As you may already know, the Thanksgiving story you likely learned in elementary school is riddled with inaccuracies. Instead of participating in a food tradition like mashed or stuffed potatoes, try one of the Native American Thanksgiving food favorites below.

8 Native American Thanksgiving Food Favorites

Most of us know the school version of the first Thanksgiving narrative: Pilgrims in New England joined Native Americans to share a meal after the harvest. In fact, Native Americans have long celebrated Thanksgiving, and before Thanksgiving, they held a daily thanksgiving to the Creator. However, Native Americans tend to have distinct flavors from traditional Thanksgiving dishes, some of which date back to and before 1621. Here are 7 Native American Thanksgiving food favorites:

1. Salmon on Cedar Stakes

Native American Thanksgiving Food
Native American Thanksgiving Food

In the Pacific Northwest, members of the Warm Springs, Umatilla, Nez Perce, and Yakama nations don’t just share the same language and religious beliefs, they also share the region’s rivers and streams with lots of salmon. Salmon is very important and necessary for all aspects of the life of the people of the Pacific Northwest tribes. In addition to serving as a primary source of food and livelihood for many indigenous families, salmon is the tribe’s spiritual connection to nature.

Plus, salmon serves as an ‘indicator species’: If the environment changes and salmon populations decline, tribe members learn of other food sources, such as deer, elk, and everything that salmon are connected to, will also be affected.

Get the recipe here

2. Three Sisters Salad

Native American Thanksgiving Food
Native American Thanksgiving Food – Three Sisters Salad

“Three Sisters” includes the main crops seen in many Native American countries throughout North America: corn, beans, and squash. Native American farmers soon realized that, when grown together, these three plants had a mutually beneficial relationship. Beans, which provide nitrogen to the soil, use the sturdy stalks of the corn plant to climb, while the large leaves of the squash vines keep the soil moist.

For Native American countries, The Three Sisters are more than just a traditional gardening technique, they appear in many legends highlighting the importance of community, supporting each other, and never giving back more than you can give back.

Get the recipe here

3. Wojapi

Native American Thanksgiving Food

Wild berries are abundant in the Great Plains region of the US. Wojapi honors a variety of berries by combining them together in a thick pudding. Any wild berries – like strawberries, blackberries, and chokecherries – are readily available, which can be boiled and mixed with cornflour (to help add thickness) and honey (for extra sweetness). Pudding can be used in soups, in pemmican, as a sauce for meat, or even as a dessert. This Native American Thanksgiving food is enjoyed by many tribes in the Great Plains including the Lakota, Cheyenne and Blackfoot tribes.

You can get the recipe here

4. Pemmican

Native American Thanksgiving Food

Derived from the Cree word pimîhkân, pemmican is a high-energy food-related to the traditional Native American method of drying meat. Large animals such as bison, deer, moose, or elk are sun-dried or fire-dried until the meat becomes crispy enough to be pounded into a coarse flour. Small pieces of meat are then mixed with melted fat, fruit, and berries.

Because it could be stored for long periods of time, pemmican became the food of choice for winter and long hunts. This food is so effective in maintaining health for travelers and those who have to interfere with the factors that the fur traders in France introduced pemmican into their diet. Pemmican was also used by Robert Peary on expeditions to the North Pole.

You can get the recipe here

5. Frybread

Native American Thanksgiving Food

When booked in the mid-1800s, the United States government promised to provide the natives with “commodity” foods to replace the subsistence foods they could no longer use. For Europeans and Americans, a basic commodity was wheat, so flour became their staple food. Over the past 150 years, there have been many changes to Native American cooking, especially with the invention of fry bread. One of the most popular and delicious modern vernacular, fry bread is perfect for many communities as a festive and everyday treat.

Get the recipe here

6. Pompion

Thanksgiving Food
One of the common Native American Thanksgiving food Favorites is Pompion

Roasted corn, aka pumpkin, and stewed pompion is a dish that has been eaten since time immemorial, even daily in some households. The pumpkin pie served in many modern Thanksgiving meals is derived from this dish. Today, many people create this dish in the non-pie form, gathering a squash, not necessarily a pumpkin, and combining it with vinegar, ginger, salt, and of course butter. It is then cooked over medium heat until ready to serve.

7. Indian Pudding

Here’s Indian Pudding

Indian Pudding was a popular dish in New England during colonial times and continued to be served into the 1800s. However, it is served infrequently today. While it tends not to be all that is visually appealing, its taste is more than it looks. Some add vanilla ice cream to enhance their dining experience. Its ingredients include cornstarch, milk, molasses, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. Note that this is not a traditional Native American Thanksgiving food.

8. Sobaheg

Native American Thanksgiving Food
Sobaheg – Native American Thanksgiving Food

Wampanoags – Native Americans who threw a party in 1621 in Massachusetts, ate this stew and it still exists today. This Native American Thanksgiving food typically consists of kidney beans, corn, and a type of meat, usually turkey or fish.

Some additional vegetables may include peanuts, squash, and artichokes. Cooking this dish can take hours, as it’s best to cook over medium heat for that extended period of time. Many historians believe Sobaheg was served on Thanksgiving in 1621.

Get the recipe here

Final Words

Cuisine is not just food. It’s an edible history and a reflection of the place a culture calls home. Native American cuisine is as nuanced as the more than 500-plus federally recognized tribes in the US.

It is all about cooking methods and dishes shaped by the landscape and available resources. For example, salmon for the tribes of the Pacific Northwest and bison for the tribes of the Great Plains. It is also the story of how these traditions had to adapt after the Native Americans were forced out of their homeland.

So, if you love Native American culture, give these Native American Thanksgiving foods a try. Or if you’ve tried these dishes, let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!

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