Baha'i News -- COOK OF THE WEEK: Cooking the Cree way

COOK OF THE WEEK: Cooking the Cree way

By Jo Hall

Danielle Locke, a native of northern Saskatchewan, Canada, came to Mobridge with her husband, Kevin Locke, from Aberdeen in August of 2001. She found there were differences in cooking and customs between the local Lakota and her Cree tribe.

She was born in a tent in the First Thunderchild Reserve (the equivalent of our reservations) in the Cree community of Kawacatoose. She was one of 15 children in the family but only nine lived to adulthood. Infant mortality was high then and life was hard.

Danielle was a middle child, 10 years younger than the next oldest. She learned to cook by watching her mother and grandmother. As a teenager she learned to garden and to can vegetables. The wall tent was their summer home; in the winter, they lived in a cabin made of small logs. "Most of the trees available were poplars which don't grow much in diameter," she said. "The cabin was loosely made of the poplar logs which my mother and older sisters would chink with mud."

Her father would snare rabbits for food, carefully saving the skins. These he would scrape very thin, then stretch and dry them. They were used to cover the windows of the cabin, allowing light through but keeping the bitter cold and wind from entering. A wood stove kept it warm.

Her father had a trapline and in tending it he traveled some distance. People along his route would ask him to bring them supplies or tobacco and often paid him in partridges or other game. In the winter he trapped wolves, weasels and other animals for their fur. Game was plentiful and he often brought home deer, moose or elk.

In the late 1970s, electricity came to their area and in 1988 they had a water and sewer system. Before that, they hauled water to their home. It was about 1994 when telephones came. Her family had the first "lumber" home in their community.

Danielle and Kevin were married in 1999 in Saskatchewan in both her traditional Cree ceremony and Kevin's Bahai. The Cree ceremony begins with a feast. "Not a 'feed' as they call it here," she said.

Certain foods cooked a special way are served. The six women in her group, including the bride-to-be, began cooking about 5 p.m. the day before the wedding and it took them until about 2 a.m. to prepare the food. The meat, usually moose or deer, is cut into pieces and boiled, vegetables are added and it continues to cook until tender.

The Bannock (from the Scottish) is a must at the feast and it is baked, not a fry bread. The chokcherry sauce is somewhat similar to the Lakota wojapi, but the berries are ground, cooked in an oiled frying pan and sweetened with honey. All the while the women are doing the cooking, they neither eat or taste any of it.

When it is time to serve, the women place blankets or tablecloths on the ground or floor (Danielle and Kevin had over 300 guests) and then the men, including Kevin, took over the serving of the food. The people bring their own dishes and sit on the ground. The women sat on one side and the men on the other.

A plate of food with a gift of tobacco is placed in the bushes as an offering. Because her father was no longer living, her uncle took over to sing an honor song for her father. There were drums, songs and prayers and dances.

"Pat, Kevin's mother, and the other Lakota dance with their hands down," said Danielle, demonstrating. "The Cree hold their hands up when they dance." Danielle and Kevin were wrapped in a blanket as they said their marriage vows. Their witnesses were two women.
Then there is a giveaway of gifts to the guests in addition to the gifts the couple receives.

The couple returned to Aberdeen where Danielle was working. She has a BA degree in Indian Studies, worked in community development and has owned two businesses. When they came to Mobridge, she went to work for Garret TenBroek at his office in the Home Federal Bank building. She works full time doing income tax preparation and data work in Mobridge and Eagle Butte.

Danielle likes Mobridge and its people. "They're friendly here and I enjoy serving on the Race Relations committee."

Cree Bannock
4 cups flour
2 Tbsps. baking powder
1/4 cup oil
1 tsp. sugar
Pinch of salt
2 eggs
2 cups warm milk
Mix all dry ingredients into flour. Make a well in the center in which to place the milk, eggs and oil.
Slowly work dry ingredients into liquid, stirring from outside to inside. Once a dough is formed, knead until dough springs back when touched. Let rise for 15 minutes, then form in large circle and bake on cookie sheet. Bake at 375 for 30 to 35 minutes.

Cree Chokecherries
Clean and wash fresh berries.
Let dry from one hour to overnight, not longer than overnight.
Using meat or vegetable grinder, place berries in it and grind until fine, using whole berries. The ground berries can be frozen or used immediately.
An alternative is to add nuts and other dry fruit.
In a frying pan, place oil and heat. Add berries. Once the berries are simmering, add 1/2 cup honey. Remove from heat and serve.

©Copyright 2002, Mobridge Tribune

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