Archive for the ‘Native American Foods’ category

Salish Drum Design

March 30, 2013



Coyote Cooks Press Presents: Coyote Still Going: Native American Legends and Contemporary Stories

February 13, 2013

I started this blog soon after I moved to Arizona a few years ago. At the time I had long dreamed about publishing a book that would be a combination of a cookbook on Native American traditional and contemporary recipes, the meaning of food within the context of Indigenous cultures, and a sort of memoir of my experiences living and working in Native communities in the United States and other countries.

Icoyote-still-revised wanted to share in a way I had watched my relatives do–teaching and sharing with others in a non-threatening and entertaining way. It was also an opportunity to give people in the local storytelling community a chance to get a sense of the sort of Stories I would tell when performing. But ultimately, I thought of it as a chance to get something down I would one day show to a publisher.
More recently epublishing has revolutionized how books in various forms can be distributed to the public. Just so, I recently released Coyote Still Going: Native American Legends and Contemporary Stories. The new book is now available on Amazon at
or Apple:
or Barnes & Noble:

It will also be coming out in a paperback version and as an audiobook. If you enjoy my work, it would mean a great deal to me if you were to leave a review on the site where you bought it, or on Goodreads. Thank you!

Coyote Still Going: Native American Legends and Contemporary Stories

by Ty Nolan, Coyote Cooks Press

Here are some Stories (Traditional Native Legends) and some stories (personal history.)
I am a professional storyteller and a therapist. Coyote Still Going retells the mostly Sahaptin and Twana traditional legends I was taught by my relatives. It’s also a memoir of how I have told these stories, from celebrating the twenty-fifth anniversary of Mr. Rogers to using the Sahaptin legend of the Butterfly at an International AIDS Conference in discussing grief and loss. Traditional Native American legends are powerful teaching tools.
The book also contains recipes. Food, spirituality, and community are always woven together—you can’t understand one without the others. I was raised with the importance of the sacredness of food and the legends that explain why we celebrate the First Salmon Ceremony, or why we understand taking a sip of water before a meal is a type of prayer.
Many Native Nations begin a Coyote legend with some variation of “Coyote Was Going There.” Trust me—Coyote? Still Going. It’s about time Ebooks caught up with that crazy Trickster.
You can also visit my Amazon Author Page:

Corn Dances And Vision(s)

July 23, 2012

ImageMy apologies for letting this site lie fallow for so long.  When I first moved to Arizona three years ago and started the blog, I had been going blind for some time. This blog was a little bit of comfort for me. Having lost the ability to drive greatly reduced my mobility. I was thankful for the laptop that allows me to increase the display size so I can more easily read the text.  Over the last two years I’ve undergone 6 major eye surgeries–the last two to reduce the scar tissue from the previous operations. This has led to what one of my four eye specialists calls a “life-changing experience.” He even provided me a letter to give to the Department of Motor Vehicles  authorizing a driver’s license.  He said, “Given your loss of peripheral vision–if I had tested you on Wednesday instead of Monday, you probably wouldn’t have passed.”

ImageAfter a great deal of thought (and a couple of very minor test drives) I decided not to apply for the license. One of my eye diseases is “Low Vision,” where I am unable to see unless there is a high contrast–for example, black ink on white paper.  One of my personal nightmares is shopping and picking up an item that has a colored label with colored ink.  If there isn’t a high contrast, I just can’t read the label. Another recent frustration–I was at the airport trying to use a self-check in kiosk for American Airlines, and the whole structure was black plastic. For someone with my visual impairment (and Low Vision is just one of three eye diseases I have) that means the places where you are supposed to swipe a card are invisible.  For me, it’s a solid lump of black. Just so, I feel I can drive at a certain time of day, when it’s not too bright and not too dim, but I would never consider driving at night again.  I’m rather at the “Goldilocks” stage of driving, where I should only go out when it’s “just right.”  Which basically means I take the bus or walk.

But this does mean after being able to see somewhat better–sadly, no eye operation can restore the blindness I already have–the surgeries slow down further vision loss–I’ve had a chance to return to work.  I had accepted I’d probably spend the rest of my life working from home, squinting at a computer screen.  While I’m most grateful for the surgeries and being able to work outside of my home again, it does mean I’ve really neglected this site, and felt bad several visitors had left comments that I had not had a chance to post.

ImageRecently someone asked for information on Pueblo Indian recipes, curious if this was something he wanted to explore (he’s non-Native). I usually don’t share as much about the southwest side of my family because traditionally, Pueblos tend to be very private. Our legends and family stories aren’t always shared with people we don’t know or trust.

