Quantcast
Connect with us

Native American food is tied to important sacred stories

Published

on

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling, on June 11, that asked Washington state to remove culverts that block the migration of salmon. The ruling has significant implications for Northwest Coast tribes, whose main source of food and livelihood is salmon.

The legal decision stems from the 1855 Stevens treaties when Northwest Coast tribes retained the “right to take fish” from their traditional homelands. Fighting to protect salmon habitat, however, is more than just upholding tribal rights. Salmon is viewed as sacred.

As a scholar of environmental history and Native American religion, I have looked at how indigenous people find religious meaning in the natural world and traditional foods.

This latest Supreme Court case coincides with a resurgence of interest among a new generation of scholars and activists who are learning about and reviving indigenous food systems.

Indigenous foods in the ‘New World’

Indigenous people from around the world revere certain traditional foods as sacred. Like salmon in the Northwest U.S. and Canada, corn or maize has, for millennia, been the most important food for indigenous communities, in Mexico and Central America.

Cylinder vase with dancing Maize God, Central Mayan area earthenware, Mexico.
Daderot

Contemporary scientists believe the ancient Mayan were skilled agriculturalists who strategically developed corn around 6,000 years ago. Science writer Charles Mann for example, describes that the creation of corn was not accidental but “a bold act of conscious biological manipulation” by the Mayan.

ADVERTISEMENT

The Mayan, however, believe that corn is primordial and a part of their creation stories. They tell how the gods successfully created humans out of corn in the “Popul Vuh,” a written version of their timeless oral narratives – one reason corn is deeply revered.

Today, the Mayan and other indigenous groups of Mexico and Central America hold ceremonies for corn at planting time, throughout the growing season and at harvesting time.

Plant foods as sacred

The stories of sacred foods have deep value in indigenous cultures. As I learned from my grandmother, the Blackfeet viewed the wild prairie turnip, known botanically as Psoralea esculenta, as sacred.

The Blackfeet believed that the prairie turnip came from the Sky realm. It was Ko’komiki’somm (the Moon) who taught her daughter-in-law Soatsaki (Feather Woman) how to harvest prairie turnips. When Feather Woman returned to the earth, she shared her knowledge, and the prairie turnip became a staple food.

ADVERTISEMENT

But colonization had an impact on how this knowledge passed down. My grandparents attended a Catholic boarding school on the Blackfeet reservation. The priests discouraged the use of indigenous foods and taught them about “American foods.”

They exchanged wild prairie turnips for garden vegetables, like carrots, and wild game meat for domesticated beef. My grandparents also learned about completely new foods such as wheat flour and dairy products. The nuns taught my grandmother how to bake bread and churn butter.

My grandparents, however, continued to learn about Blackfeet religious practices and Indigenous foods from their grandmothers. They passed that knowledge on. Although, as a Native American, I know this is not true for many homes today.

Elders’ knowledge

The good news is that there is renewed interest among young indigenous activists, scholars and chefs to research and write about this ancestral knowledge.

ADVERTISEMENT

Navajo woman teaches the younger generation.
Max Pixel

Activist and writer Abaki Beck’s oral history project, for example, explores the impact of colonization on indigenous food systems. She interviewed Native American elders to help the next generation understand the health benefits of indigenous foods. She learned how some traditional indigenous herbs could replace over-the-counter medications and wild berries could be a healthier substitute for sugar in muffins and smoothies.

Similarly, Lakota chef Sean Sherman’s cookbook “The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen” also seeks to fill a gap in knowledge about indigenous foods. Sherman learned from ethnobotanists and elders about indigenous plant foods traditionally gathered by women in his research, details often ignored by male scholars.

Scholar Elizabeth Hoover, interviewed elders and the Mohawk community about their fight against contamination of their land in upstate New York. She highlighted the resistance of indigenous people to safeguard their traditional food systems.

The ConversationThe recent Supreme Court case is a reminder that traditional food, such as salmon, is more than just food – it is a connection to ancestral knowledge that holds a deeper religious meaning within the natural world.

ADVERTISEMENT

Rosalyn R. LaPier, Associate Professor of Environmental Studies, The University of Montana

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Report typos and corrections to [email protected].
READ COMMENTS - JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Continue Reading

Breaking Banner

Melania Trump ripped for bragging about helping children while her husband runs concentration camps for kids

Published

on

Melania Trump was ripped on Monday for pushing her signature "Be Best" campaign against bullying while her husband, President Donald Trump, runs concentration camps for children along the southern border.

"Looking forward to collaborating with all of our #BeBest Ambassadors. Delighted to be working alongside so many people both inside and outside of government to better the lives of children everywhere!" Melania Trump tweeted Monday.

The response was some of the harshest since she wore an "I Don't Care" jacked to visit the border.

Continue Reading

Breaking Banner

Border Patrol blocking Americans from donating toothbrushes and diapers for detained children

Published

on

Donald Trump on the US-Mexico Border

On Sunday, Austin Savage and five of his friends huddled into an SUV and went to an El Paso Target, loading up on diapers, wipes, soaps and toys.

About $340 later, the group headed to a Border Patrol facility holding migrant children in nearby Clint with the goal of donating their goods. Savage said he and his friends had read an article from The New York Times detailing chaos, sickness and filth in the overcrowded facility, and they wanted to help.

But when they arrived, they found that the lobby was closed. The few Border Patrol agents — Savage said there were between eight and 10 of them — moving in and out of a parking facility ignored them.

Continue Reading
 

Breaking Banner

Michael Flynn’s legal team is making bizarre moves — signaling he’s still hoping for a Trump pardon

Published

on

When disgraced former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn recently hired a new firebrand lawyer, Sidney Powell, it suggested he could be maneuvering to change his legal strategy.

And on Monday, new signs emerged that his legal team is looking to shake things up. Flynn had another status hearing on Monday before Judge Emmet Sullivan as he awaits sentencing for charges brought by former Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

In the hearing on Monday, Powell, who had been publicly critical of the Russia investigation before joining Flynn’s team, requested a security clearance to review documents in the case. This was a surprising move, because the government said that there was no classified information in the documents it had turned over to the defense.

Continue Reading
 
 

Copyright © 2019 Raw Story Media, Inc. PO Box 21050, Washington, D.C. 20009 | Masthead | Privacy Policy | For corrections or concerns, please email [email protected]

 ENOUGH IS ENOUGH 

Trump endorses killing journalists, like Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. Online ad networks are now targeting sites that cover acts of violence against dissidents, LGBTQ people and people of color.

Learn how you can help.
close-link