Making fry bread. Photo: Marcus Metropolis

Ivan Star Comes Out: Fry bread is just another legacy of colonization

Fried bread, sugar, and “chief” handed to us by settlers
By Ivan Star Comes Out
Native Sun News Today Columnist

The popular fry bread or fried bread is being hyped today as a traditional food, and more than likely accepted in native circles.

In fact, many natives are expressing pride in the making and consumption of the popular delicacy. A processed flour mixture is now sold in food markets as a genuine native food. Fried bread may now be a comfort food, but it is not a traditional staple.

Actually, processed flour, a high carbohydrate, is a primary ingredient in most of the foods we consume today, like crackers, dry cereal, bread, most snacks (chips), pastries (donuts, cake, pie, etc.), and pastas (macaroni, spaghetti, etc.). Flour is an ingredient in nearly everything we buy. Personally, I see a huge educational void regarding traditional foods among our younger generations.

Our Otokahe kagapi wicowoyake (First creation story) clearly and solidly rules out flour as a traditional food. It states basic traditional foods, like a variety of four-legged animals, root vegetables tinpsila (turnip), and fruits like canpa (cherry), kanta (plum), mastincapute (buffalo berry). It does not make one reference to wheat grain.

Ivan F. Star Comes Out. Photo courtesy Native Sun News Today

Modern research dates the origin of wheat to 10,000 years ago in Turkey, Syria, and Lebanon, Levant, Israel, Egypt, and Ethiopia. Grains of einhorn wheat were found at sites in the Fertile Crescent, meaning wheat was first domesticated in the Stone Age. The Fertile Crescent (named for its shape) refers to an area between the Mediterranean Sea and the Persian Gulf in the Middle East.

Europeans brought wheat with them to North America along with their Manifest Destiny doctrine and industrialization. Actually, the settlers used flour as a treaty annuity in the 1800s. Wheat is not maize, sometimes called “Indian corn.” Maize (mahiz) is of the Cuban-Spanish language further taken from the Taino/Arawak people of the Caribbean Islands area.

My adopted brother, Errol “Scotty” Brown Eyes once relayed his meeting with some Minnesota natives. He remembered his elder relatives talking about this but didn’t know if it actually happened. However, in view of the new government’s hostile nature toward “Indians,” combined with the fact that our ancestors could no longer hunt or forage for their food, it could very well have happened.

He was trying to explain the reality that fry bread is not a traditional food. The government used flour as a treaty annuity in the 1800s and in one instance the flour, being stored improperly, became infested with weevil larvae. Natives, not having much else to eat, fried the flour dough in hot lard to kill the parasites. Thus, “fried bread” came into existence.

The Great Plains Lakota call it “wigli un kagapi (made with lard). I challenge anyone to check your usual grocery items and count those that have wheat or flour as a primary ingredient. Its high carbohydrate content actually clashes with our ancestor’s ancient oil-less high protein paleo-diet. In other words, our ancestors never used cooking oil the way we do now.

Sugar, another unnatural food product, has been added to our indigenous diet. Modern-day refined sugar is basically high in carbohydrates without the important vitamins and minerals. Interestingly, both European and indigenous fruits contain natural carbohydrates in the form of fructose with the vitamins and minerals. The European migration process decrees that native fruits are “wild” and of poor quality.

Our ancestors never ever consumed an animal’s milk. They believed the milk is for offspring. Lactose is a natural sugar found in milk. However, the pasteurization or purification process greatly reduces the vitamins and minerals and leaves a high fructose content.

Tomorrow morning, as you sit down to your favorite bowl of dry cereal, I encourage you to think about what you are about to consume. Dry cereal is mostly wheat by-products and the milk has lactose (minus vitamins) while sugar has pure carbs. Most likely, these items have contributed to our widespread instances of obesity and diabetes.

Someone retorts, “Explain the Hahatunwan (Ojibwe) and other eastern woodland nations who still make sugar (iswibaakwa-togan: sugar-bushing) from maple tree sap!” The tree sap is boiled until it thickens to the consistency of syrup. The longer it is boiled, the more it becomes granulated. This naturally processed syrup contains fructose and other essentials.

The industrial refining process took this and produced refined sugar with additives to increase “shelf-life.” Sugar has a high number of calories with little dietary fiber, protein, vitamins, or minerals. Refined sugar is categorized with “junk food.”

Also, foods prepared with saturated fat, like butter, cheese, dairy products, including sausage, and pizza, fit into this category. Eat in moderation!


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Ivan F. Star Comes Out can be reached at P.O. Box 147, Oglala, South Dakota, 57764; via phone at 605-867-2448 or via email at

Copyright permission Native Sun News Today

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