ImageJust so, there’s always a fear you’ll be criticized by other Pueblo people as having “told too much” to outsiders. For that reason, it’s usually easier to say nothing, or always shape it with, “I can’t tell you what we do, but this is what they do down south,” or, “Well, the Hopi people do it this way.”

ImageOne of my relatives, Robert Mirabal, has achieved a lot of recognition for his artistry, and he’s embraced the 21st century’s use of social media. I’ll be a good Pueblo, and give him the space to share his words with you:

Corn Dance & Grandma Mirabal

Grandma Crucita Romero Mirabal, Aunt Annie and Uncle Tony
My first recollection of corn dance was that it was hot, boring and all the Grandmas danced all around the Pueblo. I didn’t like it and I thought, It’s not cool for our Pueblo to have such a boring dance in the middle of summer. I wanted all the people to see the really “cool” dances of Winter – Deer, Buffalo, and Turtle – those dances were the dances I liked. “This one is a Grandma dance,” I would tell Grandma Mirabal. I danced with her once and it was fun and very hard to get the rhythm. The old ladies would tease me. It was the only time that I would see my Grandma and her friends with their hair down dressed in beautiful mantas.
Grandmas of old
You see, for us, it isn’t a corn dance. It’s named something different. It’s like a prayer… They would say we sacrifice our bodies for our plants; all of them, not just what we planted.
We call it a “dance”, but it is much more holy than that.  It is one of the most important dances we have. The first corn dance is in the early part of May. The second and third are in June and the fourth and fifth are in July.
But it is not a performance. Rather it is philosophical, ancient, odd, old, and beautiful.
The touristas all gather in the heat of the day waiting for the dancers to come out and dance; they anticipate it as a performance but the participating dancers are all silent.
There are no descriptions of why we dance, what the dance is about, who participates in the dances, where they are held, who leads the dances, what is the role of women and girls, what are “feast days”, what do the dancers dance to, and who are their singers, their drummers?
This is not a show for tourists! Slowly they all disappear to their town of Fernando de Taos with nothing answered and more questions to ponder; nowhere in their brain have they ever been prepared to witness such a strange and unusual, yet serene and patient dance. The touristas who stay go into a type of altered state for awhile, sometimes staying more than five hours (though it feels longer, yet short – how does this happen?) But… during the corn dance time is  sacred and irrelevant at the Pueblo, especially on feast days.
Walla-Towa (Jemez) Corn dancers August 2nd
Understanding the Corn Dances would help you get to the heart of traditional Pueblo spiritual life but no one will tell you anything and so you would end up standing there in the heat of the summer waiting for something to happen.
The tension builds and drops without a clue. La touristas have been spectators since the first Conquistadores in the 16th century when they planted their saints in our cornfields and built their churches on sacred plots of land.
But that’s “ok” because we still know that we are much older than all that. We go back to the origin when blue and white corn sat down with us together face to face and said what we would do for each other.
We are older and much longer than the sundials that the Franciscans placed in our kivas; we the dancers know when the ancient beings – men and animals – lived as one, together side by side on our Mother Earth. And we dance our origin when corn was what we followed and we create a common bond today that links us to the original seed embedded in our DNA.
Secret and sacred? They mean about the same thing for us and for something to be sacred it needs to be secret. The Pueblo has stayed strong and powerful because of our secrets.
As the sun reaches its zenith the dancers still dance, regrouping in circles in and around the Pueblo walls and alleyways. Men and women shuffling their feet to an unknown rhythm and song that only they know and understand, stopping and moving to guttural chants.
Grandma Mirabal gave me my courage when I was lacking it. She gave me confidence in the corn dance even though I thought it was insane to dance in such heat. She told me, “Smile and be beautiful it makes the rain clouds jealous so they can pour their rain on us.”
Now as I walk among my corn fields I hear the songs and see them dance. Nothing lasts forever and even to us, every time we dance, we remember them and I understand just a little bit more of what it means to be Puebloan.
To my friends who watch stay if you can until your mind goes blank; until the timeless warp bends at your subconscious. Stay until you began to understand what your original dance is. Stay until you forget something as simple as where you parked your car. Heehee.
There are some places that you can only enter through singing and dancing and that’s the way ceremony is.
I miss the old grandmas but the deal we made with the corn maidens must still be replenished every year by a new generation and even in this crazy world we still dance the corn dance.
Santo Domingo (Kewa) august 4th
Love you,
If you’d like to know Robert better, here’s one way to follow him:
And as for today’s recipe? Here’s what I shared with the person who wanted to know more about Pueblo foods–Image

