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.
    Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Busi
    X
    July 28, 2016 4:16 AM
    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Philadelphia Uses DNC Spotlight to Profile Historic Role in Founding of United States

    The slogan of the Democratic National Convention now underway in Philadelphia is “Let’s Make History Again” which recognizes the role the city played in the foundation of the United States in the 18th century. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, local institutions are opening their doors in an effort to capitalize on the convention spotlight to draw visitors, and to offer more than just a history lesson.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora