American Indian cooking traditions - with new twists - featured at UND Time OutEach year for the past eight or nine years, Twyla Baker-Demaray and friends have produced traditional American Indian food as part of the annual Time Out at UND, a week of talks, performances and presentations showcasing the history and culture of regional Indian tribes.
By: Chuck Haga, Grand Forks Herald
For just a moment Monday, some of the UND students waiting to sample traditional foods of North Dakota’s American Indian tribes seemed skeptical.
It was when Twyla Baker-Demaray, a Mandan-Hidatsa woman of the Three Affiliated Tribes at Fort Berthold, explained the custom of heating rocks red-hot and dropping them into a buffalo stomach to boil water for soup.
“But we didn’t use buffalo stomachs today,” she said, smiling and dipping a ladle into a steaming kettle of three sisters soup. “We didn’t have enough notice.”
Each year for the past eight or nine years, Baker-Demaray and friends have produced traditional American Indian food as part of the annual Time Out at UND, a week of talks, performances and presentations showcasing the history and culture of regional Indian tribes.
The menu started that first year with fry bread, which actually is a rather late addition to Indian diets — and often blamed now for contributing to problems of obesity and diabetes on reservations.
The cooks have since moved toward traditional soups, including corn and bean soup with chunks of beef or buffalo meat.
“This one is a big favorite back home,” Amber Finley said, lifting a cover and letting the aroma waft over her. She also is an enrolled member of the Three Affiliated Tribes, with family connections to the Spirit Lake and Standing Rock Sioux tribes.
The free lunch was served up Monday at the UND Student Wellness Center, and included three sisters soup (a savory blend of hominy, squash, beans and sunflower seeds), and gah-bubu bread, a fry bread variation that is not deep-fried in oil and consequently is less challenging nutritionally. Dessert was ice cream with wojapi, a sauce made from strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries and honey.
“It’s usually a berry pudding,” Finley said, “but this way we pour it over ice cream and make Indian sundaes.”
A French review
Taylor Sandberg, 21, a UND student from Willmar, Minn., pronounced it good.
“I thought it would be like crazy foods, things I had never heard of before,” he said. But he and Eric Lucas, 21, of Wayzata, Minn., said they were impressed by the homemade flavors and the servers’ explanations of how the foods fit into Plains Indian culture.
Stories that came with the food also pleased Anabelle Verdurme, 22, and Nouha Toure, 24. Both are from France, at UND to study business.
“I saw the posters and I was really curious,” Verdurme said. “I know that Native Americans are part of the culture here, but this is the first contact I’ve had. I didn’t really know where to go to make contact.”
Toure also liked the stories of American Indian gardening and cooking and how Baker-Demaray collected small samples of each dish “as offerings to the spirits” before people lined up with their bowls.
Baker-Demaray said the various tribes in North Dakota each have some distinct food traditions but also are “trading recipes tribe to tribe.” Through contacts with Ojibwe people, for example, she has incorporated wild rice into her cooking.
“In exchange, I can show them how to find wild turnips in the field,” and how to substitute turnips for potatoes in soups and stews.
“We of the Three Affiliated Tribes were more agrarian than the Sioux hunter-gatherers,” she said. “With our gardens, we were a trade stop along the Missouri River, the grocery store of the Upper Midwest.”
The 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.”
Here’s a schedule for many of the week’s other activities.
• Opening Ceremony, 10 a.m., Fireside Lounge, UND Memorial Union
• Traditional foods of the North Dakota tribes, noon, UND Wellness Center
• Hand games show case, 3 to 5 p.m., Fireside Lounge, UND Memorial Union
• Logo and nickname presentation, 6 p.m., UND Memorial Union Lecture Bowl
• Haudenosauree and Seneca culture, 10 a.m., UND Memorial Union Lecture Bowl
• Issues of elder abuse in Indian country, 12:15 p.m., UND School of Law Baker Court Room
• “Microaggressions, privilege and the Fighting Who?,” 5 p.m., UND Memorial Union Lecture Bowl
• Exhibit on logos and mascots, through Friday, UND Memorial Union Badlands Room
• Domestic Violence Against Native Women, 12:15 p.m., UND School of Law Baker Court Room
• Powwow demonstration, 6 p.m., UND Memorial Union Loading Dock
• Open mic night, 7 to 8 p.m., UND Memorial Union Loading Dock
• “Beyond Buckskin,” Native American fashion show, 8 to 10 p.m., UND Memorial Union Loading Dock
• North Dakota Indian Education Associaton annual conference, 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., UND Memorial Union Lecture Bowl
7bull; McNair Scholar presentations, 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 3 p.m., UND Memorial Union Red River Valley Room
• “Reclaiming our Future through Media,” 6 p.m., UND Memorial Union Lecture Bowl
• Comedian, Ryan McMahon featuring Clarence Two Toes, 7 p.m., UND Memorial Union Ballroom
• North Dakota Indian Education Association annual conference, 9:30 to 11:45 a.m., UND Memorial Union Lecture Bowl
• Grant writing workshop, 9 to 11 a.m., UND Memorial Union Red River Valley Room
• “More Than Beads and Feathers,” 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., UND Memorial Union Ballroom
• “Our Road to Success” discussion panel, 1 to 2 p.m., UND Memorial Union Lecture Bowl
• Grand writing workshop, 1:30 p.m., UND Memorial Union Red River Valley Room
• Wacipi grand entry, 7 p.m., UND Hyslop Sports Center
The Wacipi powwow will continue through April 22. Wristbands are $6 daily and $10 for a weekend pass. Children younger than five, senior citizens and UND students are admitted free.
Reach Haga at (701) 780-1102; (800) 477-6572, ext. 102; or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.