TheSmithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. Foreground, lower left: George Rivera (Pojoaque Pueblo), Buffalo Dancer II (detail). Cast bronze, 2nd of an edition of 4. Gift of the Pueblo of Pojoaque, George Rivera, and Glenn Green Galleries. NMAI 26/7920. For the Pueblo Indians of the Southwest, the Buffalo Dance is an enduring celebration, a prayer for the well-being of all.
The National Museum of the American Indian on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., stands out for its evocation of monumental sandstone cliffs and tumbling streams. The grounds that surround the building are a living collection of indigenous plants, and details throughout the museum connect indoor spaces to the natural world. The museum's commitment to the environment, however, goes beyond the building's striking and thoughtful design to engage staff members at all levels—from senior management to cultural interpreters to facilities specialists and kitchen crew.
The museum has an active sustainability program and a sustainability committee of staff from various units and departments to monitor museum activities, brainstorm ideas to address challenges, and take follow-up actions. To give just one example, the staff works to improve recycling throughout the museum. New signage in English and Spanish helps visitors and staff be more aware of separating recyclables and compostables into the correct bins. The museum recycles more than 60 percent of total waste and this year redirected 35 tons of material from disposal in landfills to reuse via recycling and composting.
In addition to LEED certification, the museum received a 3-star rating from the Green Restaurant Association (GRA) for the award-winning Mitsitam Cafe. The GRA certifies restaurants' environmental friendliness, including waste reduction and recycling, water efficiency, sustainable furnishings and building materials, sustainable foods, energy consumption, disposables, and chemical and pollution reduction efforts.
The museum seeks to reflect Native values in all its work. One teaching that comes to mind today is to think in terms of seven generations: Our ancestors gave us the world to keep in trust for our children and grandchildren. Happy Earth Day, everyone!
This year’s fourth annual Living Earth Festival Native Chef
cooking competition began at 12 noon on July 21, 2013, and featured the talents
of Chef Freddie Bitsoie (Diné) from
Phoenix, Arizona, and Chef Don McClellan (Cherokee) from Tulsa, Oklahoma. Chef Freddie is an independent chef and a scholar of food and culture. Chef Don is executive chef with
Cherokee Nation Entertainment in northeastern Oklahoma (and also my son). The
special ingredient to be used in each of two appetizers, two entrees, and two
desserts is blueberries, a
fruit native to the Americas. In previous years the competition has
featured other foods indigenous to this hemisphere, including green chiles, the
Three Sisters (corn, beans, and squash), and heirloom tomatoes.
Traditionally Native Americans used blueberries in
ceremonies; as food—fresh or dried, alone or combined with other foods; infused
as tea; and to trade to other Natives who did not have access to blueberries.
The two teams. Don McClellan is 2nd from the left. Freddie Bitsoie is in the light gray smock, third from the right.
The chefs at this year’s competition were assisted by
culinary students from L’Academie de Cuisine here in Washington, DC. Chef Freddie Bitsoie was also assisted
by sous-chef Wilma Consul, and Chef Don McClellan was assisted by sous-chef
Carlos Castanedas. Karen Saunders (Red Lake Nation Band of Chippewa Indians),
Red Lake, Minnesota; Jerome Grant, sous-chef for the museum’s Mitsitam Café;
and Patricia Fields-Alexander (Pawnee Creek) from Muskogee, Oklahoma, judged
Left: Chef Freddie Bitsoie and his team get ready to present their miniature blueberry cheesecakes. Right: Chef Don McClellan and his team plate Coca-Cola BBQ glazed salmon with roasted red pepper, corn, and blueberry salsa.
For the appetizers, Chef Don prepared classic gazpacho but
substituted blueberries for the tomatoes; for his second appetizer he made
blueberry corn fritters (recipe below). Chef Freddie prepared Kwakiutl-style crab fritters with
blueberries and mixed greens and a blueberry-glazed shrimp appetizer with
Navajo corn. For the entrees, Chef
Don prepared Coca-Cola BBQ glazed salmon with roasted red pepper, corn, and
blueberry salsa (recipe below), and roast duck breast atop sweet potato and blueberry puree
with grilled asparagus; while Chef Freddie prepared posole with blueberries (recipe below) and
pan-seared mahi mahi with blueberry sauce, served with a bean ragout. For dessert Chef Don prepared a parfait
of fresh blueberries with crème fraiche and blueberry cinnamon fry bread topped
with fresh blueberries, while Chef Freddie prepared fresh blueberries with a
blueberry syrup glaze and a blueberry cheesecake (recipe below).
