Sean Sherman’s 10 Essential Native American Recipes

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I often think of my great grandfather, who was born in the late 1850s and grew up like any other Lakota boy, riding bareback horses to hunt with a bow and arrow. At 18, he witness the Lakota and Cheyenne victory over the United States government at the Battle of Little Bighorn; he also encountered the aftermath of the Wounded Knee massacre, or hundreds of lakota men, women and children were brutally massacred.

Later, her children were placed in boarding schools, banned from speaking their mother tongue, forced to learn English and become Christians. Through the In the twentieth century, these hard efforts at assimilation began to erase thousands of generations of Indigenous traditions, wisdom and ceremonies.

As soon as I was 13 and legally entitled to work, I got my first job, at a steakhouse in Spearfish, SD. I knew a little about cooking: as the oldest child from a very busy working mother, I was often the one putting dinner on the table for my sister and me. I swept the floors, hauled the tables, washed the dishes, prepared the food, and eventually became a line cook. In college, I found work with the United States Forest servicee as a land surveyor, identifying plants and trees in the northern Black Hills and learning their medicinal and culinary properties.

During my career as a professional chef, opening restaurants and cafes in Minneapolis, I have gained experience in Italian, Spanish and European cuisine. But it wasn’t until I spent time in Mexico, observing how closely indigenous peoples live with their culinary traditions, that I realized I had very little idea what my own was eating. ancestors before colonization.

So I started to research the history of our country before the Europeans arrived. How did my native ancestors cultivate, hunt, fish, and then conserve and store their food? Who did they trade with and where did they get their salts, fats and sugars? I met elders in the community and made connections with Indigenous leaders, historians and scholars, such as ethnobotanist Nancy J. Turner and Lakota author Joseph Marshall III, while learning about rare historical accounts As “Buffalo Bird Woman’s Garden” memories of a 19th century Hidatsa farmer who lived in what is now North Dakota.


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