As a Tiwa Pueblo (father’s side of the family) one of my favorite publications is theSouthwest Indian Cookbook that is lavishly illustrated with the photography of the author, Megan Keegan. She also has interviews with a number of Pueblo people discussing the sacredness of food and its preparation. In many cases, the foods are displayed in Pueblo pottery and baskets. If you’re not familiar with her work, she’s been capturing the most amazing images of Native people for many years and doing an excellent job of letting the local folks speak for themselves.  Here’s one example of a recipe from Ms. Keegan’s cookbook:

4 lbs pork roast
2 cups tomato puree
1/2 cup raisins
1 teaspoon ground red chile
1/2 cup chopped sweet peppers
1 tablespoon onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, mashed
1 teaspoon dried sage
 1 teaspoon oregano
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup flour
Combine all the seasonings except for the chile powder.  Rub into roast.  Place roast fat side up in a baking pan and roast in a preheated 350 degree oven for 21/2-3 hours. Reduce oven to 250 degrees.
Pour off drippings into a skillet; add onion and green pepper and saute until slightly wilted.
Combine flour and ground chile.  Add to skillet along with tomato puree and raisins and simmer for 10 minutes stirring constantly, until sauce thickens.  If sauce is too thick, add a little water, gradually, until sauce reaches desired consistency.
Return roast to pan, baste with sauce and roast for 30 minutes more, basting two or three times.
Yield: 6-8 servings
(I did a variation of this for the Pork Ribs I prepared for our 4th of July Dinner–although I added a tablespoon of honey to the pan drippings before basting.)  There are a lot of very easy recipes that can be done in a modern kitchen, as well as some more “exotic” recipes, such as the one for Wild Sage Bread.
Many of the recipes you’ll find in a book like this one or on-line are pretty much “pan-Pueblo,” where the basic  recipes are used in the 19 Pueblos in New Mexico and the 20th Pueblo (Tewa) on First Mesa on the Hopi reservation here in Arizona. There are minor variations, where for example at my father’s reservation at Taos, the breadImage
 is not just left “round” the way most other Pueblos do, but for special occasions, is shaped to look like a sun with rays, and you can then break off the “rays” for an individual serving. All the Pueblos use the leftover Pueblo Bread (it has no preservatives, and in the very low humidity of the SW, the bread goes stale/hard very quickly) to make a Pueblo Bread Pudding, but to the best of my knowledge, Taos is the only village to do what we call in our language Tsopa, where cheese is an additional ingredient.
(Taos-circa 1871) I was listening to an NPR interview and there was an expression of frustration with a chef who wasn’t able to find chokecherries to use in a recipe she wanted to do. Our Pueblo Pies  rather resemble a “poptart”–and our paperbread-Pili (the Hopi call it Piki), if you crumble it into a dish, it looks very much like Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, other than the fact we use blue corn meal, so the flakes are blue-gray.Image The finished Pili/Piki is rolled up to cool and store, so they look like tubes. I’ve often suspected Dr. Kellogg was inspired by our paperbread, and now, having written this, I suspect Dr. Kellogg (or more accurately, his heirs) ripped off Pueblo Pies to create poptarts. We’ll use chokecherries or wild plums for a filling, but again, I don’t know what’s available in your neck of the woods–don’t want you to end up like that frustrated chef lady.Image

Meet Richard Hetzler, Executive Chef of The National Museum of the American Indian’s Mitsitam Cafe

February 7, 2011

I regret deeply not being able to participate in the 2004 opening of the National Museum of the American Indian—my family flew in to dance for the celebration, but I was presenting at a conference, and wasn’t able to join them.

Over the intervening years when I’m in D.C., I’ve always tried to leave time to visit the Museum’s Mitsitam Café (in the Piscataway and Delaware languages, mitsitam means “let’s eat”).  It’s been recognized as one of the major culinary attractions in the D.C. area, and Rachael Ray has recommended it on her television show.  Atlantic Monthly has featured Mitsitam Café and its Executive Chef, as has Cowboy and Indian Magazine. Gourmand Magazine has awarded its new cookbook as “Best Regional” in the U.S.  In March, it will be competing in Paris for “Best in the World.”

Executive Chef, Richard Hetlzer, was involved from the inception of the restaurant, with its intention of integrating the Museum’s emphasis on Native cultures through indigenous foods.  He is a 1995 graduate of the Baltimore International Culinary College,   “We were involved with
planning a year and a half before the opening,” Richard told me.

