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Food Oppression: Mic Features Sioux Chef and Traditional Foods

Mic joins Sioux Chef Sean Sherman to learn how commodities have caused diet-related illnesses and indigenous foods can help Natives get healthier.
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Mic, a news and media company geared toward the younger generations, has tackled food oppression and indigenous foods in a video featuring Sean Sherman, the Sioux Chef.

It begins with Indian Removal. When Indian communities were moved onto reservations, they didn’t have access to traditional foods, and became dependent on government commodities.

“Once they were moved to the reservation they were forced to become dependent on the government for lots of canned foods and packaged foods,” Sherman, who grew up on commodity foods, says in the video. “I thought all cheeses tasted like the big block cheeses; I couldn’t eat salmon because I thought all salmon tastes like this canned government salmon we used to get as kids. It’s just bad food.”

He’s trying to change that by cooking indigenous foods.

“Getting people to reconnect with the plants as a food source that are all around them, and utilize more of the wild game that’s always been there,” Sherman explains in the video.

The commodities have led to a number of diet-related illnesses including diabetes. Native Americans have the highest rate of diabetes compared to any other ethnic group.

“Food is medicine and food can also be poison depending on what it is that you’re putting into your body,” says Rebecca Yoshino, director, Wozupi Tribal Gardens in Minnesota. “There are so many [diet]-related illnesses that could be remedied with healthy foods or clean foods, indigenous foods.”

Traditional food goes hand-in-hand with culture. “Learn your language first and everything else will follow,” Karen Drift, Bois Forte elder, says.

Watch the full video report below: