The Arts
Traditional Native foods are highlighted in Sioux Chef’s cookbook
Friday, October 06 2017
Written by Deborah Locke,
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bookcover.jpgThe Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen by Sean Sherman (Author) and Beth Dooley (Contributor), University Of Minnesota Press, October 10, 2017, Hardcover: 256 pages

So you think fry bread is a long-standing traditional American Indian cuisine? Nope. Sean Sherman, an Oglala Lakota chef with a mission to show people how to use and enjoy truly traditional food, asked his mom if she grew up with fry bread. Sean was raised on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.

Sean’s mother told him that she remembered fry bread consumption starting in the 1960s. It became common in American Indian households as a way to use the federal government commodity food that included shortening and flour.

“If fry bread started in the 60s, it doesn’t go back that far,” he said in a phone interview. “There’s no reason that fry bread should be the go-to staple for every tribe in North America. It tastes good and people have had to survive off it, but it’s not healthy. We should be at a point now where we break that mold and bring better food to the table.”

Sean has just published a cook book entitled “The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen” which will be available for sale in October. Much of that better and genuinely traditional food is highlighted in the cookbook recipes. For those readers who grew up on Minnesota reservations and ate lots of rabbit and venison, the book is a treasure trove.

Its recipes include ingredients that were a mainstay of Natives who lived here hundreds of years ago. Some of those ingredients are a challenge to find, such as sumac, juniper berries or rabbit. Sean offers some substitutions in the recipes, but the point this chef makes is simple. Go with your instinct. Taste as you go, trust your judgment, and know that the recipes were written more as an outline than a rule book. 

“Clean food from your own region is so good for your body,” he said, adding that if he could change the world in one swoop, he would make everyone fully aware of plants as food and medicine, and how they were used by Native ancestors to maintain health.
Much of that knowledge has been lost, and that is the challenge before Sean and the growing number of Native chefs who work to return yesteryear’s food to a 21st Century table. Sean cooks with fresh ingredients from a local co-op and uses a lot of seasonal ingredients. Missing from his table are European staples like wheat flour, dairy products, sugar, and domestic pork and beef. The recipes usually contain only four or five ingredients; the two I chose to make took little time and were delicious.

If you buy this book, give attention to the introduction where you will learn about Sean’s journey from a reservation boyhood to his 27-year career as a chef, caterer and food educator in Minnesota, South Dakota and Montana. As a child, Sean attended powwows, Sun Dances, family gatherings and school events interspersed with hunting game birds, mending fences, and riding in the open back of pickup trucks. The writing is so vivid and compelling that you will wish the introduction was 100 pages longer.
Then make a grocery list and make a few calls to find the sumac or chokecherries. You may find the cedar sprigs in your own back yard. By dinner time you’ll be eating a traditional meal not unlike those consumed by your great-great-great-grandparents.

Sean and co-author Beth Dooley will appear at a book signing from 6-9 p.m. on Oct. 18 at the Aster Café River Room, 125 S.E. Main Street, Minneapolis. Samples made from recipes in the cookbook will be served. Books will be available for purchase.
Additionally, Sean will give 30-minute cooking demonstrations from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. on Oct. 21 at the Mill City Museum. The museum is located at 704 S. 2nd St., Minneapolis. The cost to attend is included in your museum ticket ($12 adults, $10 seniors, veterans/active military, college students, $6 ages 5-17, free for those age 4 and under and for Minnesota Historical Society members.)
For more information, see the website: .

booksoup.jpgIt’s not enough that the ingredients from Sherman’s new cookbook create delicious, memorable food. They also introduce remarkable aromas to the kitchen that last like a natural air freshener for at least a day.

That delightful fact became apparent with the use of freshly chopped sage which brought a delicate flavor to both the bean cakes and the wild rice pilaf. Until now, the only sage I’ve cooked with was dried and from a jar. Fresh sage is far superior. For both recipes, the shallot added a milder flavor than the yellow onions I usually use, and the smoked salt added an unexpected pop.

When shopping for the bean cake recipe, I couldn’t find juniper, sumac or corn flour and used regular flour (sorry, Sean) and extra shallot and sage. Apparently corn flour is displayed in Hispanic food sections of the grocery store, not in the baking aisles. In a phone interview and in his book, Sean said that recipes are more like outlines waiting to become your own creation. If you don’t have an ingredient, substitute it for an ingredient that is closely related in flavor and texture. Or don’t. Do something completely different. This chef advocates for an adventurous spirit when you step into the kitchen.

