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Native American Thanksgiving Food

10 Native American Thanksgiving Food Favorites

Turkey, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, stuffing, bean casserole, pumpkin pie are the traditional Thanksgiving foods, right? We are all too familiar with these dishes. However, have you ever wondered how the pilgrims came up with the Thanksgiving menu? What is Native American Thanksgiving food?

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Native American Thanksgiving Food Menu

Everyone knows the school version of the first Thanksgiving story: Pilgrims in New England joined Native Americans to share a meal after the harvest. In fact, Native Americans have long celebrated Thanksgiving, and before Thanksgiving, as we know it in 1621, celebrated thanksgiving to the Creator every day. However, Native Americans tend to have distinct flavors from traditional Thanksgiving dishes, some of which date back to and before 1621. Here are the Native American Thanksgiving food favorites:

Fish, Birds or Venison

Native American Thanksgiving Food
Here’re 10 Native American Thanksgiving Food Favorites

Today, a food commonly associated with Thanksgiving – turkey – is not of Native American origin, although many Native Americans serve it in modern celebrations. In fact, Native Americans are said to have brought fish, birds, and venison to that 1621 gathering. You also need to know that, at the same time, the word “turkey” was used to describe any type of chicken.

Sobaheg

Native American Thanksgiving Food
Sobaheg – Native American Thanksgiving Food

The Wampanoags – Native Americans who attended a gathering in 1621 in Massachusetts, ate this stew and it still does today. This Native American Thanksgiving food usually includes kidney beans, corn, and a type of meat, usually turkey or fish. 

Some added vegetables may include groundnuts, artichokes, and squash. Cooking it can take hours, as it is best cooked over medium heat for that extended period of time. Many historians believe it was likely that this dish was served on Thanksgiving in 1621.

Poyha

Native American Thanksgiving Food
Poyha is one of the Native American Thanksgiving Food

In addition to being a major source of food, deer also provided Native Americans with clothing and tools such as knives and arrowheads made from deer antlers. That’s why Poyha, also known as Native American meatloaf. This Native American Thanksgiving food includes venison, or deer meat is the main ingredient. Poyha is a combination of venison and cornbread with green onions, wild onions, scallions, huckleberries, chokecherries, and other wild berries.

Pemmican

Native American Thanksgiving Food
Pemmican – Native American Thanksgiving Food

Derived from the Cree word pimîhkân, pemmican is a high-energy food related to the traditional Native American method of drying meat. Large ones such as bison, deer, moose, or elk are dried by fire or sun-dried until the meat becomes crispy enough to be pounded into a coarse powder. Small pieces of meat are then mixed with melted fat, fruit and berries. 

Because of its long shelf life, pemmican became the food of choice for winter and long hunts. This food is so effective in maintaining health for tourists and those who have to interfere with the factors that the fur traders in France have introduced pemmican into their diet. The Pemmican was also used by Robert Peary on his expeditions to the North Pole.

Pompion

Native American Thanksgiving Food
Pompion – Native American Thanksgiving Food

Pompion, also known as pumpkin, and stewed pompion is a dish commonly eaten in earlier times, even daily in some households. The pumpkin pie dish served at many modern Thanksgiving meals has its roots in this. Today, many people create this dish in the non-pie form, gather a type of squash, not necessarily pumpkin, and combine it with vinegar, ginger, salt, and of course butter. It is then cooked over medium heat until ready to serve.

Indian Pudding

Indian Pudding
Indian Pudding

This dish was a popular dish in New England during colonial times and continued to be served into the 1800s. Today, however, it is served infrequently. While it tends not to be all that is visually appealing, its taste is more than its appearance. Some add vanilla ice cream to enhance their dining experience. Its ingredients include cornstarch, molasses, milk, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Note that this is not a traditional Native American Thanksgiving Food.

Fry Bread

Native American Thanksgiving Food
Fry bread is as both a festive and an everyday treat

When booked in the mid-1800s, the US government promised to provide the natives with “commodity” foods to replace the subsistence foods that were no longer available to them. For European Americans, a basic commodity was wheat, so flour became their staple food. Over the past 150 years, this change has had many impacts on Native American cooking, notably with the invention of fry bread. One of the most popular and delicious modern indigenous foods, fry bread is suitable for many communities as both a festive and an everyday treat.

Three Sisters Salad

Native American Thanksgiving Food
Three sisters salad

In the villages of Haudenosaunee (Iroquois), as in many other Native communities, women planted, weeded, and harvested together, often working in large groups. The staple crops they grew – corn, beans, and squash – aka The Three Sisters. These three foods not only grow well together (natural climbing beans are supplied by cornstalks, while broadleaf squash spreads out underneath, preventing weeds and retaining soil moisture) but when cooked together they also provide nearly complete nutrition.

Wojapi

Native American Thanksgiving Food
Native American Thanksgiving Food

Wild berries are abundant in the Great Plains region of the United States. Wojapi honors a variety of berries by combining them together in a thick pudding. Any variety of wild berries — like strawberries, blackberries, and chokecherries — are readily available, which can be boiled and mixed with cornmeal and honey. Puddings can be used in pemmican, in soups, as a sauce for meats, or even as desserts, and are loved by Native Americans.

Corn

Corn is a food that is not believed to have been served in 1621 when cultures were brought together as no records of it exist in New England before the 1600s. This contradicts the Many stories that have been told about it being eaten during that meal. However, corn was commonly consumed by Native Americans during this time as the Wampanoag tribesmen introduced the food to the pilgrims. Hominy is said to have been served during that meal.

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