News

    Thanksgiving Features Native American Foods

    Many of the traditional foods eaten at Thanksgiving dinner have Native American roots but have been spiced up

    Thanksgiving holiday has its origins in the early 17th century when European settlers shared a meal of thanks with Native Americans after a successful fall harvest
    Thanksgiving holiday has its origins in the early 17th century when European settlers shared a meal of thanks with Native Americans after a successful fall harvest
    Jeff Swicord

    Each year, Americans gather with families and friends on the fourth Thursday of November to celebrate Thanksgiving.   The celebration usually includes a meal of turkey, sweet potatoes, squash, cornbread, cranberries, and pumpkin pie.  The first Thanksgiving meal in North America is thought to have taken place in 1621 as European settlers gathered with Native Americans to give thanks for a successful fall harvest. Many Americans believe Thanksgiving was created by the early European settlers. 

    Executive Chef Richard Hetzler is an expert on Native American foods.

    He's on a team that put together the cafeteria's menu at the Museum of the American Indian in Washington D.C.  The team spent several months researching Native American foods going back centuries.

    Their menu features foods from five different regions across the U.S.

    We stopped by to talk with him about the role Native Americans played in early Thanksgiving celebrations.

    "I think the biggest thing is that it was truly to give thanks.  It was an end of the year food harvest that people used.  They weren't going to be able to eat that well for the rest of the year because you were going into the winter months," Hetzler said.

    Today on Thanksgiving, family and friends gather for a traditional turkey dinner.

    But the holiday has its origins in the early 17th century when European settlers shared a meal of thanks with Native Americans after a successful fall harvest.

    Although Thanksgiving is not a Native American holiday, Chef Hetzler points out that Native Americans taught the European settlers how to trap, gather, and preserve the food that allowed them to survive in North America.  Many historians believe the settlers would not have survived those early years without help from Native Americans.

    "I think my take on Thanksgiving is it was Native Americans that brought together a bounty of feast for everybody to have," Hetzler explains. "And they would use the items that they would have had available to them."

    Hetzler says a wide array of Native American foods would have been present at the first Thanksgiving. "This is our Three Sister Salad. It has everything they would have had, the beans, the corn, the squash.  I would imagine that that would have been on the table.  The turkey definitely would have been on the table.  Right now, the corn bread definitely would have been there," he said.

    At the Museum of the American Indian, Chef Hetzler has tried to take the bland ingredients in Native American foods and adapt them to the modern palate. "The original corn bread recipes that we could find were very dense.  There is really no leavening in them," he said. "And essentially, I mean it made sense for what Native Americans did, they needed to take food and pack it with them."

    Hetzler says one of the most important things settlers learned from Native Americans was how to preserve vegetables and meats so they would last through the winter.

    "A lot of those vegetables could have been dried out.  So they would have cut them and laid them out in the sun.  And then they would have reconstituted them in soups and things of that nature.  So they were very good at preserving.  They also did a lot with salt," he added. "They were one of the first people to use salt to actually cure, cook, and preserve food."

    But the friendship between the settlers and the Native Americans did not last long.  Eventually, European settlers drove the Native Americans off their lands.  And the settlers lost touch with many Native American foods... except on Thanksgiving.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.