Recipe For Disaster

Crow Woman Drying Fruit, Tongue River Agency, Montana (1890-1910?) courtesy Library of Congress

Crow Woman Drying Fruit, Tongue River Agency, Montana (1890-1910?) courtesy Library of Congress

Native Americans generally ate a healthy, varied diet when they were free to do so. Foods included wild berries, fishes of all kinds, pigeons and ducks, bread made from nutritious wild grasses like pigweed and dropseed, and sweeteners from agave and maple syrup. Native Americans drank sassafras tea and broth thickened with corn silks, along with many other soups and drinks. Many explorers were impressed by the physical development of Native Americans and saw much to admire in their athleticism and endurance.

Hopi Woman Grinding Corn, Arizona, (1899 or 1900) courtesy Library of Congress

Hopi Woman Grinding Corn, Arizona, (1899 or 1900) courtesy Library of Congress

Once native peoples were forced onto reservations, beef replaced almost all their protein sources, and their bread came from refined flour mixed with lard. The government (through the USDA) eventually issued a recipe book called A River of Recipes: Native American Recipes Using Commodity Food. A drink called Orange Geronimo was made with orange juice, instant nonfat dry milk, and corn syrup. Though the 2008 revision is more politically correct and tries to teach a healthier lifestyle, the recipes still rely almost entirely on canned foods.

Skinning Beef, courtesy Library of Congress

Skinning Beef, courtesy Library of Congress

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