When making the bean cakes, do not follow my example and use a blender to mix the dough unless you want to work with a sad, sloppy mess. Use a food processor, as Sean says. (And corn flour might work better as well!) I transferred the sticky mass to a mixing bowl and used a pastry cutter to successfully blend the dough. Also, I used the egg in only half of the dough. The eggless half turned out crispier.   

For the wild rice pilaf, try to use wild rice harvested and finished on one of Minnesota’s northern wild rice lakes. It is far better than the mass produced variety from the grocery store. You’ll find information online for Native wild rice producers from all or most of the state’s reservations. The wild rice I used from the Fond du Lac Reservation cooked up fluffy, flavorful and with just the right texture.
In preparing the recipe, I used eight ounces of baby bella mushrooms, and eight ounces of shitake mushrooms. The instructions didn’t require that the mushrooms be chopped, but I cut the largest ones into chunks. The vegetable stock evaporated and/or soaked into the rice almost immediately. I used pine nuts in lieu of chestnuts. The recipe was easy to prepare, and the results were spectacular. 


Crispy Bean Cakes
Serves 4 to 6

Serve these as a first course on wild greens, or make them into tiny patties for finger food. They make wonderful appetizers and snacks.

2 cups cooked or canned beans, drained
1 to 2 teaspoons chopped sage
1 duck egg
¼ cup chopped wild onion or shallot
Pinch salt
Pinch crushed juniper
¼ cup corn flour plus a tablespoon for dusting the cakes as needed
3 to 4 tablespoons sunflower oil
Pinch sumac

Preheat the oven to 250°F. In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, pulse together all of the ingredients to make a rough dough. Using moistened hands, form the mixture into patties about ½ inch thick. Dust the patties with the flour and set aside.

Film a skillet with the oil, and set over medium heat. Working in batches, fry the patties until golden brown on each side, about 5 to 7 minutes per side. Transfer to a baking sheet and put in the oven to keep warm.
(From “The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen” by Sean Shermann with Beth Dooley.)


Wild Rice Pilaf with Wild Mushrooms, Roasted Chestnuts, & Dried Cranberries
Serves 4 to 6

Wild rice is a flavorful and remarkably satisfying food. The mushrooms add a dark, meaty flavor and texture, while the chestnuts are creamy (and high in protein). This meatless dish will appeal to omnivore and vegetarian alike. Cooked wild rice will keep several weeks in the refrigerator and for at least a year when frozen in a plastic freezer bag.

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat and add the mushrooms, sage, and onion. Cook, stirring, until the mushrooms are nicely browned and the onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the stock, wild rice, and cranberries and cook until the liquid is nearly evaporated. Stir in the roasted chestnuts. Season with maple syrup and smoked salt to taste.

2 tablespoons sunflower or walnut oil
1 pound assorted mushrooms, cleaned
1 tablespoon chopped sage
½ cup chopped wild onion or shallots
½ cup Corn Stock or vegetable stock
2 cups cooked wild rice
½ cup dried cranberries
1 cup roasted, peeled, chopped chestnuts*
1 tablespoon maple syrup to taste
½ to 1 teaspoon smoked salt to taste

*To roast and peel chestnuts, use the sharp point of a small knife to score an X on the flat side of the chestnut and place on a baking sheet. Roast in a 350°F oven until the skins begin to peel back. The length of roasting time will depend on the freshness and size of the chestnuts and range from about 10 to 25 minutes. Remove, and when cool enough to handle, peel.
(From “The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen” by Sean Shermann with Beth Dooley.)

RUMBLE documentary gives credit to Native American musicians
Thursday, September 14 2017
Written by The Circle,
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 poster.jpgMany artists and musical forms played a role in the creation of rock, but arguably no single piece of music was more influential than the 1958 instrumental “Rumble” by American Indian rock guitarist and singer/songwriter Link Wray.

When recalling Link Wray’s shivering guitar classic, “Rumble,” film director, and producer Martin Scorsese marvels, “It is the sound of that guitar . . . that aggression.” “Rumble” was the first song to use distortion and feedback. It introduced the rock power chord – and was one of the very few instrumental singles to be banned from the radio for fear it would incite violence.

