Lake Texoma

Because Life is Better at the Lake

Indian Fry Bread, Indian Tacos, and Chickasaw Culinary Collections

by
Lumini Services
Kendall Davis is well-versed in the English language. She has 20 years experience as a published author and writing for clients. Her published works include historical articles in museums, magazines, newspaper articles, columns, content marketing, advertising copy, blogging, and academic papers. Kendall also makes her way in the literary world as a copyeditor. Writing about history is her first love interest. If you have editing or content needs on your website or for your books, articles, blogs, or columns, please visit her website to see details and more examples of her work, the services she offers, and contact information. http://kdavis1836.wixsite.com/luminiwrites




Many Texomans living near our Oklahoma shores are familiar with Indian tacos and Indian fry bread. The Chickasaw tribe considers the southeastern quadrant of today’s Oklahoma the end to their Trail of Tears. After Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act in 1832, the U.S. gave the Choctaw tribe the south half of today’s Oklahoma. When the U.S. forced the Chickasaws to move, negotiations for them to buy Choctaw land in Indian Territory failed. High-pressure tactics from the U.S. coerced both tribes to sign the Treaty of Doaksville in 1837. That treaty gave the Chickasaw the right to settle on the eastern half of Choctaw land with a lease agreement. (1)


Something Humanly Unique Happens when Opposing Nations Break Bread with One Another


Since the whole north side of today’s Lake Texoma shores became home to the Chickasaw tribe after their trek on Old Hickory’s Trail of Tears, I wanted to share some of the histories of Native American food culture that developed over the years throughout the Indian Nations and the Chickasaw tribe. I have found Texomans who live on the Texas side of Lake Texoma unfamiliar with Indian tacos and Indian fry bread for the most part.


My father was born in Weleetka, Oklahoma, in 1927. I was age ten when my father took me on a road trip through rural Oklahoma in 1968. Marvin Davis was so excited to introduce Indian fry bread to my ever-acquiring palate. He took me to eat Indian fry bread with my dinner that first night on our road trip. Today, numerous charities in Oklahoma, like VFW and American Legion posts, frequently offer Indian tacos to raise funds for their purposes.


Indian Fry Bread


While Indian fry bread is attributed to the Navajo tribe by many sources, most U.S. tribes have adopted fry bread as their own. Fry bread is the foundation for what were originally called Navajo Tacos. Indian tacos evolved into the ubiquitous contemporary powwow dish for most tribes.


The nineteenth century U.S. solution for feeding Indians on reservations was to give them rations of lard, flour, and salt. With wild game scarce on reservations, Indians developed a love for chili, beans, and cheese. Indian fry bread and Indian tacos were born of necessity and love. Pawhuska, Oklahoma, is home to the National Indian Taco Competition sponsored by the Osage Nation. Indian fry bread can be sweet or savory. *


Indian Tacos


Flattened balls of doughy fry bread bubble up while roiling around in an iron frying pan with popping hot cooking oil. Then, you pile layers of chili, beans, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and cheese on top of the fry bread. (2) If Texomans attend events and festivals in Madill or Durant, they will find Indian Taco booths. At the national competition, the contestants use many ingredients and different fry bread techniques. Indian tacos are huge! I have yet to eat a whole Indian taco in one sitting.


Chickasaw Farming 


While the Indian Nations love Indian tacos, there is much more to each tribe’s culinary collections. Chickasaws always farmed, even in ancient times. Before they were forced to move to Indian Territory, they farmed communally and portioned the produce out to each village. Each family maintained a household garden. Chickasaws domesticated corn in the southeastern U.S. Corn, their main crop, kept hunger at bay year-round. They saved seeds from each harvest to plant the next year’s crop and planted seeds in rotation throughout the year. 


The traditional Chickasaw household included a winter house, a summer house, a garden, and a corn crib. They put four posts deep into the ground and built a floor on top of the posts. The floor supported four walls covered in clay daub. A removable ladder led to the door. This building saved corn from spoiling and animals. These traditions and methods transferred to their Oklahoma homes. (3)


Chickasaw Culinary Favorites


Three traditional dishes and Chickasaw favorites are called pashofa, three sisters stew, and grape dumplings.


Pashofa


Pashofa is made from cracked corn (hominy) and pork. It took a community effort to feed pashofa to an entire village. First, the corn pounders cracked the hominy kernels. Then they poured the corn into a huge pashofa pot with water. When the corn kernels were half-way cooked, they added the pork. This could take a whole day. They stirred the pashofa constantly from start to finish.


Today, pashofa cooking time is about four hours over an outdoor fire and constantly stirred. You can cook pashofa in crockpots. Before Europeans invaded the Chickasaw territory, women made large clay vessels for pashofa. European metal pots replaced the clay pots. Pashofa pots are a family tradition and handed down through generations of Chickasaw families.