Judges Karen Saunders (Red Lake Nation Band of Chippewa Indians), Jerome Grant; and Patricia Fields-Alexander (Pawnee Creek).
After all of the dishes had been taste-tested by our panel of
three judges, everyone’s attention turned to the two folks charged with
tallying the results. After several minutes the scores were complete, and the
winner of this year’s Native Chef Cooking Competition was Chef Freddie Bitsoie.
In spite of the intense outdoor heat everyone participating had a great time.
Our thanks go out to all of the many volunteers and sponsors who made this
year’s competition such a huge success.
Chefs Don McClellan and Freddie Bitsoie congratulate each other on a wonderful competition.
The chefs generously shared four of their best blueberry-centric recipes. I hope you enjoy them.
Carolyn McClellan (Cherokee Nation) is the Assistant Director, Community and Constituent Services, of the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian.
All photos are by Katherine Fogden (Mohawk), NMAI.
To see a video fo the competition, scroll past the recipes below. To browse all the videos from Living Earth Festival , visit the museum's YouTube channel.
Blueberry corn fritters Chef Don McClellan
1 dozen ears of corn on the cob, husked 4 oz flour 2 oz sugar 1½ tsp salt 1 tsp pepper 2 eggs, beaten 4 oz cheddar cheese, shredded 8 oz fresh blueberries
1. Cut the kernels from the cob. Scrape well to release all milk.
2. Blend the dry ingredients.
3. Add the corn, eggs, and cheese. Mix to make a batter. Fold in blueberries.
4. Heat oil to 350°F and drop the batter by spoonfuls into the hot oil.
5. Fry until golden on all sides. Allow to drain.
Makes 30 fritters.
Posole with blueberries Chef Freddie Bitsoie
3 tbl oil 1 lb pork butt, diced 2 tbl paprika 2 tbl cumin 1 to 2 cups red chile,
pureed 1 small onion, chopped 2 garlic cloves, minced 8 oz tomato sauce 2 cups cooked hominy 1 cup fresh blueberries 28 oz chicken stock Bay leaf 1 thyme sprig 1 lime, zest and juice Salt Pepper Cilantro (for garnish)
1. In a heavy-bottomed pot, heat oil and season with salt and pepper; sear
pork till skin forms, then remove.
2. Sweat onion, thyme,
and bay leaf in pot.
3. Add paprika, cumin,
lime zest, and lime juice.
4. Add pork, garlic,
tomato sauce, pureed red chile, and chicken stock.
5. Simmer till
meat is tender.
6. Add hominy and
fresh blueberries and adjust seasoning.
7. Garnish with cilantro.
Makes 4 servings.
BBQ glazed salmon with roasted red pepper and corn salsa Chef Don McClellan
Coca-Cola BBQ sauce
3 oz unsalted butter 5 cloves garlic,
minced 1 medium-sized yellow
onion, minced 1½ cups ketchup ½ cup cider
vinegar ¾ cup light
brown sugar 2 tbl Worcestershire
sauce ¼ cup tomato
paste 3 tsp chipotle
powder 1 tsp kosher
black pepper as needed 12 oz (1 can) Coca-Cola
butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and onions and cook until translucent and soft
(approx. 6 to 8 minutes).
tomato paste and cook until sauce begins to caramelize (approx. 3 to 4 minutes).
ketchup, vinegar, sugar, Worcestershire sauce, chipotle powder, salt, pepper, and
to a simmer and allow sauce to cook and thicken, approx 30 to 40 minutes.
immediately or cool and refrigerate until use.
Makes 2 cups
Roasted red pepper and corn salsa
2 red peppers,
roasted and julienned 1 roma
tomato, diced ¼ cup red
onion, diced ½ bunch cilantro,
chopped ½ cup blueberries,
fresh 1 lime,
juiced ½ lemon,
juiced Salt and pepper to
Combine all the ingredients for the salsa together.
