Why It’s Critical to Reclaim Heritage Foods in Tribal Communities

Across the country, there are 574 federally recognized Tribes, each with their own heritage foods and recipes. Traditional Native American cuisine is rich and diverse, yet we see so little of it today even in Tribal communities. This is largely due to a storied history of Native people being saddled with a traditional Western diet and food dependency when the reservations were formed. This, in turn, drives food-related diseases, including obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. In fact, diabetes disproportionately impacts Native youth aged 10-19 and 27% of Elders aged 65 and up. 

To live healthy lives, Tribal communities must have access to healthy food and clean drinking water – it’s as simple as that.

Healthy Nutrition with Heritage Foods

Through our food services, Partnership With Native Americans (PWNA) is working to ensure Native Americans have the nourishment they need to thrive. This includes increasing access to culturally relevant and nutritious foods and working collaboratively with Tribal partners to address food insecurity and preserve traditional food practices. For instance, PWNA hosts Train the Trainer (T3) nutrition training on healthy cooking with ancestral foods, a long-term solution toward better health outcomes.

Last year, with support from Olo for Good and the Tides Foundation, we hosted food demos to train more than 400 people how to cook and eat healthier through our NPRA and SWRA programs.  We also distributed more than 113,000 pounds of fresh produce and ancestral foods such as bison and mutton to help families in the Northern Plains and Southwest provide nutrient-rich meals at home.

Native American Recipes

If you are like me and like to cook, I would encourage you to try some traditional Native foods like this Three Sisters recipe and to download our Native American Recipe Book today.

What’s the best part about Native ingredients? They all have a backstory deeply rooted in our history, which makes using them and learning about them even more interesting. We’d love to hear from you about what Native foods you have tried or are interested in, so drop a comment below or leave one on social media!

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