The independent film, RUMBLE, explores how the Native American influence is an integral part of music history, despite attempts to ban, censor, and erase Indian culture in the United States. It tells the story of a profound, essential and, until now, missing chapter in the history of American music.

As RUMBLE reveals, the early pioneers of the blues had Native as well as African American roots, and one of the first and most influential jazz singers’ voices was trained on Native American songs. As the folk rock era took hold in the 60s and 70s, Native Americans helped to define its evolution.

Father of the Delta Blues Charley Patton, influential jazz singer Mildred Bailey, metaphysical guitar wizard Jimi Hendrix, and folk heroine Buffy Sainte-Marie are among the many music greats who have Native American heritage and have made their distinctive mark on music history.

RUMBLE uses playful re-creations and little-known stories, alongside concert footage, archives and interviews. The stories of these iconic Native musicians are told by some of America’s greatest music legends and other artist who knew them, played music with them, and were inspired by them, including: Taj Mahal, Cyril Neville, Ivan Neville, John Trudell, Steven Tyler, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Jackson Browne, Martha Redbone, Joy Harjo, Iggy Pop, Pura Fe Crescioni (Ulali), Robbie Robertson, Buffy Sainte-Marie, and many others.

The documentary is the winner of the Sundance Film Festival 2017 Special Jury Award for Masterful Storytelling, and Best Music Documentary.

RUMBLE is showing at the Landmark Lagoon Cinema in Minneapolis September 1st thru September 7th.

Rumble is scheduled to show throughout 2017 and 2018 at  locations around the country. To find dates and places, see:

“A Bag Worth A Pony” is a well-illustrated study of bandolier bags
Thursday, September 14 2017
Written by Deborah Locke,
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 Beadworkers Batiste Sam and Maude Kegg pause to relax with Fred Benjamin at Mille Lacs. c. 1994. (All photos courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society.)A Bag Worth a Pony: The Art of the Ojibwe Bandolier Bag Paperback
By Marcia G. Anderson
Published May 15, 2017
Publisher: Minnesota Historical Society Press
Paperback: 272 pages

For students of American Indian history in general – and of niche Ojibwe history in particular – “A Bag Worth a Pony” is for you. Or if you’re a fabric and textile wonk or College of Design instructor or student at the University of Minnesota, “A Bag Worth a Pony” is for you. Or if Ojibwe family names like Kegg, Sam, LeGarde, Hole in the Day, LaFave, Moos, Benjamin, Posey, King, Smith, and a dozen others mean something to you, read this book.

“A Bag Worth A Pony: The Art of the Ojibwe Bandolier Bag” is a meticulous and exceptionally well-illustrated study of the history of beaded Ojibwe bandolier bags, or gashkibidaaganag (which loosely translates in Ojibwe as an item that is enclosed, attached and tied).

The author, Marcia G. Anderson, is a retired collections curator at the Minnesota Historical Society (MHS) who stumbled over a storage box of beaded bags in 1981. The discovery whetted Anderson’s fascination for fabric, crafts and women’s work and presented challenging questions. Who were the women who created the exquisitely beautiful designs? What were the bags used for and for whom were they created? How old are the earliest bags? Why status did they confer to the wearer?

Those questions and more prompted countless trips to museums, archives and Ojibwe reservations to learn the history and artistry of the prestigious gashkibidaaganag.

Batiste Sam with her gashkibidaagan, 1995.In the first half of the book Anderson’s findings give a tremendous amount of detail about the evolution of the form, structure and motif of the bags. The book’s title is explained here – in the 1800s the Dakota found the Ojibwe gashkibidaaganag so valuable that they traded a pony for an bag. Hence the bags – that appear to be dated back to about 1870 – became a form of commerce and of cultural identity, Anderson wrote. Even if the Ojibwe dressed like “Christianized Indian farmers,” the addition of a bag over that clothing was symbolic to Indians and non-Indians of a proud Ojibwe heritage.

The sheer volume of information gives the first half of the book a textbook-like feel. Anderson goes into detail on bead types, thread types, border differences, tassels, fringes, and the disappearance of pockets.

You can easily imagine Anderson with gloved hands cautiously exploring the size and details of all 123 full bags in the MHS collection, and then the dozens of bags she examined off-site. The Society’s photo collection enhanced the study of gashkibidaaganag for Anderson as she ably identified the earlier loom-woven bags and their evolution to the later year spot-stitch applique bags.