(Richard Hetzler)

In the Atlantic Monthly article, architect Duane Blue Spruce discussed some of the challenges in designing the café:   “The assumption was that, of course, the cafeteria would serve native food, but we had a difficult time backing that assumption up… We wanted to show that there are regional differences. Not only culturally, but in terms of food.”

The Mitsitam Native Foods Café is divided into five geographic stations, with each region having a separate menu. These include the Northern Woodlands, South American, Meso America, the Great Plains, and the Northwest Coast and Columbia Plateau.

(Three Sisters Salad)
Several of the stations also provide a “feast for the eyes” as visitors can
watch their food being prepared in grill fires and pots.

Richard has discussed working with foods very familiar to most Native Americans, such as fry bread, or salmon prepared on cedar planks.  He’s also been creative about combining what
was available to local Native Nations.  “A great example is the maple-brined turkey…We know that Native Americans cured items in salt, so essentially they were doing a brine, infusing the flavor, adding  moisture…They definitely had turkey. They had maple syrup. It works for us,” he said in a Smithsonian Institute interview.

(Maple Brined Turkey)

One of the issues that came up during our interview was the
challenge of providing Native based foods for the enormous volume of customers served.  “In the winter, our slow season, we’re serving 500-600 people a day.  During our peak that climbs to 1,500-3,000 a day.”  Richard is always looking for sources of Native foods from tribal suppliers.  He has salmon flown in from the Quinault Nation of Washington State.  To supply buffalo meat, he works with the Montana based Intertribal Bison Cooperative.

(Mitsitam Indian Buffalo Taco)

We also talked about working with what food sources are available.  Some items that a tribal group might supply may be too small in number, or simply too expensive for the general Café format.   This isn’t a problem, according to Richard.   “Nothing is too big or too small. Winter is a slow time of the year, and we might feature something on the menu that we couldn’t provide in the peak season.  We change menus every three months.  We can run it as a special—turn it into a vinaigrette—giving customers  the flavor.  For example, with fiddlehead ferns, it would be too expensive to serve them by themselves. But I can have twenty pounds of salad and add five pounds of fiddleheads, so everyone gets a taste of them. “ (Fiddlehead Ferns)

Richard also mentioned his fondness for saguaro cactus syrup, comparing it to a truffle as an item that costs too much to use every day.   He buys the syrup from Tohono O’odham Community Action (TOCA), a Native American non-profit organization based in southern Arizona.  Expensive items like this might be used as a drizzle for a special presentation.  One of the reasons it costs so much is how labor-intensive the syrup is to make, as the TOCA site explains:

The saguaro fruit ripens during the hot months of June and July and is hand harvested just before the torrential monsoon rains using a traditional picking stick up to fifteen feet high made  of saguaro ribs. Traditionally, the fruit is made into syrup and the tiny black seeds and saffron like pulp are sun dried. Most saguaro syrup – bahidaj sitol – is used in the annual rain ceremony. A very small amount is available to the public. Thick and mahogany colored, this is the most rare of the world’s fruit syrups. Made from hand-harvested saguaro fruit, cooked slowly over mesquite fires, its unusual, deep flavor is both sweet and  smoky. Saguaro syrup can be used in a similar manner as the finest aged balsamic vinegars. It is excellent as a glaze, garnish or drizzled over fresh fruit or ice cream. The crunchy seeds are rich in healthy oils and fiber and can be used in place of poppy seeds in any recipe.

TOCA provides Richard with another favorite of his– Ciolim (Cholla Cactus Buds), as well as Bawĭ (Tepary Beans). It’s easy to understand why these Cholla Cactus Buds are such a hit—again, turning to the TOCA site:  Ciolim – cholla buds – have sustained the Tohono O’odham for countless generations.  Just before the buckthorn cholla cactus flowers in the spring, its buds are hand picked, cleaned of their many thorns and dried for use year-round.

Cholla buds have a unique flavor that includes tones that range from artichoke to asparagus –green and vibrant. Once cooked, cholla buds will triple in size. These delectable desert vegetables love marinades and will readily absorb the flavors of whatever they are cooked with. Terrific in antipastos, chiles, salads and sautées, use them as you would artichoke hearts or asparagus tips.

Cholla buds are incredibly healthy. Even as a side dish in a meal, cholla buds can improve how food affects the body. Two tablespoons of dried buckhorn cholla, for example, provides as much calcium as a glass of milk (14 grams of dry cholla buds supply 394 mg of calcium while one cup of whole milk supplies 276 mg of calcium). Yet, while a glass of milk may have 100-150 calories, the cholla buds only have 28 calories. And because cholla buds contain soluble pectins, they slow down digestion of sugars and other carbohydrates.  The result is better control over blood-sugar level, eliminating the highs and lows.

