bd platecvtvhakv
blue dumplings

Charles Gibson, 1918

A gallon, or more if needed, of shelled flint corn should be soaked overnight in a strong solution of ash-lye (water with ash-lye drippings).

Pour off any excess solution in the morning. Pound the corn in the mortar and break the grain into large pieces. Clean off the husks from the grain in a fanner. Pound the clean, broken grain to meal, taking the mass out of the mortar and sifting it from time to time until all the grain is pounded down to a fine meal. Mix a quart of this meal to a stiff dough with boiling water to which add about a cupful of strong ash-lye drippings. A larger amount of dough can be made by using the same proportions of meal and ash-lye drippings. Form pieces of the dough into the shape and size of ordinary doughnuts, with a hole in the center, and bake these in a Dutch oven until thoroughly done. Place the freshly baked bread in the sunshine until perfectly dry. It will be hard as wood. The rings of hard bread were strung on heavy string, and hung on the wall or rafters to keep indefinitely.

Creek Indian hunters used to carry strings of this bread tied to their saddles, on long hunting expeditions, without cover from rain or snow or any kind of weather. The backbone joints of fresh game—antelope, deer, buffalo—were stewed until tender; then a dozen or so of the hard, dry corn bread rings were put into the pot and after cooking for a little while they softened and mixed in the stew. It is told that this was the Creek Indian hunter’s choice bread; it was his ration on the war path.

Lilah D. Lindsey, 1933

bd bowlScald whole white corn in lye water, drain until dry, pound into meal. Burn pea hulls (black eyed or cow pea, or any kind) and pound to a powder, sift and add to your corn meal; using hot water, knead into balls size of baseball, drop into boiling water and cook one-half hour. To one part of meal use one-half part pea meal.

James H. Hill, ca. 1936-40

Shell black corn, put water in a pot to boil, set it over the fire, put in a small amount of strong ashes without any charcoal, and when it boils, put in the shelled corn, and after it boils, take out the corn, and wash it off until all the corn skin is removed; and when it’s dry, put it in a mortar, and when you pound it with the pestle, add fine ashes from bean hulls or burnt corn cobs, pound it fine, sift it with a fanner, remove the fine portion, stir in some boiled beans that have been cooked, mix it with water, and when it’s stiff, break off about one handful, squeeze it, make it into a ball, or make it flat and round, and when they’ve been placed in boiling water and have cooked, they call it cvtvhakv.

It’s good to drink the soupy juice.

Beulah Simms, 1970

Soak two quarts flint corn in water until it is soft. Pound in keco with kecvpe while the corn is soft and wet. Sift in a ‘senweskv and separate the large kernels from the fine powder. Mix pea hull powder with the corn meal. Drop in three or four drops of kvpe-cvfke for flavor.

Mix with boiling water and form into biscuits and drop into boiling water and boil until cooked. It should boil about one hour. Beans or sweet potatoes may be mixed in before making into biscuits.

Serve with fresh pork.

Native American Recipes, 1996

Put one-half cup ash-lye in a large pot of water and boil. Use enough water to mix with four cups cornmeal and three tablespoons bean hull powder and form into dough. Form into balls a little larger than golf balls and drop into a pot of boiling water. Cook for one hour. Serve hot.

When using corn flour (Spanish flour may be substituted for cornmeal), prepare in same way except pat the dough balls until thin. Cook in boiling water until done, about one hour.

Marquis Martin, 2006

Mix about four pounds masa cornmeal and three tablespoons of bluing, add warm water until thin enough to roll into golf-ball size balls. Boil in water until they float to the top.

Bertha Tilkens, 2009

Grind dried corn until you have a very fine meal, like cornmeal. The meal will be white or maybe slightly tan in color. To make the bread blue, color is added by using dry bean hulls.