In the book’s photos, Ojibwe men displayed full regalia which included the wearing of at least one bag. The published photos give an intriguing pictorial history of the Ojibwe in the 1800s and 1900s. In short, the reader wants to learn more about the bag wearers. Some were part of a treaty delegation, some posed for studio photographers, some posed in family portraits.

The heart of the book, however, is its second half where artistry comes to life through the stories of Ojibwe women (and a few men) from each Minnesota Ojibwe reservation who created the bags. In mid-book, two of the country’s premier bag creators and respected elders from the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, Batiste Sam and Maude Kegg, are pictured with Fred Benjamin. (Fred is misidentified in the photo as Kenny Weyaus.) The photo of these two beloved grandmas depicts pure exuberance and joy, and you’d just like to give each of them a hug.

Maude and Baptiste have passed away, but their amazing talent lives on in the applique bags stored at the Mille Lacs Museum near Onamia. Anderson wrote that the Ojibwe favored floral designs in general, but unique flourishes emerged at each reservation. Distinctive Mille Lacs designs included the cornucopia, the trumpet flower and the seed pod. Anderson wrote: “Maude’s bag was, like most Ojibwe gashkibidaaganag, filled with the fluidity, enthusiasm, and the unique signature of the individual bead artist.”

Gashkibidaagan made by Maude Kegg, 1982.That kind of conclusion arrives after careful study, but in addition to her research skill, Anderson demonstrates cultural sensitivity and an affection and respect for the women who created these objects of beauty. She pointed out the many decisions a beader made before picking up bead and thread, such as the taste of the man who would wear it. The beader considered the best of what was old and new in bag creation, what beads, thread and fabric were available, and colors and patterns.

Anderson wrote: “And she did all this, with the simplest of resources, while struggling with political oppression that amounted to cultural genocide – forced assimilation, outlawing of traditional religious practices, forced removal of children to boarding schools – and, often, severe poverty.”

Gashkibidaaganag became wildly popular throughout North America especially through the Arts and Crafts period of the 1920s. The women beaders of Minnesota were viewed as the best in the world and the money they earned from bag production was critical to their households.

Again, the book is not for everyone as its detail can be overwhelming at times. But the photographs of gashkibidaaganag are gorgeous, and the portion with personal accounts from master beaders is invaluable. If you are a serious student of Ojibwe history, you’ll want to know what is in this book.



“You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me” is a story of survival, humor and wisdom
Tuesday, August 08 2017
Written by Deborah Locke,
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sherman-alexie-book.jpgSherman Alexie’s latest book is a memoir about his mother Lillian and a whole lot more. It’s a book that sits inside your head after you finish it, forcing you to feel what you’d rather not feel, and above all else, ensuring that you will never ever forget Lillian Alexie. Or her son, Sherman.

“You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me” is the story of a family from the Spokane Indian Reservation near Wellpinit, Wash. The book centers on Alexie’s relationship with his complex, blunt mother who often comes off as the least maternal mother imaginable. According to her son, Lillian was cruel and unpredictable, oppressive, intelligent and arrogant.

In 2015, Lillian died from cancer at age 78 at the family HUD-built home. Alexie’s grief and loss permeate the book about reservation life and death even as he introduces people you wished you had known while they were alive.

If the above sounds like a contradiction – and a downer – know also that this is a story of survival, of reservation humor and irony, and of insight and wisdom. The lives unfold in word bits through a swirling narrative of prose and poetry, with facts scattered the way patches seem to be scattered on a quilt.

Yet there’s a cohesive structure to the book, the way there’s a cohesive structure to a quilt. Sherman’s mother was an expert quilter, and the income generated from the quilts she sold paid for food and other necessities. Her son Sherman showed an early affinity for written words; with time, he became famous and a best-selling author. This book stitches the mother/son relationship together with many other pieces – Spokane tribal history, Sherman’s brain surgery and recovery, grade school bullying, criticism of Donald Trump supporters, genocide, fame, family secrets, reservation abandonment, first kisses and way more.

But it’s that mother/son dynamic that keeps returning to center stage. At his mother’s funeral, Sherman looked around at the mourners and realized how he had always wanted to be beloved by them, yet he had left the reservation to attend a high school 22 miles away and never returned.

