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Saturday, January 22, 2005

Frybread Kills

Via Indianz.com, Susan Shown Harjo blasts the culture of frybread.

Thank god. The entire culture of so-called Indian foods needs to be blasted from the face of this earth, and Harjo's article is an excellent start, as is the series she notes by Muscogee Creek/Euchee artist Steven Deo entitled "Frybread Kills."

Yea, it does. As does all the sweet tea and beans and pop and sweet cakes and commodity macaroni and most everything else characterized as a traditional diet these days. You know, I really wonder sometimes if people understand the extent and virulence of diabetes in Indian communities. I sat at a meeting the other night, for example, where the woman on the right told us her boyfriend's brother had died the day before --- on dialysis, liver shutting down, feet gangrenous and the next step, given how these things go around here, gradual amputation beginning with the feet, then mid-calve, then at the knee and finally all the way to the hip. This man was barely fifty.

On my left, a man on more diabetes drugs and suffering more complications than you can shake a stick at, yet doggedly showing down those beans and whitebread sandwiches and sweet tea and cake.

Diabetes among American Indians is a very different animal than what the rest of us get. It takes hold and kills, quickly, surely, insidiously. And the culture of frybread ensures its permanence and deadliness in all Indian communities.

From Harjo's article: [...] Frybread is bad for you? Well, let's see. It's made with white flour, salt, sugar and lard. The bonus ingredient is dried cow's milk for the large population of Native people who are both glucose and lactose intolerant. [...] Frybread was a gift of Western civilization from the days when Native people were removed from buffalo, elk, deer, salmon, turkey, corn, beans, squash, acorns, fruit, wild rice and other real food.

Frybread is emblematic of the long trails from home and freedom to confinement and rations. It's the connecting dot between healthy children and obesity, hypertension, diabetes, dialysis, blindness, amputations and slow death.

If frybread were a movie, it would be hard-core porn. No redeeming qualities. Zero nutrition.

Frybread has replaced ''firewater'' as the stereotypical Indian staple in movie land. Well-meaning non-Indians take their cues from these portrayals of Indians as simple-minded people who salute the little grease bread and get misty-eyed about it.

''Where's the frybread'' is today's social ice-breaker, replacing the decade-long frontrunner, ''What did you think of 'Dances with Wolves'?''

But, frybread is so, so Indian. Yes, some people have built their Indian identity around the deadly frybread and will blanch at the very notion of removing it from their menu and conversation.

My heavens, how will the new and deculturalized Indians and wannabes ever relate to the Native people they are paid to consult with if they don't extol the virtues of frybread?

During the opening week of the National Museum of the American Indian's museum on the Mall, a reception for contemporary Native artists ended with a good Indian band's not so great song, ''Frybread'', whose lyrics consist mainly of the title being repeated ad nauseum. When a non-Indian Smithsonian employee grabbed the microphone and brayed out, ''frybread, fryyyyyybread,'' the dignified artists and patrons ran for the nearest exits.

One Native artist, Steven Deo, is on a campaign to increase awareness about the danger of frybread and other so-called Indian foods. Deo, who is Euchee and Muscogee (Creek) and dances at the Duck Creek Grounds in Oklahoma, has made a poster with the image of the grease bread and the words ''Frybread Kills.'' ''Frybread Kills'' is part of a series called ''Art for Indians.'' The series is ''specifically aimed at our Native American community,'' said Deo, ''to create a cognitive dialogue about ourselves and our socio-economic class.''

Deo's second poster depicts lard and other commodity foods. An equals sign follows the image, so that the message essentially reads: ''Commodities = public assistance = welfare.''

In economically impoverished Indian communities, the commodities were known initially as ''poor food'' and morphed into ''Indian food.'' There's even a name for the round, doughy physique that results from the high-starch, high-calorie, high-fat and low-protein food: ''Commod bod.''

In urban areas and on many reservations, the byproducts of commods have nearly overrun traditional foods. Even week-old bread and berry pies baked in Pueblo ovens are vastly superior to frybread on its best day, but they're running a distant second at pan-Indian events in Pueblo country.

[...]

While we're at it, let's resolve to throw out all the civilization-era food in our kitchens. You know what to do with any Indian ''maidens'' or ''princesses'' or ''chiefs'' or ''braves'' on butter, honey, jerky or any products where the profits don't go to Native people. If they are Native-made products with stereotypical, cheesy images, give them a toss and let the Native manufacturers know they can and should do better.

Here's another resolution I urge you to adopt - to consume the ''news'' with a larger grain of salt than you have in the past. Conservative pundit Armstrong Williams was exposed recently as having been paid by the Bush Administration to promote its ''No Child Left Behind'' program. And this at a time when education is under funded and the Bushies are loathe to promote history or the arts with federal money.

The Williams' $100,000 understanding should lead us all to investigate who is trying to feed us a line and palm it off as ''news.'' Native people need to resolve to discover the origins of ''fair share'' and other current anti-Indian propaganda, and find out who gets what money from what source to spread the stories.

The next time you find yourself swallowing some leftover news du jour or get that suicidal urge for frybread, just slather lard all over the magazine or television listing and apply it directly to your midriff and backside. That way, you can have the consequence of the rotten stuff, without having to actually digest it.

/end of quote

2 Comments:

At 10:51 PM, Blogger Leila M. said...

oh no shut UP I love frybread. Don't mess with it, just take out the lard versions.

that settles it. I'm going to Miami next weekend to get some. Why did you do that to me!

 
At 10:35 AM, Blogger Cookie said...

Now wait. Do you mean Miami, Florida or Miami, Oklahoma? :=D

I've always thought a single Indian taco likely provides enough food to feed a family of four for a week. !

In any case, yea, frybread really isn't so bad --- the problem is, it's not so bad for people who aren't Indian, kind of the way Twinkies and HoHos are just fine for many people. But for Indian people, due to some pretty unique genetics and specifically the strong tendency toward diabetes, frybread truly is the kiss of death.

 

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