Donnell is a member of the Lakota Sioux tribe in South Dakota.
He is also the executive director of Warriors Circle, a
ministry that trains indigenous people to be leaders in their
communities. As we drove to Eagle Butte reservation, I picked
his brain about the Native American diet.
me how his forefathers subsisted on gifts from the land such
as buffalo and freshwater fish. A favorite in this area is
walleye, a fish native to the northern U.S. and Canada.
been living off fish for the last couple of months," Joe
said, describing his efforts to improve his health. "And
I still cook it in the traditional way — over an open fire.
We put a stick through the mouth of the fish and place it
whole on the fire. The scales and skin act as a natural
barrier to allow the heat to cook the meat without burning it.
I cook it until the guts start to boil out of the mouth. Once
that happens, cook it for another 5 minutes and then all that’s
left on the inside is the meat."
laughed about how this might be interpreted in a cook book.
And I of course took note that our native brothers and sisters
get a healthy dose of omega-3 fats in each bite of their
told me about wild turnips ("timpsila" in Lakota)
that were traditionally harvested and eaten raw or boiled into
soups. According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, these
wild prairie turnips provide protein and energy with minimal
fat. And they are a good source of vitamins and minerals
including calcium and iron.
still grow wild out here but fewer and fewer people pick them
now," Joe lamented.
it interesting that Joe’s ancestors were true locavores;
they made good use of food sources around them. He described
how early tribes would dry buffalo meat into jerky and mix it
into a ball with chokecherries — berries native to the
northern U.S. These meat-berry snacks required no
refrigeration and were convenient high energy foods for long
do you know about bitter root?" he asked. "Pow Wow
singers still use it for their throats."
enough, according to information from the National Library of
Medicine, bitterroot (Lakota name, "Sinkpe tawote")
is the bitter-tasting root from a plant that was used by
native cultures for food and medicinal purposes. It was one of
the delicacies eaten by Lewis and Clark on their expedition in
1805 and is the official state flower of Montana.
not much research has been able to prove its effectiveness,
concoctions of bitter root have been used for centuries for
sore throats, coughs and other health conditions.
it pays not to ignore the goodness in our simpler basic foods.
Thanks for the reminder, Joe.