Three Sisters Stew


Three sisters stew consists of squash, corn, and beans. Chickasaw farmers grew these three vegetables together. Each plant supported and sustained the other plants. In late May or early June, they built mounds of dirt and planted a few corn kernels in the middle of each mound. When the corn grew to about six inches high, they planted pole beans in a circle around the mound six inches from the corn. Next, they planted squash around the edge of the mound one week later. The beans grew up into the corn stalks which supported their weight. The squash covered the ground, kept the weeds out, and sealed in moisture. **


Grape Dumplings


Wild possum grapes dangle from vines in trees all over Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee, the Chickasaw motherland. The Chickasaw do not cook grape dumplings with possum grapes these days. The Cherokee and Choctaw also cook versions of this southeastern traditional tribal recipe. Today, most tribal recipes call for grape juice. The following three grape dumpling recipes are an example of how the different tribes have many different ways of cooking the same and similar foods.


Chickasaw Nation Grape Dumplings


2 cups all-purpose flour
1 egg
1¼ cups water
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
64 ounces grape juice
Sugar to taste


Place flour in a heap on tabletop. Make a well in center of flour and crack an egg into center. Using a fork, begin mixing the egg into the flour and add water as you go. Form the dough into a ball and roll out very thin. Cut into 1-inch squares. 


In a large pot place grape juice and sugar to taste. Bring to a rolling boil. Drop dumplings into boiling grape juice. Mix 1 Tablespoon cornstarch in 1 cup water. Add to hot grape juice. Cook for a few minutes and serve hot. (6)


Cherokee Nation Grape Dumplings


1 cup flour
1-1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon shortening
1/2 cup grape juice


Mix flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, and shortening. Add juice and mix into stiff dough. Roll dough thin on floured board and cut into strips 1/2-inch wide, or roll dough in hands and break off pea-sized bits. Drop into boiling grape juice and cook for 10 to 12 minutes. (7)


Choctaw Nation Grape Dumplings


1/2 gallon unsweetened grape juice
2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons shortening, melted
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup water
Flour


Bring grape juice to a boil with the sugar. Mix water, shortening and baking powder. Add enough flour to make stiff dough. Roll out thin on a floured board and cut into pieces. Drop each of these one at a time into the boiling juice. Cook over high heat about 5 minutes. Then simmer for about 10 minutes with cover on before serving. May be served with cream or plain. (7) 


Notations


* I looked for a YouTube video on Indian fry bread. I found a bunch. They all use different amounts of ingredients, and many use sweeteners. For Indian tacos, you don’t add sweeteners.


** Three sisters gardening methods are not unique to the Chickasaw Nation.


Sources


1. https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry.php?entry=CH033
2. https://newsmaven.io/indiancountrytoday/archive/indian-tacos-are-rich-in-fat-history-W9IXUk5Cqki1q3J-KoIb2A/
3. https://www.chickasaw.net/Our-Nation/Culture/Foods.aspx
4. https://www.chickasaw.net/Our-Nation/Culture/Foods/Pishofa.aspx
5. https://www.chickasaw.net/Our-Nation/Culture/Foods/Three-Sisters-Stew.aspx
6. https://www.chickasaw.net/Our-Nation/Culture/Foods/Grape-Dumplings.aspx
7. https://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Article/index/9350


Pictures


1. Traditional Chickasaw Homestead
2. Indian Fry Bread
3. Indian Taco
4. Sweet Indian Fry Bread
5. Grape Dumplings
6. Three Sisters Stew
7. Three Sisters Garden Mounds
8. Three Sisters Garden
9. Traditional Pashofa at Tribal Event
10. 2017 Indian Taco Ad at Senior Center Near Madill


 




Tell us what you think!

Striper Express at Lake Texoma

Lake Texoma Email Updates


 

Visit our Lake Texoma Sponsors!

Lake Texoma Weather Forecast

Monday

Slight Chance Thunderstorms

Hi: 82

Monday Night

Slight Chance Thunderstorms

Lo: 69

Tuesday

Chance Thunderstorms

Hi: 83

Tuesday Night

Slight Chance Thunderstorms

Lo: 68

Wednesday

Slight Chance Thunderstorms

Hi: 84

Wednesday Night

Partly Cloudy

Lo: 69

Thursday

Partly Sunny

Hi: 86

Thursday Night

Mostly Clear

Lo: 69


Lake Texoma Water Level (last 30 days)


Water Level on 6/25: 626.08 (+9.08)



Lake Texoma Fishing Report from TPWD (Jun. 19)

Water stained to muddy; 78–81 degrees; 10.94’ high. Black bass are good on Texas rigged craws, topwaters and Flukes. Crappie are fair on minnows. Striped bass are good on slabs and topwaters. Catfish are fair on trotlines. Call ahead to verify ramps are open (due to high water).