Allow flavors to develop by making at least 30 minutes prior to service; for best results make 24 hours in advance.
BBQ glazed salmon
2 6-oz salmon
filets, skin removed 4 oz Coca-Cola
BBQ sauce Vegetable
needed (approx. 2 tbl) Salt and pepper to
1. Season salmon with salt and pepper.
2. Heat a medium-sized sauté pan over high heat; pour in oil. Place salmon in pan skin side up; regulate the heat so as
not to get the pan too hot. (If you see continual smoke from the pan, reduce the
3. Allow salmon to cook in pan until you see the edges start to
turn an opaque orange color, rather than the vibrant orange raw color (approx.
4 to 5 minutes).
4. Turn salmon over and immediately brush the seared side with
5. Cover the sauté pan with a lid and continue cooking until the
salmon is done (approx. 3-5 minutes, depending on thickness).
6. Remove pan from heat and brush more BBQ sauce liberally over
7. Place salmon on plate and top with approx. 3 to 4 oz of salsa.
Makes 2 6-oz servings.
Recipe can be served with any starch of your choice: mashed potatoes, rice pilaf, roasted sweet potatoes, couscous, or wild rice.
Blueberry cheesecake Chef Freddie Bitsoie
1 ½ cup finely
ground graham-cracker crumbs 6 tbl butter,
melted 1/3 cup agave 4 oz. cream cheese 2 cups whipping cream 1 tsp. vanilla 4 oz. dark chocolate,
grated (keep cool to avoid melting) ½ cup frozen
blueberries 1 lemon, zest and
juice 1/3 cup agave 1 packet gelatin
1. In a small
springform pan mix the graham cracker crumbs, butter, and 1/3 cup of agave and
press into the bottom of the pan, forming a crust.
2. Using an
electric mixer, cream the cheese, blueberries, lemon zest and juice, and 1/3
cup of agave together.
3. Bloom the
gelatin with boiling water; set it aside to cool slightly ( keep the gelatin
warm enough to stay liquid).
4. In another bowl,
whip the cream and vanilla until soft peaks form.
5. Fold the
whipped cream into the cheese mixture.
6. Add the grated chocolate.
7. Pour in the
8. Stir the cheese
mixture until it is one color, then pour it into the springform pan
9. Cover with plastic wrap, place in
the refrigerator, and allow to set for about 4 hours.
Makes 1 small cheesecake (4 to 6 servings).
The fourth annual Living Earth Festival Native Chef Cooking Competition at the National Museum of the American Indian. Washington, DC, July 2013.
Earth Festival, a signature event of the National Museum of the American Indian, will take place this weekend, July 19 through 21. This annual festival
celebrates indigenous contributions to environmental sustainability, knowledge, and activism. For a full listing of events, please see the online calendar or downloadable festival brochure. Here are some highlights for visitors of all ages and many different interests.
What activities can families do together? Adults and children in particular are invited to:
Lisan Tiger Blair with the work that won him 1st place in youth sculpture at the 91st Santa Fe Indian Art Market, August 2012; photo by Dana Tiger, courtesy of the artist.
Help release lady
bugs into the NMAI garden (outside the museum's South Entrance along Maryland Avenue) at 10 AM Friday.
Participate in a sculpting workshop led by award-winning young artist Lisan Tiger Blair (Mvskoke Creek) in
the imagiNATIONS Activity Center. There are workshops several times each day. Please pick up free timed-entry tickets in advance at the
Join Victoria Mitchell (Cherokee Nation) for a
See amazing beadwork made by Peggy Fontenot (Potawatomi).
Enjoy an outdoor cooking demonstration by Patricia Alexander (Pawnee/Creek) or
a cheesemaking demonstration by Nancy Coonridge of Pietown, New Mexico.
Farmers market and green-chile roasting, NMAI photo.
