Native American Foods You’ll Love
The Holiday Season is filled with traditions, especially food traditions. You’ll love these Traditional Native American Recipes, including some common in the Beautiful Badlands and Grasslands of North Dakota!
Native Americans of the Upper Great Plains relied on a meat heavy diet. Bison was the primary source of protein for the traditional Native American diet. Elk, antelope, deer, rabbit, porcupine and prairie dog also provided meat.
Beans, Squash, Corn, Sunflowers
Assorted beans, squash, corn and sunflowers were staples. Root vegetables and berries and dried fruits were an important part of the diet as well. Native American Foods Throughout the United States, from Powwows.com provides a good source of information about this.
Woodland Indian Educational Programs offer a tremendous resource about Native American planting and food.
Prairie Road Organic Seed Company, North Dakota, Fullerton, North Dakota (sign up for their Farm Fresh Recipe Book) features several traditional dried bean varieties, all common among the Three Tribes of North Dakota (Mandan-Hidatsa-Arikara):
Prolific heirloom bush variety, listed on Slow Food USA Ark of Taste. Excellent for use as a baking bean. The seed was originally obtained from the Arikara tribe of North Dakota by Oscar H. Will & Company and introduced in 1914 as part of his Pioneer Indian Collection. This is the same variety collected by Lewis and Clark in the early 1800s. Yellow-tan seeds with red-brown eye rings. Drought tolerant, hardy and very productive.Phaseolus vulgaris (80-85 days) Plump, dark red, dry beans originally grown along the Missouri River Valley of North Dakota by the Hidatsa tribe. One of the most productive dry beans available for prodigious harvests and long-term storage of high quality, high protein staples. This bean was introduced by Oscar H. Will & Co. in Bismarck, ND as part of his 1915 Pioneer Indian Collection. Semi-vining, productive bush plant will climb to three feet if given support. You’ll be gifted with plump red beans, very similar to the kidney bean for use in chili, refried beans, and humus.
Phaseolus vulgaris (80-85 days) Plump, dark red, dry beans originally grown along the Missouri River Valley of North Dakota by the Hidatsa tribe. One of the most productive dry beans available for prodigious harvests and long-term storage of high quality, high protein staples. This bean was introduced by Oscar H. Will & Co. in Bismarck, ND as part of his 1915 Pioneer Indian Collection. Semi-vining, productive bush plant will climb to three feet if given support. You’ll be gifted with plump red beans, very similar to the kidney bean for use in chili, refried beans, and humus.
Phaseolus vulgaris (90 days) This variety is native to North Dakota, grown by the Hidatsa tribe near the Missouri River. Drought and heat tolerant, it is one of the most productive dry beans. It was grown in the Three Sisters Garden, allowing it to vine on the corn. We grow it next to Red Kaoliang sorghum, providing a living trellis for the bean to climb, eliminating the hassle of putting up and taking down a fence or trellis. This beautiful, large, plump bean can be harvested throughout the growing season… providing you with green beans early in the season, followed by shellies (shelled out while the bean is formed but still soft), and, at the end of the season, as dry beans for long-term storage! This highly productive bean variety was named to the Slow Food USA’s Ark of Taste for its wonderful flavor and cooking qualities. We use it in soups and stews, as it reheats nicely, without falling apart. Also makes a wonderful humus in place of chickpeas.
Seed Saver Exchange in Decorah, Iowa is an excellent source of heirloom seeds. Those of Dakota Native American Tribes are:
Attributed to the Mandan tribe of North Dakota; this Native American flour corn was planted by Mandan women along with beans, sunflowers, and squash. This corn with its colorful autumnal kernels, some of which are striped, can be used in fall displays or ground into corn meal. Plants will produce several 6-8” ears on 6’ plants. 85-90 days. ±2,100 seeds/lb.
(Helianthus annuus) Collected by Melvin Gilmore from the Arikara tribe at the Fort Berthold Reservation. First offered by Oscar H. Will in 1930. Sturdy plants grow up to 12′ tall, flowers are single to multi-headed. Some single heads grow 12-16″ across. Traditionally grown for its masses of edible seeds. Annual, 70 days.
Three Sisters Soup/Stew
According to Twyla Baker-Demaray, a Mandan-Hidatsa woman of the Three Affiliated Tribes at Fort Berthold, “Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara grew many varieties of corn, beans and squash, “and our bodies want this kind of food,” she said. “We respond to it better than to processed food.”
The main ingredients in three sisters soup are corn, squash and beans, Finley said. They grow in her garden as family.
“Corn is the oldest sister, and tall,” she said, and corn acts as a growing pole for the beans. “Squash is the middle sister, and she takes care of the others with her broad leaves that shade out weeds.”
The cooks also talked briefly but respectfully about Buffalo Bird Woman, a Hidatsa who lived from about 1839 to 1932 and did much to preserve the tribe’s centuries-old gardening traditions.
In the 19th and early 20th centuries, scholars traveled to Buffalo Bird Woman’s Missouri River village to study her techniques and preserve original seed stock. Through the Internet, Baker-Demaray has acquired seed that traces to those times.
“In our culture, food is central to just about every social gathering,” she said. “It is part of being a good host; you provide food for everyone. Scandinavian culture and other cultures are the same way: food is love.”
Gabubu bread is pan fry bread that uses less oil. It is simple to make and doesn’t take much time. It is a unique way to make bread.
Native American Foods and Diets, sources and recipes:
Westin A Price Foundation: Guts and Grease: the Diet of Native Americans
Indian County Today: Native Cooking: High Plains Pudding Using Chokecherries
Partnership with Native Americans: Native American Recipes: A Taste of History
Delishably: Traditional Lakota Foods
Nueta Hidatsa Sahnish College, New Town, ND: Food Sovereignty: Re-connecting Traditional Foods to Our Community
Cultural narratives of the Mandan-Hidatsa-Arikara tribes in North Dakota: Culture-MHA
Native American Food/Recipes: Native Recipes
American Indian Health and Diet Project: Recipes to Recover Health
Native America Today: Food and recipe resources
MHA Interpretive Center, New Town, North Dakota
Sources about Native American seeds:
Buffalo Bird Woman’s Garden: Agriculture of the Hidatsa Indians by Gilbert L Wilson
Native American Recipe Books:
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