American Native Food




(Beans from Veg Kitchen, Squash from California Condor)


For many Indigenous People in the Americas,

this triad is called the Three Sisters:

Corn, or Maize, Beans and Squash.

Although this food trinity has a variety of names among Native People,

these three staples remain the heart of most Indigenous diets.


An interesting fact about this Food Trio is that

they are all interdependent on one another.

Beans grow up the Corn stalks and add the nutrients

(Nitrogen) to the soil that the others need to grow.

Squash is planted in between them to keep weeds out.


All three of these foods originally came from the

Indigenous People of Mexico, Central and South America,

then slowly made their way North to our Native People.


A press release announcing recent winners from the Kellogg Foundation:

First Nations Awards $375,000 to 10 Native Food-System Projects


A new page about what makes us who we are:

Native Health Issues


A brief History of American Native Food


American Natives were reasonably healthy before the European Invasions.

They lived on the land and in some areas cultivated rich soils and grew crops.

For the Bison hunting Nations that were always on the move,

their diets were mixtures of the meat that they hunted and the

plants, berries and fruits that were found everywhere that they went.

This country was a bountiful place hundreds of years ago

and Native people survived quite nicely.


After the Invasions, everything changed and none of it was good for Natives.

Those who were sent to Reservations starved many times.

Food meant for them often ended up in the hands of unscrupulous agents,

who dispersed the supplies to themselves, their families and friends.

Or just outright sold it for profit.


The Native people in the East were the first to be affected

by the European outsiders and their gluttony.

The vast natural and developed Native food supplies

were quickly devoured by the new people.

Although saved from starvation by the generosity of Natives,

these greedy ones were convinced that this wondrous

new land was theirs to take and use as they pleased,

calling it their Manifest Destiny.


When the food supplies in the East began running out,

the invaders started moving West.

All across the country, the long Wagon Trains of Pioneers

wiped out the natural food sources along the way.

Like Locust, they decimated everything in their path.


As for farming among Native Nations, it became quite difficult

to grow or hunt just ahead of oncoming settlers or an Army.


In the Great Plains, the Natives who refused to go to

Reservations were a little better off, for a while.

But, once the Railroads were in place and Buffalo Bill Cody

and others killed off nearly the entire Bison population,

there was little food left for the Plains People.


Until the land and Gold Rushes of the 1800's,

most Native People in the far West and Northwest

still had adequate natural food sources.


*A personal note*

My People, the Shawnee, were considered very good farmers.

When they arrived at the Reservation in Kansas, the Governor

remarked that the Shawnee were the best farmers that he had ever seen.

What he didn't know was that before they were shipped off to Kansas,

the Shawnee from the Ohio Valley area had learned many techniques

from the local Amish farmers who admired them and even hid many

of them after the great Shawnee leader Tecumseh was killed.



American Native Food Today


Today, American Natives need only travel to their nearest

grocery store to find an abundance of food.

Many Natives do still grow some of their own food,

raising geographically relevant crops that help to

sustain their people through the hard times.


Corn, beans and squash are still grown by many Nations,

however, very few Native people are successful commercial

farmers as they lack the investment capital to get started.


**Your responses to this statement are quite encouraging,

but please do contact the Tribal Nations directly if you

are interested in investing in Native Farming**

A List of Federally Recognized Tribes

Federally Recognized Tribes


Southwestern Nations, like the Navajo and Hopis

use the Ancient irrigation methods of their

Ancestors to grow a colorful collection of corn.

These Natives harvest cactus, plant vegetables and chilies

and raise sheep which are rarely eaten, but provide the

abundance of wool used for their beautiful woven rugs.


Historically, California Natives were unlike most others,

they did not grow much of anything to eat, they didn't have to,

it was already there, all they had to do was take it.

The insulting title of "diggers" was given to these Natives,

by outsiders who observed them frequently digging in the dirt.

The state was rich in nutritious wild roots, bulbs and insects

and thousands of California Natives lived very well on the

multitude of Fruits, Wild Game, Nuts, Roots and Berries.

Today, with little good land left to raise crops, many Tribes

have built Casinos instead to help support their People.


Several Southern Nations like the Seminoles of Florida,

and the Mississippi Band of Choctaws, have Casinos,

raise Cattle and grow a variety of food crops.


Some Tribes in Minnesota harvest wild rice

and other related food products both to

share with their own people and also to sell.


Natives in Northern Plains States, like North and

South Dakota, Idaho and Montana are raising cattle,

while trying to forge a new future for their children

by tapping into the Renewable Energy market with

Wind Turbines and Solar Power.


The Northwest Nations of Washington and

Oregon raise Salmon and grow Berries and Grapes

and also have geothermal potential.


The New England Nations have a wide variety of Shellfish,

Corn, Maple Syrup and wonderful varieties of

Apples, Pears, Grapes, Berries, including an

abundance of Cranberries in Massachusetts.


Many Tribes also grow tobacco and cotton,

but as they are not food, they were not

counted among the Native Nations crops.



Native Owned Food Businesses

If you are an American Native or Nation with a food business,
please send me your information to be listed on this page:
tahtonka at


The Lower Brule Sioux Tribe of South Dakota.

Lakota Foods


White Earth Reservation of Minnesota offers a variety

of wild rice products, maple syrup, organic coffee,

jams and jellies and many non food products.

Native Harvest Foods


The Skeet Family of Gallup, New Mexico sell

Native American Traditional Foods.

Navajo Designs


The Ojibwa people of Red Lake Minnesota who not

only grow wild rice, but now ship it all over the world.

Red Lake Nation Foods


* has no personal knowledge nor connection to any of these businesses.*


American Native Food Web Sites:


A Pyramid of American Native foods.

An American Native Food Guide Pyramid


How the Plains People provided food for themselves.

The Luxton Museum of the Plains People


Indian Health Services

Native American Resources: Food and Nutrition



American Native Recipes


American Native Recipes

Cherokees of California Cookbook

The Cooking Post

Cookin' with Three Sisters

Native Recipes from Paula Geise

Native Web Resources: Food

Navajo and Pueblo Native Fry Bread

Pemmican: Recipes, Stories and Stores

Recipe Source: American Native Recipes


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Last edited September 10, 2022

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