To cook the blue bread, put water in a pot (the amount of water and size of the pot depend on how much blue bread you plan to make) and bring it to a rolling boil. Use some of the water to mix with the dried corn/bean hull mixture. Add just enough so that the dough sticks together, about the consistency of pie dough. When it comes to the right consistency, pinch off golfball-sized pieces of the dough, roll it in your hands, and pat it to flatten it somewhat, then drop the dough in the boiling water. This makes a very moist bread that is done when the dough has floated in the water for some time.

bd pan


Sovereignty Begins at Home

The Okmulgee sky was overcast during the second weekend of February, but the mood inside the Mound Building was considerably more upbeat.  People from near and far had gathered for the Food Sovereignty Symposium, which is quickly becoming one of the more important annual events in Mvskoke country.

The program began on Friday morning with welcoming remarks by Ben Yahola and Vicky Karhu of the Mvskoke Food Sovereignty Initiative, organizers of the symposium.  They also introduced this year’s theme:  Porwvn, Hompetvn, Pom Vhesaketv Tos (Our Seeds, Our Food, Our Survival).

All symposium activities were free and open to the public thanks to funding provided by the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, and both A. D. Ellis and Alfred Berryhill were on hand to welcome participants to the Capitol Complex.

Second Chief Berryhill offered a song and a prayer in the Mvskoke language.

Principal Chief Ellis recounted some childhood memories on the family farm, including a humorous story about unintentional mischief involving jars of produce his mother had canned for the winter.

The first formal presentation, by one of the leading climate experts in the world, reviewed the scientific evidence for global warming and explained how our climate will change in Oklahoma.  This was a sobering reminder that food sovereignty is something everyone will be thinking about in the near future.

The speakers who followed presented various strategies for self-determination in an era of corporate domination.

A renowned food systems analyst detailed the relationship between agricultural production and economic recovery, demonstrating the importance of community-based food networks.

The coordinator of the Oklahoma Farm-to-School Program described how this synergistic venture in local food benefits both growers, who need to make a living, and students, who need to eat better.

The director of Urban Harvest, a program of the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, explained how organic gardening and other neighborly practices can help feed those who might otherwise go hungry.

Two leaders from Dream of Wild Health, a native-owned organic farm in Minnesota, explained their effort to cultivate wellness by growing and preserving more than three hundred varieties of indigenous heirloom seeds.

An ethnobotanist from the Chickasaw Nation discussed their Ecological Resources and Sustainability program and offered an overview of traditional foods in the southeast.

All of these presentations were informative and encouraging, but the most enjoyable experience of the day was hearing about two Mvskoke community food projects.  Barton Williams from the Wilson Indian Community and Bud McCombs from the Eufaula Indian Community related their efforts to establish community gardens, under the guidance of elders and for the sake of future generations.  Williams and McCombs are engaging speakers, and we are fortunate to have such leaders in our midst.

If the highlight of the first day of the symposium involved Mvskoke produce, the highlight of the second day was Mvskoke food.

On Saturday, we enjoyed a noon meal of traditional dishes prepared by Mary Harjo:  meat and hominy, sakkonepke (safke corn and chicken), red beans, homegrown squash and zucchini, boiled cabbage, cvtvhakv (blue corn dumpling), sour cornbread, and safke, with grape dumplings and sweet potato casserole for dessert.

(To borrow the words of a certain redneck comedian:  “You might be a Mvskoke if . . . your mouth is beginning to water.”)

Chumona Deere described each dish during the meal, and in the first afternoon presentation Melissa Harjo-Moffer explained the preparation of Mvskoke foods.  Harjo, Deere, and Harjo-Moffer are gracious hosts, and we are fortunate to have such leaders in our midst.

I’ll write more about the symposium in my next column.  In the meantime, I have posted the agenda for the Food Sovereignty Symposium 2010—including links to the organizations that participated—at the website below.

Muscogee Nation News, March 2010


Food Sovereignty Symposium 2010

Mvskoke Food Sovereignty Initiative