Native man wants to open The Sioux Chef

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There are many things we are busy

reclaiming as Native people. Whether it be our minds, homelands,

children, language or history, there is always a noble fight to be

fought every single day. The same holds true for our connection to

food. Before colonization, food was treated as a sacred gift from the

Earth. There has always been a deep spiritual component to ourselves,

the landscape and what we eat. Everything we did, whether it was

ceremony, celebration or our seasonal activities, food was always a

main part of our lives.

Lakota chef, Sean Sherman is one of

those in our community committed to reclaiming our ancient foods. It

began with an interest in developing a Lakota cookbook modernizing

Native foods. He found during his research that there was a

tremendous lack of information about Indigenous foods. This prompted

him to launch his own learning plan to rediscover many of the first

foods. He found many resources; bookstores, history centers and

online. “I had to dig deep into very old history books to find

first account records,” he said. What he found was an abundance of

traditional knowledge waiting to be awakened.

Sherman credits his ancestors for

being connected to plant life, animals and the environment. He feels

that Native people have rich history when it comes to ways of

sustaining themselves for generations, “Our ancestors were

incredibly intelligent. They understood ancient technology has been

working for our people for thousands of years.” This is the

knowledge Sherman is using as a foundation his work with Twin Cities

Native community to revitalize these old ways of gathering,

preparing, preserving and serving these sacred Indigenous staples.

Sherman is finalizing the family style

restaurant, The Sioux Chef. He envisions the location to be easily

accessible to the Native community, ideally along the American Indian

Cultural Corridor on Franklin Avenue in Minneapolis, with hopes of

opening this winter.

The restaurant is set to feature only

pre-contact foods of this region. Diners will not find chicken, beef,

pork, cheese, wheat or refined sugars at The Sioux Chef. There are

restaurants that focus on the foods of the Americas, but this

restaurant will be original in using only foods Native to the

Minnesota region. Sherman hopes to draw in Natives and non-Natives to

his establishment by using simple, natural flavors that are

interesting. He strongly believes that the food will speak for

itself, “These plants are old relatives, these dishes will bring

back some old flavors.”

The Sioux Chef restaurant will be a

great opportunity for the collective community to start to reclaim a

healthy lifestyle. It may take a little practice to retrain our

bodies to remember these foods. Current Native diets are bombarded

with fat, sodium, sugar and refined wheat. Sherman recalls growing up

with frybread as a main staple, “Frybread pride is ingrained in our

community. It’s not healthy.”

He continues by offering a solution,

“There’s a wealth of ancestral knowledge out there that’s

worthwhile and a lot more healthy and interesting foods that identify

with us way more than frybread does.” This restaurant will be a

paradigm shift for the Twin Cities Native community.

He sees that elders are struggling

with maintaining a healthy lifestyle and the colonized diet fuels

many of the problematic health issues for them. Sherman hopes to help

our elders reconnect with their traditional diet so they can begin

healing their bodies and regaining strength. The realization of

remembering our old foods can help our community on the path back to

wellness. The Sioux Chef restaurant can provide a space to begin

conversations about our people’s path back to wellness.

Sherman also is planning on focusing

on the education the Native youth on the incredible gifts we have in

our immediate environment. “Getting kids to identify some of these

simple things; getting them out running around the woods and come

back with a bunch of free food for their family.” He strongly

believes that these old foods are a source for our culture as Native

people.

By empowering Native youth, these

teachings can be revitalized again, Sherman says, “Introducing

these foods to our children so they can grow up with it, understand

it and know it and know that it belongs to them.”

Rediscovering all the foods that

surround the Twin Cities Native community will take a community

effort. Sherman credits a couple of partners that he has been able to

work with on this journey. Wozupi Tribal Gardens in the Shakopee

Mdewakanton Dakota Community has been a great ally. Through

education, ethical growing practices, and sustainable models, Wozupi

produces locally grown whole foods to their community. Dream of Wild

Health has also been another organization that Sherman works with his

vision for the community. Through their seed collection, youth

programming and work in the Twin Cities area, these organizations

align perfectly with Sherman’s work.

Looking toward the future, Sherman

hopes to spread education through our community. His goal is for

people not to confuse colonized foods with our very own traditional

foods, he says, “People aren’t going to be confused about what is

Native foods.” He offers another traditional belief, “All our

foods is medicine.”