Indian fry bread is tradition to the Navajo, and comes with a story of great pain and suffering. Though the tradition of fry bread is familiar among all Tribal People in some way, it is the Navajo people who primarily are known for creating this recipe.
And of course there is a story that has been shared with generations of the Navajo People, and as it was share to me, I will now share with you…
The Navajo People lived from the Earth as their ancestors had for hundreds of years before. They also raised livestock to feed their family. The lands of the Navajo tribe were bordered by four Sacred mountains, from the South West… Arizona, the South East… New Mexico and North West into Utah and North East to Colorado. Crops were planted into rich, fertile ground at the Canyon de Chelly.
The Navajo traded with many tribes and cultures and even at times the early American settlers. During 1846 large numbers of immigrants flowed and migrated onto Tribal lands and with them came the United States Calvary. In August of 1849 a Navajo Leader by the name of Narbona was murdered.
On this day, Narbona a few hundred of his warriors traveled to discuss peace with Colonel John M. Washington representing the United States Government and military prescience in the area. There had been issues with the some of the New Mexican areas as some of the immigrants attempting to settle in the area were said to have been aggressively pushed out of the area. After discussing everything over several hours they came to an agreement and it was thought all was settled. Sadoval a young warrior with the group however did not agree with the decision. He ran out and jumped on his horse riding in front of the Navajo party goading them to break the treaty that was just formed.
Soon one of the U.S. Calvary soldier’s began to shout and yell saying that the horse ridden by the young Navajo was his and soon the calm was met with fighting. Colonel John Washington called to the Navajo to stand down and for the horse to be returned to the soldier, however the rider and horse were now nowhere in sight. The Navajo party did not comply. Canon and gunfire erupted and Narbona was mortally wounded.
This unsuccessful attempt at peace led to what is called the “Long Walks” in history records. In September 1863, Kit Carson (1809-1868) was dispatched into Navajo land to retrieve work out terms of surrender. When the Navajo did not show to discuss terms of surrender, he issued an order to burn tribal lands. Many attempts were made to starve out the Navajo people. Many were captured and taken to Bosque Redondo near Fort Sumner. Hundreds starved on this 300 mile walk, more died later in the over crowded and sub human condition that they were placed. The people were often placed with warring tribes. The camps were meant for 4,000 to 5,000 people but grew to over 9,000 people. Government supplies of lard, flour, salt, sugar, baking powder or yeast, and powdered milk were often rancid. So food source was scarce, thus Fry bread came from these few foods provided during the 4 years of captivity.
Since that time, it has become common food among tribal communities. To some, Indian Fry Bread is a Sacred tradition and is to be consumed by the people until the earth has again become purified.
Indian Fry Bread Recipe
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup water
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 cup instant dry milk
2 cups shortening
Add the flour, baking powder, salt, powdered milk, and water into a bowl and mix just enough to form a dough ball. Don’t overwork the dough or it will not turn out light and airy like it is meant to be.
Heat the oil/shortening until flakes of flour start to bubble when dropped into oil. While shortening is heating, Pull off a small sized amount of the dough and roll it into a smooth ball. Then flatten it out on a well floured counter or board to the size of a personal pizza. Then add the dough into pan and let it cook until it browns, then flip it and allow the other side to cook and turn a nice golden brown.
Remove it from the oil and allow it to set on some paper towel to release the oil.
Fry bread can be served with honey as in the traditional way, or used as a base for taco’s, sprinkled with powdered sugar and served with jams as a desert or many other ways. It was and is a food staple for many homes.
Enjoy and I hope blessings are abundant with you as you share the bread at your table!
~ bear Medicinewalker
Gary Small – “Choke Cherry Wine & Indian Fry Bread” from Hostiles and Renegades https://www.facebook.com/revgsmall/about