American Indian Studies will host the 15th annual Honoring Native Foodways event on November 2, 2023, 11 am - 1 pm in the University Center Annex.
Honoring Native Foodways has four central goals:
- to celebrate Native American Heritage Month in November
- to help UNCP students, faculty, staff, and other attendees honor, understand, and sample foods that are indigenous to the Americas
- to emphasize healthy foods that have been part of traditional Indigenous diets for centuries, and that can still be easily prepared today
- to cultivate campus and community collegiality through that experience we all enjoy: eating!
To Native peoples, food has always been a sacred gift from Creator, a medicine for body, mind, and spirit. Some Indigenous foods from our region include favorites like corn or cornbread, beans, squash, greens, field peas, tomatoes, chocolate, chili, sweet potatoes, turnips, pecans, pine nuts, rice, soups, venison, bison, game, fish, and stews.
The Original Collard Sandwich: Long Swamp, NC
The Collard Sandwich is a food of necessity. The meal could be taken with you into the field, barn, or wherever you were working on the farm. Food that could sustain the farmhand over the course of the day was extremely important to running a farm. Lumbees have a different way of cutting their collards (very thin) and frying them and steaming them in the pot. Collards are not indigenous to the Americas but were probably indigenous to the Eastern Mediterranean or Africa; enslaved African people probably brought the first collards to the Americas and they became a part of the American Southeastern diet. Collards are considered a winter vegetable for Lumbees as they are considered best if eaten after the first winter frost.
How to Make a Collard Sandwich https://gardenandgun.com/recipe/how-to-make-a-collard-sandwich/
Rosie Bowen & Adriana Bowen-Herrera – Lumbee Chicken and Pastry
Malinda Maynor Lowery states that Lumbees began moving to Baltimore MD around 1944 (Lowery, 2018). Lumbees began leaving Robeson and other NC counties primarily to find work. Over the years, the Baltimore Lumbees became their own Lumbee community with a church and Indian Center. Dr. Ashley Minner is a well-known artist and blogger who writes about the history and current Baltimore Lumbees. Here is a link to her website http://ashleyminnerart.com/ . Though many of the Baltimore Lumbees still call Robeson County home, for many of them, Baltimore is the Lumbee community that they know best. There are a lot of websites on the internet that claim to tell the true story of the origin of Chicken and Dumplings. Here is one https://www.southernkitchen.com/articles/eat/the-true-history-of-southern-chicken-and-dumplings-isnt-what-we-thought. Lumbees have their own version of that dish which we call 'chicken and pastry.' Obviously, chickens and white flour are not Indigenous foods, but Indigenous people have always traded and borrowed from their neighbors. Chicken and pastry done Lumbee style should be done with a mature (old) hen (the older hen's fat makes the dish yellow) and the noodles (not dumplings) should be rolled out very thin (as you can see from the video). Now the dish is often made with Annie's Old Fashioned Flat Dumplings and some cooks use a young hen and food coloring to make the dish yellow. Some cooks prefer no food coloring and serve the dish white. Whether chicken and pastry should be yellow or white is a topic of much debate. What is not debated is that Lumbees consider this dish to be part of their culture, therefore Lumbees have strong opinions about the dish and it is a focal point of most family gatherings.
Lowery, M. M. (2018) The Lumbee Indians: An American Struggle, UNC Press.
This is a recipe for making Chicken and Pastry from scratch https://www.tasteofsouthern.com/chicken-pastry-recipe-made-from-scratch/
Wild rice is a delicious and nutritious food that is central to the cultural identity of the Anishinaabe(Ojibwe) peoples of the Great Lakes region. “Manoomin” in the Ojibwe language is not really “rice”; rather, it is “the seed of an aquatic grass,” writes Dakota chef Sean Sherman in his cookbook, The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen (79). Manoomin, which translates to “’good berry’ or ‘good seed’” in English (Sherman 79), is part of the Anishinaabe great migration story, which tells of the people’s long migration from the Atlantic coast northwest to their current homelands in the Midwest around the Great Lakes. In one version of the migration story written by Edward Benton-Benai, prophets foretold of the Ojibwe people traveling to a place where they would find “the food that grows on water,” and manoomin has remained a sacred Anishinaabe food that “has always been generous to those who gather and use her in a respectful way” (Edward Benton-Banai, The Mishomis Book: Voice of the Ojibwe, Indian Country Press, St. Paul, Minnesota, 1979, pp. 94-102).
