Original Local: Indigenous Foods, Stories, and Recipes from the Upper Midwest
by Heid E. Erdrich
Minnesota Historical Society Press • ISBN: 978-0-87351-894-9 • $19.95 Softcover
Poet Heid Erdrich, of the Turtle Mountain Ojibwe, will tell you that the locavore movement focusing on local produce is hardly new. The Ojibwe and Dakota people of this region were locavores by necessity, when trucking in potatoes or tomatoes from distant states or even countries was unimaginable.
In this book, Heid offers tried and true recipes, both traditional and with a modern flair, using mainly locally available produce or meats. She not only explains how to prepare the food, but also relates stories from researchers, chefs and her own family about food and food history. She draws from tribal traditions around the Midwest – Ojibwe, Dakota, Lakota, Ho-Chunk, Menominee, Potawatomi and Mandan.
Chapters are devoted to two staples – wild rice and corn. As with all her works, Heid measures in good amounts of storytelling and humor along with recipes for everyday meals or special occasions.
As Heid’s grandmother told her, “Mino-wiisin!” Eat well.
by Cheryl Minnema • illus. by Wesley Ballinger
Minnesota Historical Society Press • ISBN: 978-0-87351-926-7 • $17.95 Hardcover
Patience and respect are hard lessons for a young one to learn, especially when he’s always hungry, but that’s what happens in Cheryl Minnema’s first children’s book. Both Cheryl and illustrator Wesley Ballinger are from Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe.
Cheryl based the story on her brother and dedicates the book to him, “Johnny Bubba” as he was nicknamed.
The Johnny in this book wants to eat, but the food grandmother is preparing is for a special gathering. So Johnny must wait, first to go to the gathering, then to hear the prayer by an Ojibwe elder and then, sigh, for the elders to get their food before others begin.
When he finally gets his turn at the table, Johnny reveals that he’s directed by more than just his growling tummy.
The book is as exuberant as Johnny and his “Eat! Eat! Eat!” and has fun elements, like the portraits on the walls taken from actual family photos of the author and illustrator.
In these days of give-it-to-me-now, the lesson of waiting is an important one and worth reading aloud to your own little Hungry Johnny.
The Road Back to Sweetgrass
by Linda LeGarde Grover
University of Minnesota Press • ISBN: 978-0-8166-9269-9 • $24.95 Softcover
Linda LeGarde Grover, Bois Forte Ojibwe, brings a poet’s sensibility to her short fiction and to this, her first novel.
Her book of short stories, Dance Boots, won the prestigious Flannery O’Conner Award for Short Fiction. Those stories and this one have similar themes, following the joys and challenges in modern life for the Ojibwe people.
In this book, Linda traces the journeys of three women starting in the 1970s on a fictitious northern Minnesota reservation. The storyline travels back and forth in time, from now to the historic past, from the women’s own stories to the broader history of their people.
This book touches on the trials of the modern-day Native experience, including the question of who is “Indian” enough. Does one have to be “traditional” to be considered Indian, no matter one’s ancestry?
All of these issues are translated naturally and compellingly through the lives of these women. The overall theme of longing and belonging affects us all, and in this story Linda brings us into the grand circle.
Talking Sky: Ojibwe Constellations as a Reflection of Life on the Land
by Carl Gawboy and Ron Morton
Rockflower Press • ISBN: 978-1-938241-00-0 • $12.99 Softcover
This is the third in a series examining the science of the region along with the Ojibwe narratives and traditions by Carl Gawboy, an artist and educator from the Bois Forte Band of Ojibwe, and Ron Morton, a professor emeritus from the geology department at the University of Minnesota Duluth. The first two books dealt with the geology around Lake Superior and then around the broader Minnesota region.
In this book, the two explore the Ojibwe interpretations of the constellations and how Carl believes the regional pictographs explained what was seen seasonally in the sky.
The reading is pleasant and holds a treasure in the stories Carl tells, but also in the oral tradition that he passes along from his father to the reader. He examines what he believes the star patterns looked like to the Ojibwe people, reflecting local wildlife of moose, wolf and panther to traditional narratives of Wintermaker and Nanaboujou.
Once you read it, the night sky will take on a local shimmer and you’ll never just see some Greek hunter in a tunic again.
Spirit of the Ojibwe: Images of Lac Courte Oreilles Elders
by Sara Balbin, James R. Bailey & Thelma Nayquonabe
Holy Cow! Press • ISBN: 978-0-9823545-0-6 • $28.95 Softcover
This story of the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe people is told through, and seen through, the eyes of its elders who have passed on. Portrait paintings by Sara Balbin accompany each short profile.
The book also delves into history and culture, featuring maps and historic photos.
This is an amazing result for a long-term project and a great introduction to both this band and the wider Ojibwe nation.
The books reviewed here, unless otherwise indicated, should be available through local booksellers by using the ISBN number.