Native American Thanksgiving traditions for today's table

by Staff Sgt. Amber Grimm
51st Fighter Wing PAO

OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- One day each fall the people of America devote time to gather with family and friends, to feast on turkey, stuffing, cranberries, sweet potatoes and all manner of delicious dishes.  A traditional time for people to reflect on the bounty of the year and acknowledge all of the good things that have happened.

 School books are filled with the familiar story of the first Thanksgiving, jovial drawings depicting pilgrims and Native Americans coming together to share traditions and good will. They combined their cultures in a day dedicated to celebrating a successful harvest and renewal of hope after a lean year.

 In honor of the spirit of that first Thanksgiving, and in honor of National American Indian Heritage Month, I would like to share a few traditional Cherokee recipes passed down for generations, from my family to yours.

Bean Bread

  •  1 cup of cornmeal
  •  ½ cup flour
  •  2 tsp baking powder
  •  1 tbsp sugar
  •  2 cups milk
  •  ¼ cup melted shortening
  •  1 beaten egg
  •  2 tbsp honey
  •  4 cups drained brown beans

 Mix all of these ingredients, except beans, thoroughly, and then fold in the beans. Pour into greased, heated pan. Bake at 450 until brown (approximately 30 mins). Best when served with a side of honey.

Fry Bread

  •  2 cups flour
  •  1/2 tsp. salt
  •  1/2 cup water
  •  1/2 tsp. baking powder
  •  1/2 cup instant dry milk
  •  2 cups shortening

 Add the flour, baking powder, salt, powdered milk, and water into a bowl and mix just enough to form a dough ball, being careful not to overwork the dough.

Heat shortening until flakes of flour start to bubble when dropped into oil. While shortening is heating, pull off a palm-sized mound of dough and roll it into a smooth ball then flatten into a disk shape. Size is a matter of preference.

Put dough into pan, cook until brown, turn over and cook other side until brown. You can take a brown paper bag and place a few sheets of paper towels on the bottom and drop finished fry bread into bag to let grease drain.

Grape Dumplings

  •  1 cup flour
  •  1 ½ tsp baking powder
  •  2 tsp sugar
  •  ¼ tsp salt
  •  1 tbsp shortening
  •  ½ cup grape juice

 Mix flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and shortening. Add juice and mix into stiff dough. Roll dough into pea to grape sized balls, or if desired roll out into thin sheets and cut into strips ½ inch wide to 2 inches long. Drop into boiling grape juice and cook for 10 - 12 minutes.

Serve warm with ice cream if desired.

 Agisdi Ostu (Cherokee- "Eat well")

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