Thursday, November 11, 2021

Native American Heritage Month - Ancestry and Tea


Aaniin - "I see your light."

On October 29, 2021, President of the United States Joseph R. Biden proclaimed November as National Native American Heritage Month with November 26th as Native American Heritage Day.

As it is now November and Native American Heritage Month, I would like to share a short story with you.

You may recognize this gentleman.  He is George Washington, the first President of the United States of America.  He was born into the Washington family who had migrated to America from Northamptonshire in 1656.

In 1620 a man named Gregory Isham was born in Northamptonshire.  Perhaps Gregory knew the Washington family?   Gregory had migrated to North America where he died in 1658 just two years after the Washington family migrated.  But 4 years before he died he had a son John.  

And as families go so did the Isham bloodline:
  • John had a son Isaac born in 1693
  • Isaac had a son also named Isaac born in 1718
  • Isaac had a son Jehiel born in 1761
  • Jehiel had a son William born in 1798
  • William then had a son born in 1826 named Ira
  • The story is that Ira was probably a fur trader travelling the Great Lakes and met and married Ganamanj M Bashking.  She was born in 1825 and was a full blood Objibwe, or Chippewa, Native American
  • They had a daughter Mary in 1862
  • Mary had a daughter Emma born in 1886
  • Emma had a son George born in 1923
  • George had a daughter named Jeanette.  Yes.  That's me. confirms this bonding of cultures in my DNA.

And the records also show that my Native American ancestors belong to the Lac Courte Oreilles Band of  Lake Superior Chippewa Indians.

The Ojibwe are also known as the Chippewa which is the name used in U.S. treaties and sometimes used as the official tribe name.  Ojibwe people call themselves Anishinaabe which means "original people".  Research shows that their ancestors lived very far to the east but about 1,000 years ago they started a slow migration to the Great Lakes.

They make up the third largest tribe in North America with 170,000 Ojibwe in the United States and 60,000 in Canada.  About half live away from reservations.  The Ojibwe land on this map in the light shading is at the time of European contact, the dark shading are present-day Ojibwe reservations.

The Ojibwe were hunter-gatherers and each season set up their camp and homes close to the available food sources.  They lived in wigwams, structures covered with birch bark.  The structure would remain as the bark coverings were rolled and taken to the next seasonal home.  In the early spring they lived near the maple trees tapping the trees for sap which they boiled into sugar and syrup.  Toward the end of spring they moved closer to the waters where they fished in birch bark canoes using spears and nets.  In the summer they hunted game and gathered berries and plants for medicine.  They planted beans, squash, and corn and often stored the dried harvests in containers underground in preparation for the cold and often harsh winter.  In the fall they moved near the marshes to gather wild rice, manoomin.  They took their canoes through the marsh tapping the rice off the stalks with long sticks.  The harvested rice was dried, roasted, and stored.  Through the winter the families lived on their stores from their seasonal work.

I believe the food of a culture is one way to learn so much about the people and also a perfect way to share with other cultures.   At the Minneapolis American Indian Center a very simple and vegan dessert is created from a recipe from the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe.  It uses ingredients native to the area and wild rice which may be available from Native American harvests.

The ingredients are simple.

1 cup wild rice
8 ounces dried tart cherries
1 pound strawberries
bit salt
mint leaves

My wild rice is from Native Harvest and I will share a link.

The dried tart cherries are from Orchard Bay.  They are dried Montmorency cherries grown on the shores of Lake Michigan.

Strawberry and Wild Rice Tartlet Recipe

Making the Tartlet Wild Rice Shells 

Bring 6 cups of lightly salted water to a boil, add 1 cup of wild rice.  Cover and cook until the water evaporates and the grains split open.  This can take quite a long time.  For this rice it was 2 hours at a steady simmer.

Spread the rice on a large rimmed baking sheet and allow to cool.

Once the rice is cool enough to handle, smash it with your hands, a potato masher, or my tool of choice, a pastry blender, until it looks like a chunky mash and the grains stick together.

Lightly oil the bottoms and sides of muffin pans.  Pat about 3 tablespoons of the mashed rice into the muffin pans on the bottom and up the sides forming a tart for filling.  Bake for 25 to 40 minutes at 350 degrees until the rice is darkened in color and the sides of the shells are crisped.

Let the shells cool in the pans and then carefully remove them from the pans running a knife around the edges and slightly under the shell.

Making the Strawberry and Cherry Filling

This is best served chilled and can be made from 1 to 5 hours ahead of serving time.

Combine 8 ounces of the dried tart cherries with 2 cups of cold water in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook until soft and plump, 5 to 7 minutes.  Drain and let cool.

Wash and remove stems from 1 pound of strawberries.

The drained and cooled cherries will now be combined into a chunky puree either by using a blender...

...or my tool of choice, a chopper thingy.  I never realized until now that I have no idea what this is but it works really well!

An Ojibwe Tea

If you have seen many of my blog posts, Instagram posts, or YouTube videos you already know that I love tea!  And for this wonderful dessert I have a favorite - Ojibwa, a Native American Herbal Tea.

The ingredients are red clover flowers, burdock root, sheep sorrel herb, licorice root, slippery elm bark, dandelion root, barberry root bark, and turkey rhubarb root.  If you do any research you will learn of the many medicinal and restorative properties of this tea.  And besides that, it smells and tastes wonderful!

Native American Heritage Month Celebration Tea

First we'll plate the wild rice shells on a pretty metal plate.

Fill the shell with the chilled cherry and strawberry puree.

And top the tartlet with a halved strawberry and a mint leaf.

And enjoy the chilled tartlet with a hot cup of Ojibwa tea!


I hope you enjoyed this small glimpse into my ancestry and the culture of the Ojibwe people.  There is no word for "goodbye" in the Ojibwe language,  so the closest we will come is "Giga-waabamin menawaa" which means, "I'll see you again".

Companion YouTube video for this post:

Recommended reading for children:  The Ojibwe, The Past and Present of the Anishinaabe
by Alesha Halvorson on Capstone Press

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