Wild rice is a highly nutritious seed “with twice the amount of protein as brown rice,” Sean Sherman explains, “and it’s far richer in vitamins than wheat, barley, oats, or rye” (79). It has and remains a traditional ingredient for Native peoples, who use wild rice in soups, stews, baby broths, medicinal teas, and in ceremony. Manoomin is a wild food that is still harvested by hand in canoes by Ojibwe peoples, and this process helps sustain the rice beds by reseeding them (Sherman 79). A bedrock of Anishinaabe culture, spirituality, and homelands ecosystems, wild rice is also a delicious, nutritious addition to anyone’s menu.
To hear Myron Burns, an Anishinaabe elder in northern Wisconsin, discuss the harvest, preparation, and care of wild rice, and what manoomin means to his people, click this link.
To read an article in Saveur magazine about wild rice harvesting on the White Earth Reservation in Minnesota, and to see lovely photos and a few delicious wild rice recipes, click this link.
The following recipe is from Sean Sherman’s cookbook, The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen, referenced above. This recipe is used with the permission of Sean Sherman and Dana Noelle Thompson of The Sioux Chef for UNCP’s 12th Annual Honoring Native Foodways. Click here to watch an Indigenous cooking demo and learn more about healthy, regional Indigenous ingredients from Chef Sherman. For information on Sherman’s Indigenous Food Lab project, which works to restore Indigenous foodways, food access, and health to Native communities, click here.
Wild Rice Pilaf with Wild Mushrooms, Roasted Chestnuts, and Dried Cranberries
© Sean Sherman, The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen (2017)
Wild rice is a flavorful and remarkably satisfying food. The mushrooms add a dark, meaty flavor and texture, while the chestnuts are creamy (and high in protein). This meatless dish will appeal to omnivore and vegetarian alike. Cooked wild rice will keep several weeks in the refrigerator and for at least a year when frozen in a plastic freezer bag.
2 tablespoons sunflower or walnut oil
1 pound assorted mushrooms, cleaned
1 tablespoon chopped sage
½ cup chopped wild onion or shallots
½ cup Corn Stock or vegetable stock
2 cups cooked wild rice
½ cup dried cranberries
1 cup roasted, peeled, chopped chestnuts*
1 tablespoon maple syrup to taste
½ to 1 teaspoon smoked salt to taste
In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat and add the mushrooms, sage, and onion. Cook, stirring, until the mushrooms are nicely browned and the onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the stock, wild rice, and cranberries and cook until the liquid is nearly evaporated. Stir in the roasted chestnuts. Season with maple syrup and smoked salt to taste. Serves 4-6.
*To roast and peel chestnuts, use the sharp point of a small knife to score an X on the flat side of the chestnut and place on a baking sheet. Roast in a 350° oven until the skins begin to peel back. The length of roasting time will depend on the freshness and size of the chestnuts and range from 10 to 25 minutes. Remove, and when cool enough to handle, peel.
Although sorghum is not indigenous to the Americas, it is an important food to many Southeastern Native communities. Like other foods originally brought to the Southeast from Africa by enslaved peoples, sorghum has been embraced by Native and non-Native communities in and beyond the Carolinas.
In this video, titled Soil, Sorghum and Sovereignty, Elder and Coharie Tribal Administrator, Greg Jacobs, and Philip Bell, Great Coharie River Initiative Coordinator, discuss both the practical and spiritual meanings of maintaining a direct connection to the land through the Coharie Community Gardens and the Great Coharie River. The Coharie people take their name from the river, similar to other Southeastern Indigenous peoples, including the Lumbee. Mr. Jacobs explains that Indigenous knowledge has always been used by his people, including when farming small plots of land for subsistence in recent generations. Sorghum has been one significant cultivated plant for the Coharie people of Harnett and Sampson Counties, and in Soil, Sorghum, and Sovereignty you will see the cultivation and processing of sorghum from seed to syrup. Traditional sorghum harvests brought Coharie community members together to work, to socialize, and to produce sweets. This was exciting for the children in particular, who had delicious, special treats to savor during the winter after sorghum processing was finished.
As a plant, sorghum is drought tolerant, grows easily in the proper conditions, and has also come to be used as a cover crop to revitalize soil in dryer regions. Sorghum grain and flour is high in potassium, carbohydrates, low in fat, gluten free, and contains a number of healthy vitamins and minerals including vitamin E, iron, magnesium, and others (Grains & Legumes Nutrition Council). It is also an excellent dietary fiber. As a syrup, one tablespoon of sorghum contains much more calcium, protein, and other important dietary minerals than a tablespoon of white sugar or honey. However, sorghum also contains more calories than sugar or honey, and it is not recommended as a sweetener for diabetics.
