Native American FoodAnthropology 85AProfessor Tanis ThorneBy Yu Ong & Ryan Yabut
Fry Bread as a ProjectWe chose to do a project on fry bread because we thought fry bread to be interesting as it became part of Pan-Indian culture and its huge role in ceremonies and activities in all Native American cultures in North America. However, what made it more interesting to research is how it became part of all these cultures when it was not originally a traditional cultural delicacy of any Indian tribes in North America until the 19th century. Thus, categorizing it as a recent addition to any Indian culture. Its progression into being part of Pan-Indian culture shows how important it is as it is adopted by all Native American culture as a traditional food.
The History of Fry BreadFry bread is considered to be a traditional food, however it evolved in the mid-19th century. It all began with an American scout called Kit Carson (on the right) and his troops, who drove the Navajo people from their lands by destroying their means of survival. They killed sheep, goats, and horses; poisoned wells; burned orchards and crops; and destroyed shelters.They then rounded up thousands of starving Navajo and sent them on the "Long Walk" to Fort Sumner at Bosque Redondo, New Mexico.
The Long Walk of the Navajo, also called the Long Walk to Bosque Redondo, was an Indian removal effort of the United States government in 1863 and 1864.At least 200 died along the 300-mile trek, and the reservation itself was little more than a prison camp. Between 8,000 and 9,000 people were settled on a 40 square mile area, with the peak population being 9,022 in spring 1865.The Navajos were imprisoned at Fort Sumner for four years. While the Navajos were at Fort Sumner, they were only given white flour and lard. With the white flour and lard, the Navajo women at Fort Sumner had to use poor-quality rations (provided by the United States government) to make their meals. Here, the Navajo women combined everything and fried it on a hot pan with lard.
Fry Bread as a Pan-Indian FoodFry Bread is an all-purpose flat bread that is considered to be a staple of Indian cuisine (originally a staple of Navajo cuisine).Fry bread is an integral menu item at tribal and family gatherings and a good fry bread maker is honored in Native American communities.Fry Bread has become an Pan Native American food because it has been adopted in all Native American cultures.The dough is a variation of that used for flour tortillas, consisting of wheat flour, shortening, salt, and water, leavened with baking powder or yeast. Navajo Fry Bread is originally a tradition of Arizona and New Mexico, and fry bread with honey butter is a specialty in New Mexico (which all have been adopted by other tribes).
Different forms of Fry BreadThe different ways fry bread are used today are:The Indian Taco (formerly called the Navajo Taco), which is one of the most famous kinds of fry bread. (As seen on the top right)The Indian Taco is a fry bread covered with ground beef, pinto beans, tomatoes, and lettuce.Fry bread covered with either honey or powder sugar to become widely known as a sweet treat. (As seen on the bottom right)The Indian Burger is two pieces o f fry bread encasing a large beef patty covered with various toppings and sauces.The Indian Hot Dog is a fry bread wrapped around a long piece of sausage covered with various sauces and/or toppings.
Is lard still used today?The answer is No. Different types of oil are used today to make fry Bread.One of the reasons why fry bread is no longer fried in lard is because of the health risks of using lard as it contains high levels of saturated fat and cholesterol.The oils used today to make fry bread vary from each tribe as some use vegetable, canola, or olive oil.
How to make Fry BreadIngredients:2 cups all-purpose flour 2 teaspoons baking powder 1/4 cup instant nonfat dry milk 1/4 teaspoon salt Warm water Vegetable Oil Honey or powdered sugar In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, dry milk, and salt. Slowly add enough warm water to form a workable dough (start by adding 1 cups of water, then more if needed); knead until smooth but still slightly sticky. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours. After resting, divide dough into 4 equal pieces.
