Through recipes passed from generation to generation, our cultural food has remained alive. Frybread is a staple in my tribe and simple to make. There are different styles and variations of the beloved fried delicacy, but it’s existence is necessary for many Natives. Fry bread was created by Indigenous women to feed starving children during harsh conditions imposed by the United States government. Almost every family has their own recipe. Tribes have playful jokes amongst each other over who makes the best fry bread. In my family, it’s eaten at almost every special occasion.
Because berries have long been available to ancestral tribal members, they’re used in recipes that continue to grace Indigenous tables today. My memories of Native celebrations include delicious berry pudding that I would dip fry bread into. For this, just about any berry is used among different indigenous groups. My own tribe has traditionally used chokecherries (Prunus virginiana if you want to get non-layman) gathered from the plentiful trees located on the Northern Cheyenne reservation. Plums and blueberries are also a popular choice. Throw in some sugar and it’s a party.
My literal meat and potatoes favorite is dry meat soup. Through a process perfected over centuries of necessity, Indigenous women prepare deer meat jerky. The process of drying meat keeps it preserved, so jerky provided the protein necessary for traveling and hunting. Today, the legacy continues within the Northern Cheyenne community. Hunters bring back their spoils and the meat is dried for soup with potatoes, making for a delicious meal. It’s typically cooked simply with lard or pork fat and seasoned with salt and pepper. It takes a full set of teeth to eat, because the jerky can be a little tough. I’ve come across the sacrilegious people who don’t like the soup for this reason.