To obtain sorghum seeds from the Native-supporting conservation nonprofit Native Seeds/SEARCH, based in Tucson, Arizona, click this link. Native Seeds/SEARCH is dedicated to promoting sustainable agriculture, food security, and agricultural diversity. Browse the Native Seeds/SEARCH online gift shop to find beautiful Native American artwork and indigenous food products specific to the Southwestern United States.
Find a recipe for delicious “Benne-Sorghum Caramels” in this link from the Anson Mills website. Anson Mills, based in Charleston, South Carolina, has a commitment to cultivating heritage and landrace grains original to the Southeast. Anson Mills has an impressive wholesale and retail product line that includes Native Coarse Blue Corn Grits and many other grains, along with recipes for cooking them. Anson Mills promotes sustainable agriculture, food education, and the culturally diverse and delicious culinary heritage of the Carolinas for today’s chefs, home cooks, seed savers, and foodies.
Called maize in many languages, corn was first cultivated in the area of Mexico more than 7,000 years ago, and spread throughout North and South America. Corn became a principle staple in the diets of Natives in what is now the southeastern United States around 900 C.E. Corn revolutionized horticultural practices of southeastern Indians, as it allowed them to accumulate stores of food, and these stores provided greater food security and an increase in populations. Natives across the southeast developed strains of corn best suited for their climates and local environs. Historic Natives planted different species of corn that were harvested from midsummer through late fall and varied in color and flavor. American Indians typically boiled or roasted fresh corn. Dried corn was ground for cornmeal, flour, and girts. Additionally, dried corn was sometimes soaked in water and wood ash and then boiled to make hominy.
Not only did corn provide the main source of sustenance for American Indian communities, it was also an important component in ceremonial life. For example, the Green Corn Ceremony, an annual celebration of renewal that began with the ripening of young corn, was practiced across southeastern Native cultures. The Green Corn Ceremony differed across communities, but generally ceremonies consisted of fasting, ritual cleansing, imbibing emetics, the lighting of new fires, and the forgiveness of offenses from the previous year.
Efforts are underway to rediscover an cultivate historic or heirloom varieties of corn that were once cultivated by southeastern American Indians. Varieties that have been “found” include: Jimmy Red Corn, Sea Island Blue Corn, White Flint Corn, among others.
To see a video of a Green Corn Ceremony produced and narrated by the Muscogee-Creek Nation, click this link.
And follow this link to a recipe for Cherokee Bean Bread.
Two written accounts of the “First Thanksgiving” exist: one by Edward Winslow and one by the Plymouth governor, William Bradford. The accounts are shared below (revised in modern English):
"our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together, after we had gathered the fruits of our labors; they four in one day killed as much fowl, as with a little help beside, served the Company almost a week, at which time amongst other Recreations, we exercised our Arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and amongst the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five Deer, which they brought to the Plantation and bestowed on our Governor, and upon the Captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful, as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want, that we often wish you partakers of our plenty." (Edward Winslow, Mourt’s Relation)
"They began now to gather in the small harvest they had, and to fit up their houses and dwellings against winter, being all well recovered in health and strength and had all things in good plenty. For as some were thus employed in affairs abroad, others were exercised in fishing, about cod and bass and other fish, of which they took good store, of which every family had their portion. All the summer there was no want; and now began to come in store of fowl, as winter approached, of which this place did abound when they came first (but afterward decreased by degrees). And besides waterfowl there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc. Besides, they had about a peck of meal a week to a person, or now since harvest, Indian corn to that proportion. Which made many afterwards write so largely of their plenty here to their friends in England, which were not feigned but true reports." (William Bradford, Of Plimoth Plantation)
These accounts provide insight into the foods that made up the meal, many of which are not part of most “traditional” Thanksgiving tables today (more on that later), and Winslow’s account acknowledges the participation of the Wampanoag Indians in the feast. However, there is much more to this story than these accounts indicate.
It is true that Wampanoag Natives helped the Plymouth colonists that arrived on the Mayflower, but they did not do it, as the myth indicates, out of pure generosity and kindness. The Wampanoags were surrounded by powerful enemies, including the Narragansetts and the Massachusetts. After much deliberation, Ousamequin (referred to as Massasoit above), the leader or sachem of the Wampanoag, decided to form an alliance with the English. Thus, the Wampanoags assisted the Puritans in planting corn and other crops in exchange for the colonists’ assistance against Native enemies. As a result of the alliance, Puritans were able to have a feast of thanks in 1621. Ousamequin and a number of other Wampanoags, as detailed in Winslow’s account, also attended and provided five deer. When Ousamequin offered the deer, however, he asserted his authority in the alliance because he did not give them all to Bradford to distribute. Instead, as Winslow tells us, the sachem “brought to the Plantation and bestowed [the deer] on our Governor, and upon the Captain and others.” This illustrates the early power dynamics in the relationship between the Wampanoags and Puritans. Over time, however, these power dynamics changed as the colonial population increased along with their land hunger and other abuses. Tensions continued to mount throughout the seventeenth century and ultimately resulted in King Philips’ War, which pitted a number of New England Native groups against colonists. The colonial victory in this conflict marked the end of an era of alliance begun in 1621.
