Indigenous Choctaw cuisine embodies the aromas of the longleaf pine forest, the colors of the southern tallgrass prairie, and the vibrance of the bayou. A true American original, this world-class ethnic food has influenced several of today’s most popular styles of cooking. Yet trough the Trail of Tears, boarding schools, and a growing disconnection from the land, many parts of this foodway have fallen asleep. One of the main goals of Nan Awaya Farm is to recover sleeping knowledge that can help our community bring Indigenous Choctaw cuisine back to the dinner table.
For more than twelve years, Ian has been tracking down seeds for surviving Choctaw heritage crop plants, talking with elders about their food memories, perusing hundreds of relevant historical documents, and systematically pulling together Choctaw plant names. Together, we've been making and using traditional Choctaw cooking implements and doing experiments with food prep and land management at Nan Awaya Farm. This work is personal.
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 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.
The results of Ian's research to bring the fragmented pieces of knowledge surrounding the Indigenous Choctaw foodway back together 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 deep culture and history in a way that is 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 resolution, the Tribal Council has formally honored it as a "significant contribution to the Choctaw people". Choctaw Nation sells the book through the Tushkahuma Capitol Museum (855-569-4465).
No one could ever learn all there is to know about such a deep foodway and culture. We continue to practice and learn things that are new to us at Nan Awaya Farm. Through this work, and also our day jobs, we strive to support Choctaw Nation government and community efforts to revitalize Indigenous food.