Sean Sherman, left, and his team at work. Photo: The Sioux Chef

Peter d'Errico: The Sioux Chef Sean Sherman cooks up a 'wake-up call' with first book

Got room on your bookshelf or kitchen counter? Because you're going to want to add The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen by Sean Sherman, a citizen of the Oglala Sioux Tribe who is also known as The Sioux Chef, to your collection. Peter d'Errico calls the forthcoming book a "wake-up call" for those who don't know the full history of indigenous foods and cuisine:
An emphasis on survivance does not deny that Native peoples have been victims of invasion and colonialism. Indeed, The Sioux Chef opens with a dedication affirming the “living proof of courage and resilience” of Indigenous Peoples “who have suffered through centuries of colonialism.” Sherman acknowledges—and provides personal stories of—experiences of colonial oppression; but his understanding of the past rests within a forward-looking perspective of the present. He offers his work “to the next generation so that they may carry the flame of knowledge…for generations to come.” He devotes the book “to the earth, Turtle Island, our home, our everything, in hopes that we indigenous people will always stand strong to protect her.”

Sherman provides a thoughtful introduction starting from memories of life on his grandparents’ ranch near Pine Ridge, moving to the “conservative, Bible-thumping…white” town of Spearfish, trying his hand at and becoming a success in Minneapolis restaurants in his twenties, and then, “burned out,” decamping to a village in Mexico, where he experienced an “epiphany, …how food weaves people together, connects families through generations, is a life force of identity and social structure.” Coming to “appreciate the purpose of everything in our natural world, to respect the plants and animals, sources of sustenance,” Sherman next undertook the research—cooking, reading, gardening, foraging—and planning that eventually led him back to Minneapolis and the founding of The Sioux Chef, now internationally recognized as an Indigenous Foods enterprise fostering “a diet that connects us all to nature and to each other in the most direct and profound ways.”

The book focuses on ingredients from Minnesota and Dakota territories—Dakota, Lakota, Ojibwe (Chippewa, Anishinaabe), Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara, Ho-Chunk—but its methods are relevant to indigenous cuisines throughout the world: As Sherman puts it, “the methods in this book work no matter the ingredients.” Throughout the recipes and descriptions of ingredients, Sherman includes reminiscences of his early education about Native foods—learning to hunt and gather, to behave respectfully to plants and animals to assure their continued existence. He brings readers and cooks into an awareness that a recipe involves a collaboration not only with ingredients, but with the sources of ingredients: Human nourishment intertwines with the nourishment of all beings.

Read More on the Story:
Peter d'Errico: (Not) Fry Bread: The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen (Indian Country Media Network 7/13)