Indigenous Food Knowledge
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 Standard American Diet that comes from this unbalanced relationship has caused an epidemic of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease that leads to a shorter, lower quality of life. No community suffers more from 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 would later learn, other colonized communities from around the world have experienced a similar improvement in health, when they have returned 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 relationship with the land has changed. For more than ten years, Ian has been tracking down surviving Choctaw heirloom seeds, talking with elders, and perusing hundreds of written sources in order to put back together the fragmented pieces of the Choctaw foodway as it was before colonization. This foodway is about more than a cuisine, it is about the traditional Choctaw relationship with the land, and it connects seamlessly with Choctaw language, traditional arts, land management, and community. We have been experimenting and practicing a lot of what we have learned about Choctaw food at the Nan Awaya Farmstead.
The results of thousands of hours of research and practice have been condensed into a book entitled "Choctaw Food: Remembering the Land, Rekindling Ancient Knowledge". Through roughly 300 pages of text, over 150 color images, and 90 recipes for Indigenous Choctaw food dishes, it presents in a way that is both culturally deep and practical enough that anyone can use it to bring Indigenous Choctaw food back to the dinner table. Upon its completion, the book was gifted to the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. Through a formal resolution, the Tribal Council has acknowledged this book as a "significant contribution to the Choctaw people". Choctaw Nation sells the book here.