Chef Sean Sherman Illuminates Chicago with His Book, “The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen”

“Sioux Chef” Sean Sherman in Chicago

November is Native American Heritage Month

Published November 19, 2017

CHICAGO — On Monday, November 14th, Chef Sean Sherman, enrolled member of the Oglala Lakota Sioux Tribe and founder of the company The Sioux Chef, gave a presentation on his inspirational new book, “The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen.” The event was held at the University of Illinois at Chicago for Native American Heritage Month. Attendees learned about his culinary philosophy underscored by the challenges experienced growing up on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

His discussion began with a brief history of indigenous – U.S. relations with an ehistory.org interactive map entitled, “The Invasion of America: How the U.S. Took over an 1/8th of the World.” He described the dramatic changes in lifestyle that occurred due to devastating land loss during the treaty making era, the creation of federal Indian policies and the impact government sponsored boarding schools had on their attempts to assimilate native children into the mainstream Eurocentric society.

The book is a response to reclaiming food sovereignty by serving as a tool to be used on embracing the past and indigenizing the present. He explains how decolonizing ingredients found in everyday recipes transforms not only the nutritional content of a meal but connects you to the land that it was sourced from. Food and federal Indian policy have been inextricably woven together and an example of that is fry bread, “originated nearly 150 years ago when the U.S. government forced our ancestors from the homelands they farmed, foraged, and hunted and the waters they fished. Displaced and moved to reservations, they lost control of their food and were made to rely on government-issued commodities-canned meat, white flour, sugar, and lard – all lacking nutritive value. Controlling food is a means of controlling power.”

In response to this dynamic the nonprofit organization, Native American Traditional Indigenous Food System, was created to enrich the indigenous culinary palate and empower tribal communities. The mission is three-fold: education, research and food access. His team plans to secure a building in Minneapolis that will serve as the heartbeat of the organization. There will be an indigenous food lab, educational center and restaurant. People will have the opportunity to train alongside dedicated professional staff focused on teaching the fine art of indigenous cuisine as well as the practical skills needed to run their own food based business. Chef Sean adds, “All these different minds will help us grow. The next step is for us to branch out into the Tribal areas around us and help (them) develop their own community based food businesses. Every tribal community will be different because each has their own unique history, culture, and land”.

The book’s dedication celebrates and honors, “the next generation so that they may carry the flame of knowledge and keep alive our traditions, our foods, and our medicines for generations come.”

The American Indian Center, the UIC Native American Support Program, and the UIC Native American Student Organization and Chicago Public Library sponsored this event.

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