At the heart of any community's relationship with the land is its foodway- the knowledge skills, tools, and relationships that a community uses to feed itself. The foodway that today feeds most Americans comes from an industrialized farming system that, over the last century, has mined out the fertility and resiliency of the soils across huge parts of this country. The degraded condition of the farm when we purchased it was the result of this type of relationship with the land. The Standard American Diet that comes from this unbalanced relationship is low in nutrients, but high in sugar, carbohydrates, and salt. It has caused an epidemic of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease that leads to a shorter, lower quality of life. No community suffers a higher rate of these diet-related diseases than Native Americans.
In 2013, Amy was diagnosed with a form of diabetes. Rather than take medicines that treat the symptoms, but not the cause of the disease, we decided to change our lifestyle. We dropped processed foods from our diet and began focusing on vegetables fruits, and legumes, particularly the ones that our Choctaw ancestors had eaten. Within three months of making this transition, Amy was out of the diabetic range, and we had lost 70 pounds between us. A year into the transition, our level of energy was through the roof, and neither of us had experienced so much as a cold or sore throat since changing our diet. No pill or western health clinic could have achieved that level of results. As we should later learn, other colonized communities from around the world have experienced a similar improvement in health, when they have returned from the Standard American Diet to their own traditional foods.
Choctaw cuisine, in its original, Indigenous form, is rarely eaten by anyone today. This is because trough the Trail of Tears, boarding schools, and food deserts, our connection with the land has changed. For more than ten years, Ian has been talking with elders, reading ethnohistory, studying archaeological reports, and tracking down every available source in order to learn about how the Choctaw foodway was before colonization. We've come to the realization that this foodway is about far more than recipes, it is ultimately about a much broader relationship with the land. Our time spent learning from and managing the land on the Nan Awaya Heritage Farmstead has contributed to that understanding in many ways. The results of this work have been developed into a 350-page book entitled "Choctaw Food: Remembering the Land, Rekindling Ancient Knowledge". The intent of the book is to bring back to light the type of practical knowledge that could be useful to community members who are interested in revitalizing our Indigenous foodway. This book has been gifted to the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, and will be available in print in the summer of 2019.
The posts on this website in the "Choctaw Food" category present insights into traditional food-producing activities and dishes as the seasons for them come up. Please provide feedback. We'd love to start a conversation!