- By Levi Rickert
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — With the COVID-19 pandemic changing normalcy across the country, those seeking to attend powwows have had to settle for virtual dancing and drumming. While virtually watching powwow dancers dressed in their colorful regalia satisfies cultural exchange for some, a popular Michigan powwow food vendor realized there are those who have been missing American Indian food fare.
Since Michigan powwows were cancelled due to COVID-19 this summer, Rose’s Food Stand, which normally sets up business at powwows throughout Michigan from May until October, has set up a food tent complete to sell frybread, Indian tacos and Indian burgers (a hamburger served on frybread) and wild rice soup.
Rose’s Food Stand, renowned to those who frequent Michigan powwows, has been operating since the late 1960s when powwows reemerged in the state. Started by Rose Shalifoe, the food stand is operated now by her family who use her recipes. Shalifoe passed away in 2005.
Last Friday, Rose’s brought its food to the parking lot of the Nottawaseppi Indian Health Clinic Center in Grand Rapids, Mich. Those who showed up in facial masks practiced safe distancing as they waited in line whetting their appetites from the aroma of frybread and taco meat.
“We know people miss coming to powwows to buy our food and some of us earn our money during the summer from our booth,” Alycia Atkinson (Sault Ste. Marie Chippewa), granddaughter of Rose Shalifoe, said.
By the looks of the steady stream of customers, many of them tribal citizens from surrounding tribes, the idea of bringing powwow food seems to be working.
For Stephanie Stinger (Little River Band of Ottawa Indians) buying her lunch was a nice treat. While waiting in line she saw one of her cousins behind her. Stinger said she heard about Rose's being there from family and a Facebook posting.
“I love their food and I like to support powwow vendors,” Stinger said.
Jerry Chivis (Little River Band of Ottawa Indians) came down to buy wild rice soup.
“Any opportunity to buy the soup, I make my way out to get some,” Chivis said.
In addition to the health clinic, Rose’s has visited the Pokagon Potawatomi in Dowagiac, Mich. and the Pine Creek Indian Reservation, home to the Nottawaseppi Huron Potawatomi in Athens, Mich.
On hand Friday to mix up the frybread dough was Tom Marshall (Rosebud Sioux), the son-in-law of Rose Shalifoe.
Atkinson says Marshall, affectionately called Grandpa Tom, is an eight-time frybread champion. He won his awards at Indian frybread contests at the annual Keweenaw Bay Indian Community Summer Powwow in Baraga, Mich.
“This is my mother-in-law’s recipe. She started me off carrying flour for her, then she taught me how to make it. I have been making it for 30 years,” Marshall said.
Atkinson says the Rose’s crew is ready to bring the food stand to other Michigan tribes upon request.
Since you're here...
We believe everyone in Indian Country deserves equal access to news and commentary pertaining to them, their relatives and their communities. That's why the story you’ve just finished was free — and we want to keep it that way, for all readers. But we hope it inspires you to make a gift of $5 or more to Native News Online so that we can continue publishing more stories that make a difference to Native people, whether they live on or off the reservation. Your donation will help us keep producing quality journalism and elevating Indigenous voices. Any contribution of any amount — big or small — gives us a better, stronger future and allows us to remain a force for change. Donate to Native News Online today and support independent Indigenous journalism. Thank you.