Revitalizing Native American foods and re-identifying North American cuisine (Interview with Sean Sherman of The Sioux Chef)
This is a conversation on Green Dreamer with Kamea Chayne, a podcast and multimedia journal illuminating our paths towards ecological balance, intersectional sustainability, and true abundance and wellness for all. This preview has been edited for clarity. Subscribe to Green Dreamer Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, or any podcast app to stay informed and updated on our latest episodes.
Sean Sherman (@the_sioux_chef) is a member of the Oglala Lakota tribe, the award-winning author of The Sioux Chef's Indigenous Kitchen, and the founder and CEO Chef of The Sioux Chef (@siouxchef), a team of chefs, ethnobotanists, food preservationists, adventurers, foragers, caterers, event planners, artists, musicians, food truckers and food lovers who are committed to revitalizing Native American foods and re-identifying North American cuisine. Sean's cookbook, The Sioux Chef's Indigenous Kitchen, has received numerous accolades, including the 2018 James Beard Foundation Book Award for Best American Cookbook.
As another key part of his work, Sean's nonprofit, North American Traditional Indigenous Food Systems (NATIFS), is dedicated to promoting Indigenous foodways education and facilitating Indigenous food access.
In this podcast episode, Sean sheds light on why it is that in the United States, we can find restaurants of cuisines from all over the world, and barely any restaurants of Native American cuisines; how the Standard American Diet came to be so homogenous and disconnected from what's actually available within the diverse bioregions across the country; and more.
To start, get a glimpse below into the conversation between Sean and Green Dreamer Podcast's host, Kamea Chayne.
On reconnecting with our bioregional foods and seasonality:
"We think it's important for people to understand how true regional and seasonal food systems work and [for people to see] how much more food is around us right outside our backdoor that we could be utilizing, how much better we could be utilizing our landscapes—putting food all over the place instead of having huge colonial lawns—and teaching our kids more about plants."
On the biodiversity present within Indigenous diets:
"We push towards community-based, regional and seasonal food systems. You don't have to be an Indigenous person to reap the benefits of this kind of diet and food system, but it takes a community to get there.
When you go to a farmers market, you're going to see the same stuff, and most people eat less than 30 plant pieces then go to the store and buy the same things. For an Indigenous diet, we should have more plant diversity.
It's just about opening your eyes and realizing the true value of all these plants in our ecoregions."
On what re-identifying North American cuisine can make possible for us:
"If people start to understand Indigenous foods, they're going to start to see the immense amount of diversity that's out there, and we should be celebrating that diversity.
Today, we live in a very homogeneous landscape where if you drive across the nation in any direction and stop at a restaurant you're primarily going to see the same thing over and over again: hamburgers, french fries, tater tots, and caesar salad.
If we can see our vision through and help open up Indigenous restaurants across the nation and people were able to drive across and stop at them, people would be able to see the immense amount of diversity that happens every hundred miles or so.
Not only are you in a different ecoregion and bioregion, but you're also in places of different culture, language, religion, and history.
There's so much to share and there's so much we can learn from understanding that diversity."
Final words of wisdom:
“I encourage people to connect with the region around them, learn the history of the region around them, and just explore.
There's so much to learn and there's so much better we could be doing to be a part of our environment instead of trying to be on top of it.”
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