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Friday Nugget Blogging


I’ve been away all week without my children, so this week’s nugget of childish curiosity comes out of the vault:

“Mom, does Indian food come from India or from the Native Americans?”

Context: my son was studying indigenous history in second grade this past Spring, and he often came home either with questions like that or quizzes like this:

“Mom, do you know what our ancestors gave to the Native Americans?”

Small-pox? Potatoes? Horses? Death and destruction?

“Citizenship!” he exclaimed. “We ‘gave’ them citizenship, after we, outsiders, came to their land. We should have asked them to give us citizenship!”

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  • That’s a smart kid. When my youngest was in kindergarten, the teacher invited me to speak to the class for Native America Heritage Month. Among the usual questions (“Do you live in tipis?” “Do you scalp people?”) was this one, my favorite:

    “Do you fight crime?”

    Yes, yes, we do.

  • You should take him to a really good Indian restaurant and then take him to the food court at the American Indian Museum at the Smithsonian and let him decide for himself. I realize that it’s still food court food, but a) it’s pretty good and b)how many American Indian restaurants are there in the country? Any? I don’t think I’ve ever seen one and I’ve spent most of my life in the West.

  • Warren Terra

    1) Some Indian food is of course also American, in that potatoes, some peppers, and doubtless other ingredients were only found in the Americas, but modern Indian food would be unrecognizable without them.

    2) There are some restaurants and cultural sites that serve native cuisine in the Pacific Northwest, and at least one native dish- alder-planked salmon – has achieved broad popularity in other restaurants.

    • JBL

      Tomatoes are the other big one.

      • Right, right–but there’s a huge difference between food that Native Americans used (I mean, corn among a zillion other things) and restaurants that specialize in Native American cuisine.

        And there may well be Native American restaurants at this point in the Northwest, but I sure didn’t know about them for the 22 years I lived in Oregon. And of course there were frybread stands in New Mexico I used to visit, but those aren’t restaurants.

        • PhoenixRising

          The hell you say! The Navajo version of LA’s taco trucks are some of the better eateries between Albuquerque and Flagstaff.

    • DrDick

      Native American food, while often quite good (I have eaten lots from several different tribes), is fairly plain and hearty like European peasant food. As such it is not the kind of thing that normally winds up on restaurant menus. Last I knew, there was an authentic native American restaurant, Red Corn’s, in Pawhuska, OK. You can still buy their fry bread mix online.

    • rea

      Tortillas are basically a Native American invention, if you are willing to look beyond the boundaries of the present-day US.

      • DrDick

        Much of Mexican cuisine is of Native origin, though blended with Spanish influences.

  • Newsouthzach

    OT, but what do you think of the recent revelation that Wikileaks asked the Pentagon to help redact the Afghanistan document dump and were refused? Does that temper your criticism of Assange?

  • DrDick

    Heh. In my house, Indian food could be either. As to the citizenship thing, I would point out that the federal government did not offer blanket citizenship to all Native Americans until 1924, making them the last native born group and one of the last groups in America eligible for citizenship (Asian immigrants got the right to become citizens later). Most native Americans had already become citizens prior to that, however, as a side effect of allotting the reservations.

    • Stag Party Palin

      blanket citizenship

      I see what you did there.

      • DrDick

        Not intentionally, actually. Can we please bury the myth of the diseased blankets? In the entire 500 years since the European invasion of North America, there is one definite (the Dutch at Ft. Orange, modern Albany, in the 1600s) and one possible (Gen. Jeffrey Amherst authorized the the distribution of smallpox infested blankets at Ft. Pitt, modern Pittsburg, during the French and Indian War, but there is no evidence that it was ever carried out). There was simply no need for such biological warfare as the European populations were pestilentially disease ridden and epidemics spread extremely rapidly with devastating impacts in the virgin soil conditions of the Americas (one measles epidemic during the 1600s in north central Florida killed 10,000 Indians at the Spanish missions in a few months).

  • Jonathan

    Small Pox and Horses can from the Occident, but potatoes, like their cousins tomatoes, are from the Western Hemisphere and were first cultivated by Native Americans.

    • DrDick

      Even horses originated in the western hemisphere and then spread to the eastern, then going extinct here before the arrival of humans.

      • rea

        then going extinct here before the arrival of humans.

        Or, as some have claimed, going extinct when humans arrived and ate them.

        • DrDick

          IIRC, horses were already extinct by then, though Indians are sometimes cited as one factor in the extinction of mammoths, wooly rhinoceroses, ground sloths, and other megafauna. Somewhat suspicosu, however, owing to the fact that the same or similar species all went extinct all through the northern hemisphere at the same time.

          • Woodrowfan

            Although hunting by humans may have been a factor in driving a species that was already under pressure to extinction…

  • The Dark Avenger

    There used to be a restaurant in Visalia, CA, which featured “Southwestern”(and not in the sense of Spanish/Mexican) cuisine, but it closed years ago, and you’re more likely to find a El Salvadorean place than an American Indian place to eat.

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