(TOCA Art)

Richard shared with me the restaurant  wants to buy from and give back to Native communities, the way they work with TOCA, ITBC, and the Quinaults.  While the non-Native Richard has had the opportunity to employ only two American Indian workers, the week of our interview, he had entered into discussions with the Navajo Technical College to explore placing interns with the college’s culinary arts program.

The Mitsitam Café Cookbook was the result of three years of labor, and features 90 recipes with beautiful photography from Renee Comet.  Because the restaurant serves so many people per day, the recipes had to be modified to meet the needs of a home cook.  Richard explained, “The staff at the museum each took three or four recipes home, made them and critiqued them, and we adjusted the recipes. One of the pushes behind the book was to really find and make recipes that any person could make. You don’t have to be a chef to recreate any of it.”

Richard will be flying to Paris this March, where the Mitsitam Café Cookbook will compete at Gourmand Magazine’s World Cookbook Awards.  There are 53 categories, with over 150 countries represented.  When I asked him what he will demonstrate, he told me he planned to showcase his Wild Rice Salad, explaining it was something he could do that would easily fit within the 20 minutes he will be allotted, and uses ingredients that are easily available.

Best of luck, Richard—and here’s the recipe he will be using:

Wild Rice Salad

This recipe is from Mitsitam Cafe,
National Museum of the American Indian.

1/2 cup pine nuts

1/4 cup pumpkin seeds

6 cups chicken stock

11/2 cup wild rice

1 carrot, cut into
half-inch-long matchsticks

3 tablespoons dried cranberries

1 Roma tomato, finely diced

4 or 5 scallions,
finely chopped

3 bunches watercress

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Spread the pine nuts and pumpkin seeds in a small baking pan and toast them in
the oven for about 10 minutes, until they are golden brown. Let cool.

Combine the chicken stock and wild rice in a stockpot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer, covered, for about 45–55 minutes, until the grains are just opened up and tender. Spread the hot rice on a baking sheet and let cool.

When the rice is cool, scrape it into a large bowl and add carrots, dried cranberries, diced tomato, toasted pine nut and pumpkin seed mixture, and scallions.

Toss all of the ingredients together with the vinaigrette, refrigerate for at least 1 hour, and serve over watercress.
Makes 4 to 6 servings.


3 tablespoons
apple-cider vinegar

1/4cup plus 2 tablespoons
canola oil

2 tablespoons honey

Place cider vinegar in a bowl, and slowly mix in oil. Sweeten with just a touch of honey.

Story of the Butterfly

November 9, 2010

Long and long ago, when the world was still new, the Creator watched children playing.  He watched their sheer joy, and enjoyed their laughter.   In the four directions he looked, he saw beauty—before him, behind, him, above him, and below him.  He smelled the sweetness of flowers, heard the song of birds, saw the bright blue of the sky, and tasted the first touch of the coming cold on his tongue.  This reminded him that time was passing…that winter would come again…that these children would all grow old and pass away as he had watched human children do over and over again.  The leaves would turn brown and fall from the trees, and the flowers would fade to replenish the Earth. 

 He decided to create something to memorize this moment, something that would be a part of all this beauty.  And so he gathered the blackness from the hair of the children’s parents.  He took the orange and reds of the falling leaves.  He grabbed bits of sunlight, and the colors of the flowers.  He took the evergreen needles of the pines.  He took the soft whiteness of the clouds, and added all these things into a bag of buckskin. He smiled and after a moment, added the songs of the birds to his bag.

 When he finished, he held the bag close to his heart, and called the children to him. He handed them his bag and told them to see what was inside.  When they opened the bag, a cloud of butterflies emerged.  They were like winged jewels.  They were all the colors of the rainbow.  It was as if flowers were flying. The spirits of the children and the adults soared like hawks, for they had never seen anything like this before.  The butterflies, light as a lizard’s lick, touched on the heads and shoulders of their grateful audience.  The butterflies swirled around and began to sing.

 But then a bird flew to the Creator’s shoulder and began to complain.  “Why have you given our precious songs to these small and pretty beings?  You have already made them wings more beautiful than ours—why give them our songs as well?  You promised us that each bird would have his or her own song.  It is not right to do what you have done.”

 The Creator looked at the small bird and nodded.  “You are right.  I promised one song for each bird, and it is not right to give them away to others.”  So the Creator made the butterflies silent, and thus they remain today.  But their beauty touches all people and opens up the songs in our own hearts.

