several cultural festivals each year focusing on different Southwestern groups. (disclaimer...I used to work there
    "The only thing I have to eat is Yoo-hoo and Cocoa puffs so if you want anything else, you have to bring it with you."
  • Post #8 - August 15th, 2012, 1:29 pm
    Post #8 - August 15th, 2012, 1:29 pm Post #8 - August 15th, 2012, 1:29 pm
    Yes, frybread obviously was not known pre-contact. But so what? It is now felt to be "Indian" by native communities, so it is as real a part of current native foodways as Chicken Vesuvio is felt to be part of Chicago's. :twisted:

    By the way, I expect that frybread -- and bannock in Canada -- dates not to the reservation handout era but earlier, in the days of the fur trade and early explorers. Both are basically items from campfire cookery.
  • Post #9 - August 15th, 2012, 1:37 pm
    Post #9 - August 15th, 2012, 1:37 pm Post #9 - August 15th, 2012, 1:37 pm
    I only wish that were true. Fry bread is a reservation-era food. That it now has a complex connection with many groups and is symbolic of powwows (another reservation-era development) is an...interesting... modern development
    "The only thing I have to eat is Yoo-hoo and Cocoa puffs so if you want anything else, you have to bring it with you."
  • Post #10 - August 15th, 2012, 1:59 pm
    Post #10 - August 15th, 2012, 1:59 pm Post #10 - August 15th, 2012, 1:59 pm
    Diannie wrote: Fry bread is a reservation-era food.

    Out of curiosity, what is the evidence for dating it so precisely?
  • Post #11 - August 15th, 2012, 3:16 pm
    Post #11 - August 15th, 2012, 3:16 pm Post #11 - August 15th, 2012, 3:16 pm
    I am, ahem, a cultural anthropologist who's MA focused on prehistoric peoples of the Southwest and I have a particular interest in foodways. Hence my interest in this board. I've also done curatorial work in three museums that focus on Native North American cultures.

    But you might like to read this article from Smithsonian Magazine which restates a position not unfamiliar to Anthropologists who study Native North America.

    Also if you search this board under Fry bread, you'll find a posting I made years ago stating roughly the same thing. (granted I know this part of the explanation is post hoc, ergo propter hoc but at least I'm consistent)
    "The only thing I have to eat is Yoo-hoo and Cocoa puffs so if you want anything else, you have to bring it with you."
  • Post #12 - August 15th, 2012, 3:43 pm
    Post #12 - August 15th, 2012, 3:43 pm Post #12 - August 15th, 2012, 3:43 pm
    Diannie, thanks for the Smithsonian link. If you have scholarly references on the topic as well, I'd be very interested.

    I'll PM you about other stuff.
  • Post #13 - August 15th, 2012, 3:48 pm
    Post #13 - August 15th, 2012, 3:48 pm Post #13 - August 15th, 2012, 3:48 pm
    Amata wrote:If you have scholarly references on the topic as well, I'd be very interested.


    Me, too.
    "Don't you ever underestimate the power of a female." Bootsy Collins
  • Post #14 - August 15th, 2012, 4:29 pm
    Post #14 - August 15th, 2012, 4:29 pm Post #14 - August 15th, 2012, 4:29 pm
    My favorite native-American dish is sagamite. It used to be on the menu at Blind Faith Cafe. I don't know whether they still have it, but you'll find their recipe at the link.
  • Post #15 - September 9th, 2012, 8:34 pm
    Post #15 - September 9th, 2012, 8:34 pm Post #15 - September 9th, 2012, 8:34 pm
    In addition to foods already listed, don't forget chili peppers, squash, potatoes and corn (teosinte) when you list foods native to the Americas. Cucurbitaceae (squash, melons, etc) show up in archaeological sites all over the Americas. They were widely cultivated. Turkeys were domesticated early in the Americas and traded from Mexico to Michigan. (Copper went the reverse route.)


    . . . and Chocolate!!!
    "The fork with two prongs is in use in northern Europe. In England, they’re armed with a steel trident, a fork with three prongs. In France we have a fork with four prongs; it’s the height of civilization." Eugene Briffault (1846)
  • Post #16 - September 10th, 2012, 1:20 am
    Post #16 - September 10th, 2012, 1:20 am Post #16 - September 10th, 2012, 1:20 am
    South of the Rio Grande there are some incredible native foods; north of the Rio Grande, it gets more difficult.
    "Don't you ever underestimate the power of a female." Bootsy Collins
  • Post #17 - September 12th, 2012, 10:17 am
    Post #17 - September 12th, 2012, 10:17 am Post #17 - September 12th, 2012, 10:17 am
    I know you're looking for more scholarly publications but without access to something like JSTOR it's hard to link to them. However, the Illinois State Museum website is a good resource for learning about the prehistory of our area. It includes a lot of references to food and foodways. I think you'll be surprised by the variety of both wild and cultivated foods available to people in pre-contact times.

    This link should get you started Food in Archaic times.

    More foods became available peoples of the more recent Woodland cultures

    By the time of Cahokia, farming kicks in and diets radically change.

    So surf around here if you're interested in foodways of this time period.
    "The only thing I have to eat is Yoo-hoo and Cocoa puffs so if you want anything else, you have to bring it with you."
  • Post #18 - September 12th, 2012, 11:18 am
    Post #18 - September 12th, 2012, 11:18 am Post #18 - September 12th, 2012, 11:18 am
    Thanks, Diannie, very kind to post these links.
    "Don't you ever underestimate the power of a female." Bootsy Collins
  • Post #19 - April 7th, 2021, 5:41 am
    Post #19 - April 7th, 2021, 5:41 am Post #19 - April 7th, 2021, 5:41 am
    America's Indigenous cuisine has been written out of history, but one woman is retelling its story to a new consciousness of people who want to know where food really comes from.

    http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/2021040 ... or=ES-213-[BBC%20News%20Newsletter]-2021April7-[travel]
    Never order barbecue in a place that also serves quiche - Lewis Grizzard

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