illustration by kelsey king
I left Minnesota for about four years to live in Mexico and Montana, and when I returned in 2012, I started seeing Indigenous foods everywhere—literally popping out of the forest. In Bemidji, I spent a couple days foraging, fighting ticks, and finding lots of fun foods for a dinner. It was my first time making an all-Indigenous dining experience.
Even though Thanksgiving has a loose, fictionally based storyline, it’s a time when so many celebrate Indigenous foods, whether they realize it or not. You look at your traditional Thanksgiving table, with turkey, squash, beans, and sweet potatoes—it’s Indigenous stuff. And I hope my cookbook, The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen, helps people play with those flavors.
Up near Bemidji over Thanksgivings, I have hiked through the woods, foraging in the cold and using a lot of wild game. When slow-cooking venison, I’ll put a fresh cedar bough in with the meat. It’s fun not doing the traditional Thanksgiving meal, but thinking, “What would this look like completely Indigenous?” Even using turkey, you can add maple, wild ginger, hazelnuts, black walnuts, mushrooms, Red Lake fish, and true, hand-harvested Minnesota wild rice. You can make it taste like where we are.
Digital Extra: Eat Indigenous
Chef Sean Sherman, founder of The Sioux Chef, explains how he got started cooking with Indigenous, pre-colonial foods—and why you should, too.