Native Food – Food that Changed the World
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Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in these stories are solely those of the authors.
Food originally cultivated, harvested and shared by Native Americans with the rest of the world has changed modern cuisine. The impact of these contributions is especially visible at the Thanksgiving tables of Americans every year. Dishes such as roast turkey, candied yam, and mashed potatoes are the modern-day equivalent of crops cultivated for human consumption centuries ago by Indigenous people.
Today, Native chefs and home cooks are working to bring back the traditional foods and dishes prepared by their ancestors, shining light on a legacy of food that fortifies the spirit and sustains our planet.
You can find recipes from these chefs and more about their food traditions by visiting pbs.org/nativefood.
Cooking is such a part of my life in every way. It's the way that you can communicate a feeling to people, it's a good thing to share with someone. Cooking traditional foods, specifically for me, is a tie to my culture that feels more real than even dancing or singing. The way that I really feel connected to my culture is by making the food that my ancestors have made and sharing it with other people.
Tewa, Diné and Nuche
The American Indian Religious Freedom Act was enacted August 11, 1978, two-and-a-half years after I was born. That means the ceremonies guiding our relationship with our food have only been legal for 40 years. The modern landscape of foods, or pseudo foods to be more direct, is one rarely deciphered, unfortunately by design... It is here that I hold myself accountable to my people. Just as my grandparents nourished, tended, sang to, and prayed over the seeds they planted with me, I now find myself planting alongside our elders and children as we find our way through the imposed darkness of warfare against our Indigenous food systems and tending the sacred commitments we have to our homelands and lineages.
I am Anishinaabe from Red Lake, MN. I study and teach about wild foods in a variety of ways, writer, and make birch bark and beaded jewelry. I have also worked for the Red Lake Traditional Foods Program, as well as The Sioux Chef catering company, and I am currently combining my love of food, wilderness, and culture in a middle grade novel that has themes of food sovereignty, animal rights, and is set in the forests and waterways I grew up with.