“Between me and my tribe, I didn’t belong because maybe I never wanted to belong. When everybody else danced and sang, I silently sat in my room with books…I used books for self-defense.”

Permitting her son to leave home in 1979 and receive an education in a white community was one way Lillian saved Sherman’s life, he wrote. He grew in confidence at the high school and became a class standout both academically and athletically.

Lillian also saved his life, and that of his siblings, when she quit drinking alcohol in 1973 and focused on her children’s safety. She remained a dry drunk for the rest of her life, flying into and out of rages and taking her anger out on whoever was closest to her at the time. Often that was Sherman, her “most regular opponent. I remember only a little bit of my mother’s kindness and almost everything about her coldness.”

Yet in a poem about quilting, he wrote how he missed his mother, the rebellious trickster with her inconsistent mothering. “She taught us survival with needle, thread and thimble all stained with her blood,” he wrote.

He also wrote of other important women in his life. Sherman’s wife Diane is his bedrock and by the end of the book, you wish Diane would write her own memoir. His twin sisters pop up here and there, providing comic relief and perspective for their brother. And there are small vignettes of everyday life, like doing laundry at home with Diane, where Sherman perversely refused to fold clean clothes, but happily ironed them to perfection.

It’s those little excerpts that bring humanity and lightness to the story, like the wonderful description of Lillian frying baloney that curled at the edges and rose, whose sizzle was one of Lillian’s love songs. Like the story of a kind, competent nurse who cared for Sherman after his brain surgery. Like the “Edith Whartonian social rules of the reservation” which will be immediately recognized by those familiar with reservations.

This is a book with staying power, a book that won’t leave your head soon.

Sherman Alexie, Jr. is a Spokane-Coeur d'Alene-American novelist, short story writer, poet, and filmmaker best known for the movie “Smoke Signals.” He has won the Pen/Faulkner Award, the National Book Award, and the Sundance Film Festival Audience Award. Alexie lives in Seattle with his wife, Diane. They have two sons. He will participate in the Season Opener of the Talking Volumes Series on Sept. 14, 2017 at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul.  

Patriot Nations: Native Americans in Our Nation’s Armed Forces
Thursday, June 01 2017
Written by The Circle,
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native-american-vets1.jpgGeneral Douglas MacArthur, commander-in-chief of the Allied forces in the South Pacific, on an inspection trip of American battle fronts, late 1943. From left: Staff Sergeant Virgil Brown (Pima), First Sergeant Virgil F. Howell (Pawnee), Staff Sergeant Alvin J. Vilcan (Chitimacha), General MacArthur, Sergeant Byron L. Tsingine (Diné), and Sergeant Larry Dekin (Diné). (Photo by U.S. Army Signal Corps.)


The Historic Fort Snelling in Minnesota will host “Patriot Nations: Native Americans in Our Nation’s Armed Forces”, an exhibit that tells the history of the brave American Indian and Alaska Native men and women who have served in the US military. Using art, photography and essays, the show examines more than 300 years of Native people’s contributions to the U.S. military. Native peoples have participated in every major U.S. military encounter from the Revolutionary War to today’s conflicts in the Middle East, serving at a higher rate in proportion to their population than any other ethnic group.


Presented in 18 full-color banners, the exhibit includes additional content developed by Minnesota Historical Society about the efforts of American Indian veterans from Minnesota and the surrounding area. It will be on display May 27 to Aug. 12, 2017, and was produced by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian.

Admission for Native American guests is waived. Historic Fort Snelling, 200 Tower Avenue, Saint Paul. 612-726-1171














The Native American Women Warriors lead the grand entry during a powwow in Pueblo, Colorado, June 14, 2014. From left: Sergeant First Class Mitchelene BigMan (Apsáalooke/ Hidatsa), Sergeant Lisa Marshall (Cheyenne River Sioux), Specialist Krissy Quinones (Apsáalooke]), and Captain Calley Cloud (Apsáalooke), with Tia Cyrus (Apsáalooke) behind them. (Photo by Nicole Tung.)


Left: Ernest Childers (Muscogee) receives the Congressional Medal of Honor from Lieutenant General Jacob L. Devers (left). 5th Army headquarters, April 8, 1944. Under heavy enemy fire, Lieutenant Childers
had wiped out two German machine gun nests near Oliveto, Italy, killing enemy snipers and capturing an artillery observer. (Photo: Bettmann/
Getty Images.)


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