 Further south, it is said the world is a reflection of itself…the world of dreams and the world of work.  It is taught these two worlds are like the wings of the butterfly.  The dream world is one wing, and the working world is the other.  The wings must connect at the heart for the butterfly to fly and live.  Real life – true life—happens because of the movement of the wings.  And this is what marriage is like.  It mirrors the butterfly’s heart, kept alive by the love of the husband and wife, moving together like twin wings.

A traditional Tohono O’odham story (with a Mayan coda)      

 retold by CoyoteCooks

I was asked by a friend for help in finding an appropriate story for her to tell at a friend’s upcoming wedding.  I requested more details about  those involved,  and was told this was a couple in their 50’s, and it was neither’s first wedding.  I suggested the butterfly story, for a number of reasons.  First, I wanted a story that wasn’t overly long, since the focus should be on the ceremony and celebration rather than on a performance.  I wanted a story that acknowledged a couple who are able to appreciate their experience of marrying again in a way a couple in their early 20s who have never been married can’t fully imagine.  That’s why I emphasized in the story how the Creator both celebrated the moment of joy, but also had sadness that this was the Autumn of life, rather than the Spring.

Here’s part of the e-mail I sent to her: .

I thought this might be appropriate for your needs.  I decided to do a retelling of a traditional Tohono O’odham legend.  These are the people who are Native to the general Phoenix area, so it will let you bring a gift from where you have been.  I then finished with a teaching from Native people further south—the Mayan.

 In similar situations, after I would tell a story of this nature, I would then end by giving a small butterfly image as a gift to the new couple.  I would probably then add the suggestion:  “And in the weeks to come, you will see an image of a butterfly.  Perhaps you will be at work, or perhaps you will be with the one you love.  You will see a butterfly and you will smile, remembering this precious day.”

 She responded that she felt the story was “perfect for this couple,” and that she would let me know how the event went.

 I answered,

One of the advantages of being from the southwest is the abundance of Zuni “fetish” carvings of various animals one can find at various shops.  I notice that for butterfly “fetishes” the artists often use mother of pearl or abalone shells as their media, which I suspect, is to capture the iridescence of their models 🙂  Since these small carvings usually range from $10.00-35.00, I’ve given away quite a few during presentations.  My favorite happened when I was asked to keynote the International Academy of Sex Research when its conference was held in Seattle.  The President elect was the clinical director where I was working.  She said, “I’ve never heard you talk about sex, but you say so many interesting things in the staff meetings, I’m sure you talk about sex as well.”

 I went home to the reservation and asked my mom, “What should I tell a lot of white people from around the world about sex?”

 She said–“Go talk to your Uncle Rooster.”

 So I did–and he said, “Tell them about Coyote’s Growing Medicine.”

 And so I did, and at the end of the story, I presented a small Coyote Zuni fetish to the new president.  She later told me it’s become a tradition that when the new president takes office, he or she is presented with the coyote fetish 🙂

I wanted to pair a recipe that would go well with the Butterfly legend, and thought something light and sweet might do it.  This is Brett’s Blueberry Special:     Take a cup of fresh blueberries (or thawed) and add to a cup of diced fresh  heirloom tomatoes.  Tear fresh basil into small bits to release their fragrance and add to the tomatoes and berries.  I’ve been carefully tending my “plantation” of basil plants  that I’ve mentioned before on my patio.  Now drizzle a couple of teaspoons of honey and squeeze the juice of one fresh lime onto the ingredients.    Toss and enjoy.

OH–UPDATE:  I was happy to find this in my e-mail this morning–

Many, many thanks for sharing your version of the story of butterfly.  I told this (with appropriate recognitions) at M’s wedding last Friday.  It was the perfect story for that perfect day.  M and T and their family and friends loved it – it was especially significant to M (which was my intent).  I followed your advice and gave them a butterfly fetish (Zuni) at the end of the story – the perfect touch!
Thank you for being such a wonderful storytelling friend. 

Roots and Wings

July 15, 2010


Long and long ago, there was a great Chief. 

He had a son, and loved him very much.  “One day,” he always told others around him, “my son will not only grow up to be a Great Chief, but a powerful Medicine Man as well.”

  The boy heard this, but did not think anything of it.

  When it was time, the boy was prepared for his Vision Quest.  For a girl this is when she is usually first tied to the Moon, and for boys, it is often when their nipples turn out.  Traditionally, the Vision Quest will take place on the top of a mountain, or by running water.  A child is taken to the place of the Vision Quest, mentored by a Medicine Person.  The Vision Quest helps a person discover who they are meant to be…a purpose and a reason for being.

