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Native Roots

By Kibbe Conti, Registered Dietician
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Photo of Dietician, Kibbe Conti

Frybread Blues?  Just Go Easy

Suzan Shown Harjo wrote a very bold and hilarious essay: "No more fat 'Indian' food" written for Indian Country Today, in the January 20th issue. "Target number one: the ubiquitous frybread", she begins. She so humorously picks apart frybread from every angle; its nutrition – or lack there of, it's Indian identity, and frybread as a symbol of colonialization.

She writes, "Frybread is bad for you? Well, let's see. It's made with white flour, salt, sugar and lard. The bonus ingredient is dried cow's milk for the large population of Native people who are both glucose and lactose intolerant". She got us all laughing and thinking about this fried, dimpled dough, that is now thought of as 'traditional'.

We all know that frybread is not really a traditional food – right? Wheat and most of the other cereal grains didn't come from the Americas. The Europeans brought these and a host of other 'white' foods with them: sugar, salt, oil, milk, rice, liquor, poultry, eggs and others. They also brought frying pans and the practice of frying foods as a cooking method. But this, by itself, isn't why Indian Nations adopted frybread as a food staple.

It wasn't until Indian people lost their land, and consequently their traditional food systems, that they adopted frybread out of necessity. The government issued rations of their 'white' foods when Indians were forced from their lands and starving. Frybread is tasty filler for hungry people but let's face it, our people are no longer starving. Actually, many of our people suffer from over-nutrition, meaning they're over nourished with too many calories, like from the fat and refined starches in frybread. Too many calories add up to stored fat in our midsection – a risk factor for diabetes and a host of other disorders.

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