The COVID-19 pandemic has uprooted many of our hopes and plans for this Fall semester. As we persist through these difficult times, we are reminded of the strength and courage of our ancestors. During difficult moments in our histories, resistance foods were born as a method to persevere and adapt.
An example of Indigenous resistance food must include frybread. While frybread may not be an example of Pre-European Contact Indigenous people’s food, it would be hard to deny the significance of this food to the indigenous generations that followed. Today, fry bread is a cornerstone comfort food for many current indigenous communities, shared across various occasions including birthdays, graduation celebrations, or community feasts. Within the Southwest, frybread is often accompanied by another resistance food, Green Chile Stew. These foods symbolize the tenacity of Indigenous communities.
These foods were born out of perseverance and a refusal to succumb to colonization and cultural genocide. While the history of fry bread is fraught with inaccuracies, some believe that frybread is a result of the Diné (Navajo) and Ndee, (Mescalero Apache) forced physical relocation. These two populations were forced to relocate from their nomadic territorial lands of what is currently known as Arizona, Northern New Mexico, Southern Utah, and Southern Colorado to Fort Summer, in Southern New Mexico. While being held at Ft. Sumner, many of the traditional methods of farming and hunting techniques were forbidden by the U.S. Calvary.
In the wake of mass starvation, the Diné and Ndee drew upon the only ingredients that the U.S. Calvary offered: sugar, lard, flour, and salt. Drawing upon their collective knowledge and desire to overcome dire circumstances, these indigenous peoples combined these core ingredients and produced a recipe for fry bread. Similarly, Green Chile Stew is a dish made from dried beans, dried corn, and various chiles from local and surrounding land. Given the unique combination of ingredients, the knowledge of food preservation, and the culinary knowledge of how to rehydrate dried foods, Green Chile Stew is a testament of the endurance of Indigenous knowledge.
In celebration of Indigenous People’s Day and recognition of Native American Heritage Month, Native American Student Services (NASS) will be hosting a series of food videos. These videos seek to honor and recognize the vibrancy of Native cultures, and the foods that nourished our survival and resistance.
Cooking with Shea Ortiz: Green Chile Stew - view on NASS’ Instagram TV in November (release date TBD)