  “My son,” called the Chief, “will become a powerful Medicine Man.  For that reason, I summon seven Medicine Men from the four directions to watch over him—to prepare him for his Vision Quest.” And so seven Medicine Men came, some from very far away.

In the traditional manner, they painted him with red ochre.  

This is considered to be a type of protection.  When someone is involved in spiritual things, he or she will shine, and it will attract the attention of things of the spirit.  Some of these are indifferent, some are dangerous and some are kind.  The red paint is to keep away those things that are not kind.

A Vision Quest will traditionally take 4 days and 4 nights.  During this time, the Seekers will not eat.  He or she will fast, and take only as much water as they can hold in their mouths at one time.  The first day went by, and there was no vision.  The second day…no vision.  The third day…no vision. 

 On the fourth day, when nothing had happened, the Medicine Men returned to the boy’s father.  “Perhaps he is not yet ready,” one said.  “There is no shame in this.  Different people grow in different ways.  Let us bring him back and have him try again at a later time.”

  “No,” the Chief replied.  “You know, and I know that the longer it takes for a vision to occur, the more powerful it will be.  That is why he has not received his vision.  Paint him again!”

  And so it was the Medicine Men returned to the boy, painting him again with more of the red paint.  A fifth day went by without a vision.  A sixth day.  A seventh.  The Medicine Men returned to the boy’s father.  “No one has ever fasted this long,” said one.
“We fear this is not his time,” said another.  “We ask that you let us bring him back.  Let him continue his Vision Quest at another time.”

“No!” said the Chief.  “You are all jealous because you know that he will not only one day be a Great Chief, but one day he will be more powerful than any of you!  Paint him again, and let the Vision Quest continue!”

The Medicine Men returned to the boy.  They repainted him.  Nine days went by without a vision.  Then ten.  Then eleven.  On the twelfth day, the Chief went himself to the place of the Vision Quest.  His son was gone.

Frightened, he ran through the woods, calling out his son’s name.  A small bird followed behind him.  Finally, exhausted, he sat down on the stump of a tree, his eyes full of pain—for he truly loved his son.

The little bird approached him.  “I was your son,” the small bird said. 

“All my life you would tell other people that I would one day be a Great Chief.  That I would one day be a powerful Medicine Man.  But never once did you ever ask me what I wanted.  I did not desire to be a chief.  I did not desire to be a Medicine Man.  I just wanted to be myself.  The Creator took pity on me, and gave me this shape to wear.  It is to teach parents that they must not force their own dreams on their children.  They must give their children roots and wings.  They must help their children become who they are meant to be.”

 In English, we call that little bird the Robin.  And so it is even today when you see a Robin it still wears the red paint from long ago.

A Sahaptin Legend retold by CoyoteCooks

This was a legend my Aunt Prunie used to tell.  One time I asked her to paint me for a powwow, and she took red paint and marked my forehead solid, and then used her thumb to remove the red ochre in four small and equal circles.   When I do traditional dancing, this is the way I continue to paint my face.

In the Pacific Northwest, the red ochre (and other colors) are often mixed with elk marrow used as a base, so the paint can be easily applied.  The elk marrow was also a salve that speeded up healing of the skin.  For example, an elder used it on me when I had developed some blisters from constant drumming while helping someone being initiated into Winter Spirit Dancing.  It was amazing to me how quickly the blisters vanished.

The tradition for many Native Nations is to have the first Vision Quest take place around puberty, but there are certainly stories of younger children who did this.  Over the years, when the American and Canadian governments attempted to suppress Native traditions, some people had to wait until later in life to be initiated or to go for a Vision Quest.  For some people, a number of Vision Quests might take place during a lifetime.

I was very happy with how the salmon turned out tonight.  I realize I keep mentioning several ways of preparing salmon, but I try to eat it at least three times a week, so I enjoy a variety of options.  For today’s marinade, I whisked together 2 tablespoons of teriyaki sauce, a tablespoon of soy sauce, the juice of half a lemon, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and a couple of spoonfuls of sesame seeds.  I had wanted to add some roasted sesame seed oil, but was disappointed to discover I was out of it.   Given the fact it was supposed to hit 114 degrees (and the next two days it’s going to be 116…) I decided I could live without running to the store to pick up some more roasted sesame seed oil.  I wanted to add more honey, but I was also low on that so I sprinkled in another tablespoon of raw sugar into the mix. I left the salmon dressed in this for a few hours.  The sesame seeds seem to provide a nice thickening agent.  When I placed the salmon into a shallow Pyrex roasting pan, I shook out more sesame seeds on the top.  Popped it into a 400 degree oven until it was done, spooning the marinade over it again before serving.

