Breaking bread together inspires us to find our commonalities while creating memories of sharing meals with our friends and family, laughing and enjoying each other’s company. This month, we’re sharing recipes from five of our scholarship recipients in honor of Native American Heritage Month.
One recipe holds traditional and spiritual significance to one of our students and her tribe. A few are based on indigenous foods from our student’s homelands. And some are modern and practical takes on indigenous ingredients that are modified to fit a student’s busy lifestyle.
I have always known wasna, a traditional Lakota dish, to be spirit food and we commonly use it in traditional ceremonies. When I was younger, I remember someone leaving out a plate of wasna during a ceremony and I thought they had forgotten a plate of food, so I grabbed it and brought it to my mother. She explained that it was spirit food—a form of offering to the spirits during the ceremony, representing a thank you for all we have received and a prayer for our future.
While it is not a family recipe, it is widely used amongst my people. I hope you enjoy it.
A lot of my life revolves around health and wellness and figuring out where my identity fits into that. The thought of my own health and the future of my children’s wellbeing prompted me to look more closely into my family’s nutrition and welfare. I knew that I wanted to provide a wholesome life for my family revolving around wellness—whether it be physical health, mental health, or healing of intergenerational trauma. I thought, “What better way than to learn from my ancestors?”
During the last two years, I have become a lot more engaged in my culture by trying to understand what my ancestors ate and how they connected with everything they hunted and foraged. As I began looking into my history, I started to better understand the impact colonization had on American Indian people. When you think of colonization, you might often think of relocation, stolen identities, and boarding schools, but we often we forget how tied our ancestors were to the land and food.
I am a firm believer that how we think and feel daily is manifested by what we put into our bodies. Additionally, I wanted to start a more traditional diet and set an example for my son.
My recipe below is a very simple one. Given that I am a full-time student, I work, and am raising a toddler, meal prepping is a must!
Roast the sweet potatoes and veggies with Mrs. Dash no-salt seasoning. While vegetables are roasting, fry the steak on a skillet and season with salt and pepper.
I usually mix the rice and veggies together because my two-year old doesn’t like to eat the sweet potato. Mixing the veggies with the rice helps my son eat more veggies. Serve steak and vegetables with rice side-by-side and enjoy.
Blue Corn Mush is a delicacy on the Navajo Reservation. It’s our version of Cream of Wheat®. This traditional dish is a good source of calories and nutritious calcium and helps maintain good bone health. Many Navajos are lactose . Fortunately, Navajo people can get their daily requirement of calcium thanks to the use of juniper ash in many traditional Navajo dishes. Juniper ash is created by burning the branches of the juniper tree, commonly found on the reservation. Researchers found that one gram of ash contains as much calcium as a glass of milk.
I love and have a soft spot for this dish because it takes me back to my roots and reminds me of the food that I ate growing up. It reminds me of spending time with my family, crammed around a small wooden table, with everyone trying to get the first scoop.
Life always made sense to me when I saw my mother standing next to a pot of boiling corn mush. This is my comfort food. I believe that comfort foods are the universal cure to any bad day. As soon as I take that first bite, all my worries disappear. I feel better and my mood improves. Also, the ingredients come from nature, which makes this dish a healing food.
Serves: 2-4. Cook time: 10 min
Wild rice is an indigenous food grown in the Great Lakes area. It has always been a part of our Ojibwe foods. Wild rice is harvested in the fall and it goes great with some frybread as well.
This is one of the main dishes we eat at ceremonies and during the holidays we celebrate. I’ve had it many ways: plain, with berries, inside frybread, or in casseroles. It’s one of my favorites
Cook time: 1 hour 15 mins
Not all our students are the chefs in their homes! But when you read the memory Blue shared with us about this special dish his wife makes for her family, you’ll understand why we had to recreate the recipe to share it with you.
I never had any frybread dishes other than regular Indian tacos before meeting my wife. She will whip up some blanket dogs, which are just hot dogs enclosed in frybread dough and fried until the bread is done.
Served either by themselves or with chili, these tasty little indulgences are just one of many reasons I know I’m the luckiest man in the world for having found my wife. Great for game day or any time you’re feeding a crowd.
The Diné-style frybread recipe is from Marjorie Mitchell, mother of College Fund staff member and Diné tribal member Kelley Mitchell. The revisions were inspired by Blue and his wife.
Put all the dry ingredients in a large bowl and make an indentation in the center for the warm water and start mixing. Mix slowly until the dry ingredients are blended with the flour, being careful not to overwork the dough. The result should be a soft, pliable dough. Rest the dough at room temperature for at least an hour before using.
When the dough is ready, take a portion of it and work it into a flat disc. Wrap hot dogs in frybread dough, then gently place in hot oil until browned.