On a lightly floured surface, roll each piece of dough into a small ball and pat into a flat circle about 8 inches in diameter and 1/4 inch thick (it will puff up a lot); cut a steam vent in the middle of each circle of dough.In a large, deep frying pan, heat 1 to 2 inches of vegetable oil (enough oil to flat the dough) to 357 degrees Fahrenheit. Fry the dough pieces, one at a time and turning once, for 2 minutes on each side or until golden brown (the bread will puff slightly and become crisp and brown). Remove from hot oil and drain on paper towels. Keep warm until ready to serve.This recipe is the original Navajo recipe for fry bread and makes about 4 servings of Navajo fry breads.Other recipes of fry bread can be found online as each tribe throughout North America has their own version of fry bread.Each recipe differs in the ingredients used and method of cooking but all are based on this original recipe.
A 20-year-old Creek Indian women making fry bread for a cultural gathering.
How to make an Indian TacoIngredients:1 pound lean ground meat (beef, lamb, venison or pork) 1 cup diced onion 4 cooked Navajo Fry Breads (see recipe above) 1 head iceberg lettuce, shredded 3 tomatoes, diced 2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese 1 (3-ounce) can diced green chilies, drained Sour cream (optional)In a large frying pan over medium-high heat, brown ground meat and onions until cooked; remove from heat.
Place Fry Bread, cupped side up, on separate plates. Layer ground meat, lettuce, tomatoes, Cheddar cheese, and green chilies onto top of each Fry Bread. Top with sour cream, if desired, and either roll up or serve open-faced with a fork.
Cultural Significance of Fry BreadEver since its creation by the Navajo in the 19th century, the fry bread has been adopted by numerous tribes around North America.Fry bread soon became a Pan-Indian tradition as it is now imbedded deeply into the cultures of various tribes in the United States.It has been so imbedded into various American Indian cultures as many Indians cant imagine going without it as many have built their identity around the popular concoction.Fry bread is now used in almost every Indian ceremony and cultural gathering.For example, the Hopi Indians in northeastern Arizona will have fry bread along with Hopi cuisine during their ceremonies.
Fry bread is now a subject that links all American Indians together.Fry bread has increased the unity between each Native American tribe in North America as it has created a common cultural aspect they all share.One of the largest cultural gatherings that fry bread can be found are in Native American Powwows. A Powwow is a gathering of Native Americans. It derives from the Narragansett word powwow, meaning shaman. Typically, a powwow consists of both Native Americans and non-Native Americans meeting in one specific area to dance, sing, socialize, and have a good time.Powwows vary in length as some may take 5 to 6 hours or even a couple of days.
PowwowsEvery weekend from April through October, thousands of Native Americans throughout the United States and Canada head to powwows. Powwows in the late 1800's and early 1900's, Indians were not allowed to have dances. Government officials thought the dances were organized to resist federal forces. They did not realize that the dances were held only to honor their elders and warriors, give gifts and recognition to those deserving. It was also to sing honor songs, ask questions to the elders, teach by example, dance the sacred circle, and be healed.In the 1960's, officials finally realized that these dances and traditions were not dangerous, as they were only important to Native Americans. Native Americans today are developing deep pride in their culture and traditions.
Fry Bread as a SymbolIn todays Native American society, fry bread has become a symbol that represents the overall Pan-Indian culture and intertribal unity. It is a symbol that many American Indians are proud to show as some have created phrases like Fry Bread Power, which are now printed onto shirts, bumper stickers, and other various things. Some have even dedicated websites on fry bread and its symbolism to Pan-Indian culture and intertribal unity.
Is Fry Bread an Icon or a Hazard?For the past several years, there has been an ongoing debate whether fry bread should be seen as an icon or a hazard. With fry bread deeply imbedded into various Native American cultures around North America, it has gained a status as an icon to represent the Pan-Indian culture and intertribal unity.Taking this away, many American Indians will lose a sense of the culture they all share and created as well as the unity they each have.However, fry bread has also gained a reputation to be one of the primary causes of obesity and type II diabetes in the Indian population. Although, not every case of obesity and diabetes among Indians can be blamed solely on fry bread as it takes other factors, such as a poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle. According to a nutritional analysis by the United States Department of Agriculture, one paper-plate size (standard size) fry bread contains 700 calories and 27 grams of fat with little to no vitamins and minerals.
Many believe the diabetes rate began to skyrocket when Indians stopped living off the land and began using government rations.In using government ration