To compliment the salmon I took fresh broccoli and spinach leaves and added salt, pepper, and crushed garlic.  I used a large skillet, adding water to the veggies and brought it to a boil.  After a few minutes, I used a slotted spoon to remove the broccoli and spinach into a bowl of water, and added ice.  This keeps the veggies a bright green and doesn’t let them overcook.  When I was ready to serve, I added them back into the water of the skillet and heated everything up again.  I then plated the veggies, sprinkling them with bacon crumbs and more sesame seeds.   I  placed a serving of salmon on top of the veggies. The smokiness of the bacon mixed wonderfully with the flavor of the salmon.

The Origin of the Bear Clan

May 20, 2010

 Long time ago, the daughter of a chief was warned by her elders to be careful as she went to pick berries, because many bears were around. She went out anyway, and as she drew near the berry bushes, she stepped into bear dung.



Upset, she cursed the bears, as she tried to clean herself. Bear people emerged from the woods and abducted her. Inside their cave, she sat sadly in a corner, until a tiny thin voice spoke to her and she looked into the bright wise eyes of Grandmother Mouse.

“Tell them they must take you out to relieve yourself–and that as a proper person, you must do this in privacy.” Then Grandmother Mouse touched the gleaming copper bracelets that the young woman wore, indicating her high-class status. “Take off your bracelets and break them into small pieces and leave them on the ground.” Traditionally, copper was very valued by Native people…it is the one of the only metals that can be used directly from the ground without smelting.

When the young woman did as she was instructed, the Bear people inspected where she had gone to relieve herself and whispered to one another. “No wonder she complains of our dung. She is so high-class that she shits copper!”

Impressed, they informed the Bear Chief, who married the young woman, and thus the Bear Clan was begun. 






A Traditional Twana legend, retold by CoyoteCooks

There are many variations of this story throughout the Pacific Northwest, and a number of artists seem to take a great deal of enjoyment depicting the Bear Chief’s wife breast feeding her children, always shown in the form of cubs.  There’s an obvious concern about what happens when her babies start cutting their teeth… Here’s an example from the great Bill Reid. For those of you not that familiar with a number of Native traditions, during the time of legends, physical forms were more fluid than they are today, and individuals could often switch back and forth between an animal shape and a more human one.  For this reasons, it’s said the Bear People wore robes of bear skin, and upon removing them, looked like human people.  Some stories say that when the twin sons of the Bear Chief and his wife grew up, they put aside their bear skin robes and became famous hunters.

I had a request to do my “standard” acorn squash—which in my household means slicing one in half, scooping out the seeds and pulp, then plopping the halves like green bowls inside a shallow baking dish.  A pat of butter in each, then a sprinkle of garlic powder, ground pepper and a pinch of salt—and all I need is an hour or so in the oven at 400 degrees. I should warn readers that after moving into a new condo and confronting a very old oven…I hesitate giving an exact time and temperature.  I mean, in my years of cooking experience, I really don’t think a chicken should take more than 3 hours at 400 degrees to roast the way it went last Sunday.  I’m happy to report I have a new gas oven in the kitchen now, making things much more predictable.

I’ve written before about squash being Native American in origin–but I enjoy introducing Native foods to “new comers” to Turtle Island.  For example the gabanzo bean, or the chickpea…is thought to have originated many thousands of years ago in Turkey.  “According to recent studies, the domesticated form of chickpea contains nearly twice the tryptophan of the wild form, an amino acid that has been connected with higher brain serotonin concentrations and higher birth rates and accelerated growth in humans and animals.”

So–a healthy addition to the acorn squash…

But frankly, I sometimes get bored doing the basics, so I thought I’d try something a bit different.  I took garbanzo beans, straight from the can.  I placed them into a plastic baggie and poured in enough olive oil to coat them, along with a couple of tablespoons of balsamic vinegar.  I then spread them out on a cookie sheet (well, on top of aluminum foil on the cookie sheet, making clean up a lot easier), and topped them off with pepper and salt, putting them into the 400 degree oven for at least 30 minutes.  If your oven is better than my old one, you’ll know they’re done when they’re nice and crunchy. When the acorn squash was ready to be served, I then added the roasted garbanzo beans in the acorn half.  I felt the spicy crispness of the garbanzo beans gave a good texture contrast to the savory softness of the squash.  I’m also thinking about doing another batch of the roasted garbanzo beans and tossing them into a salad for some extra crunch.