While the above details the “first Thanksgiving,” Thanksgiving as we know it did not become a national holiday until 1863, when President Abraham Lincoln made it so. Lincoln was influenced by a letter from Sarah Josepha Hale, the editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book, a women’s magazine published in Philadelphia. Lincoln was not the first recipient of such letters from Hale—the editor wrote to every President beginning with James K. Polk. Hale was concerned about the increased discord between north and south over the question of slavery and hoped that a national holiday would foster greater unity. For approximately twenty years, Presidents ignored her solicitations, but moved by the crisis of the Civil War, Lincoln saw the benefits to Hale’s suggestion. In addition to creating unity, tracing the story of America’s beginning to the Puritans and New England bolstered the importance of the Union to America’s founding. National unity, however, proved more difficult than creating a national holiday. In this way, Thanksgiving is symbolic of the process of reconciliation that took place over the course of decades after the Civil War ended: while, northerners quickly adopted the new holiday, southerners did not begin celebrating Thanksgiving until after Reconstruction ended.
In addition to influencing the national Thanksgiving holiday, Sarah Hale is also responsible for the dishes that make up a “traditional” Thanksgiving meal. Utilizing her position as editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book, Hale published recipes and provided other recommendations to ladies on how to create the perfect Thanksgiving feasts for their families. While Hale’s efforts had very little to do with a genuine appreciation and recognition of historical role and contributions of Native peoples in America, her menu pays homage to Indigenous foods. Potatoes, corn, beans, pumpkins, and the components of succotash are all foods originally cultivated by American Indians. And the star of the show, the turkey, is indigenous to North America.
So, as you tuck in for Thanksgiving this year, be thankful for your family, friends, and good food, but also take a moment to reflect on how this national holiday, established for political reasons, perpetuates dangerous myths about the country’s founding and turns a violent story of colonialism into an innocuous tale about a meal. Check out this video to hear more and understand why many American Indians observe Thanksgiving as a day of mourning.
Click here to read an interview with historian, David Silverman about his book: This Land Is Their Land: The Wampanoag Indians, Plymouth Colony, and the Troubled History of Thanksgiving
Asa A. Revels, PhD
Clinical Trials Research Coordinator
Department of Nursing
University of North Carolina at Pembroke
I am a member of the Lumbee Tribe. I have lived in Robeson County on and off my entire life. As a young child, one of my fondest memories was staying with my grandmother, Mary. My mom often had to be at work before the sun rose every morning and she would always drop us off at my grandmother’s house. Without fail, every single morning my grandmother would cook us breakfast, which always included flour bread with Grandma’s Molasses. To this day, this is one of my favorite foods. Flour bread is very similar to a biscuit, but it’s flattened and traditionally cooked in a cast iron skillet. It is comprised of a few simple ingredients, including flour, lard, and buttermilk. I was never taught the exact measurements for the recipe. My grandmother never used measuring cups; she just knew how much to use. When I was a little older, I moved out to South Dakota where I was fortunate enough to live on the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Reservation for many years. While there, I was able to experience many of the cultural traditions of the Lakota peoples. Of course, one of my favorite traditions centered on food. While having dinner with friends one evening, I was delighted to discover that flour bread was on the menu. I was beyond thrilled. I was quickly informed by the chef that it was called Gabubu bread. The name didn’t matter to me because it tasted just like the flour bread my grandmother would always cook. I was in heaven. The only thing that was missing was Grandma’s Molasses. Instead of molasses, the Lakota serve their Gabubu bread with what they call wojapi. This is essentially a soup made of berries and sugar. Sometimes blueberries were used, but most often it was choke cherries, a wild berry that grows throughout South Dakota and is traditionally foraged by the Lakota. It is called a choke cherry because it has a very bitter taste. Since this time, I have learned there are many variations of this flour-based skillet bread that exists across different tribal groups. For example, the Indigenous peoples of Canada cook what is called Bannock Bread, while many southwestern tribal groups cook Tortillas. This experience is a memory that I will always carry with me. I learned that despite the many cultural differences that exists across American Indian Tribes in the United States, we share many similarities, not just within our traditional cultural practices, but also within our belief systems, and our historical experiences as a people.