The Seasoned Franciscan - Cooking Joyfully

Native American Heritage Month

By Vicki Lopez-Kaley on Monday, October 31st 2022

One Halloween, our daughter wanted to dress up as her favorite movie heroine, Pocahontas. The music, theme and spirit of the Disney film captured her deeply. We had a dilemma. Her 8-year-old heart was in a place of real admiration and couldn’t fully grasp why this might be perceived as disrespectful. We explained as much as we could. Still disappointed, we found another costume route and agreed to read together about native peoples. It was a family lesson about the appropriation of another culture without true knowledge of it.

National Native American Heritage Month in November invites us to explore the heritage, culture and experience of Indigenous peoples both historically and in American life today. What has humanity gained from their knowledge and experience? And what wisdom do we still find difficult to follow?

This month The Seasoned Franciscan will include recipes for foods sacred to Native Americans. What experiences do you have with corn? cranberries? wild rice? turkey? other game and fish? If you are in Wisconsin, these are all indigenous to where we live, but other regions have their own indigenous richness. Use these recipes to explore the stories they pass on.

Besides learning about Native American life, this month is a time to honor the Saints' triumphant, our own ancestors who came before us. We are invited to explore our own food heritage from the ethnic groups that most influence our identity and also what grows near where we live. What foods convey your values, spirit and stories during the holidays, for example? Please share your recipes and stories.

We’ll also touch on a few principles that may be new to you:

The Seventh Generation: Native American tribes hold dear the concept of seven generations of planning. It means that the impact of decisions today should consider the potential benefits or harm that would be felt by seven future generations. That is about 150 years. This is a principle that shaped the US Constitution!

The Seventh Generation Principle today is generally referred to regarding decisions being made about our energy, water, and natural resources and ensuring those decisions are sustainable for seven generations in the future.

For many tribes, strengthening the next seven generations starts with nutrition. Studies in their own communities document a rise in obesity, diabetes and youth becoming increasingly obese at younger ages. Studies show that native peoples who return to eating as their ancestors did rather than a Standard American Diet have positive results in their weight, chronic disease management and overall health.

Food “Sovereignty” is important to native peoples all over the world. Food Sovereignty is “the right to define, produce and consume foods that are appropriate to their culture and produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods” rather than controlled by corporations.” – Declaration of Nyéléni, the first global forum on food sovereignty, Mali, 2007

Some examples of Food Sovereignty are:

  • the Oneida Nation near Green Bay is planting, harvesting, processing and sharing the indigenous white flint corn which is so healthy for their future physically, economically and spiritually.
  • American Indians in Wisconsin, Montana and other areas are carving out grazing rights for Bison and working to live in harmony with cattle rancher.
  • Our local Ho-Chunk DNR is encouraging native gardeners and farmers to grow heirloom squash for its cultural and nutritional value. These are all means to keep their lives and identity flourish for the next 150 years: seven generations!

*The first recorded concepts of the Seventh Generation Principle date back to the writing of The Great Law of Haudenosaunee Confederacy, although the actual date is undetermined, the range of conjectures place its writing anywhere from 1142 to 1500 AD. The Great Law of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy formed the political, ceremonial, and social fabric of the Five Nation Confederacy (later Six). The Great Law of Haudenosaunee Confederacy is also credited as being a contributing influence on the American Constitution, due to Benjamin Franklin’s great respect for the Haudenosaunee system of government (source: ictinc.ca).

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