For organic gardeners, locavores, gourmet cooks, and just plain food-lovers: During the festival, representatives of tribally owned food cooperatives discuss sustainability, and local famers offer produce, meat, and traditional American Indian foods in an outdoor farmers market. The festival
begins for foodies Friday morning at 10 AM with the opening of the farmer’s market and a
green-chile roasting (both outdoors in the Welcome Plaza throughout the festival). Demonstrations of traditional Native dishes, including venison stew,
corn soup, and grape dumplings (outdoors in the Akaloa Firepit), begin Friday at 1 PM and continue all weekend. Sunday from 1:30 to 4:30 PM, Native chefs Freddie Bitsoie (Navajo) and Don McClellan (Cherokee) will compete in an Iron Chef-style cook off (outdoors in the Welcome Plaza).
Chefs Freddie Bitsoie (Navajo) and Don McClellan (Cherokee); photos courtesy of the chefs.
Saturday afternoon singer and violinist Quetzal Guerrero (noon), contemporary Six Nations rocker Shawnee Talbot, aka She KIng (12:30 PM), and the LA fusion band Ozomatli (2 PM) join the roster of performers. Saturday evening at 5 PM, the three groups will present a longer concert as part of the museum's series Indian Summer Showcase. All music and dance performances take place in the air-conditioned Potomac Atrium.
Clockwise from upper left:Quetzal Guerrero; photo courtesy of the artist. She King; photo courtesy of the artist.Ozomatl; photo copyright 2012 Christian Lantry.
looking for a Friday evening program? The film series Dinner and a Movie offers cuisine from our Zagat-rated Mitsitam Café, available for purchase from
5 to 6:30 PM, followed by
the movie Watershed, showing from 7 to 8:30 PM in the museum's Rasmuson Theater.
Watershed highlights people who live and work in the Colorado River Basin, including Jeff Ehlert, a fly fishing guide in Rocky Mountain
National Park, and Navajo Council member Glojean Todacheene.
These people convey their new water ethic by sharing stories that
answer the question, How do we balance the competing interests of cities,
agriculture, recreation, wildlife, and indigenous communities all with rights to
The Colorado River from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon; photo by Michael Quinn, National Park Service.
At the heart of the festival each year is the Living Earth Symposium. For 2013, the symposium presents Tribal ecoAmbassadors. Saturday July 20, from 2:30 to 4 PM, join us in the Rasmuson Theater to hear Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) scientists, tribal college and university professors, and Native students describe how Native communities and individuals are developing innovative and locally relevant solutions to protect the environment and public health. Presenters include EcoAmbassadors from the Navajo Nation and the Tohono O’odham Nation who will address grassroots efforts to reduce carbon on their reservations and provide housing in their local communities.
ecoAmbassador David Stone and students from Tohono O’odham Community College take a break on a bench made entirely on carbon-negative materials; photo courtesy of the EPA.
All programs and activities are free and open to the public. As noted above, free timed-entry tickets to the sculpting workshop with Lisan Tiger Blair are avaiable in the imagiNATIONS Activity Center; it might be wise to begin your visit there. Indian Summer Showcase concerts are always very popular and Saturday's promises to be no exception. Seating in the Potomac Atrium is first come, first served.
When I began applying for internships this past winter, the National Museum of the American Indian was on the top of my list for several reasons. One was its commitment to showcasing Native voices, an approach that makes it unique among the Smithsonian museums—or museums in general, for that matter. Programs featuring Native performers and artists make the NMAI a living museum, a site for meaningful interactions between the traditional and the contemporary. Another reason I wanted to intern at NMAI was for its beautiful landscape, which serves to establish the museum as an organic oasis amidst the bustle of downtown DC.
Now that I’m at the as a summer intern, I’m thrilled to be working on a program that combines all the things I love about the museum. The Living Earth Festival, which takes place this weekend, July 22, 23, and 24, celebrates indigenous contributions to environmental sustainability and activism. The festival seeks to present both traditional and modern methods of addressing climate change, environmental issues, and health concerns.
This year, the Living Earth Festival is being held in tandem with several other museum programs. Conversations with the Earth: Indigenous Voices on Climate Change, a new multimedia exhibition, will open on Friday, July 22, alongside the festival. Also Friday, as part of the Dinner and a Movie series, artist Will Wilson (Diné) will present his Auto Immune Responseproject, a work that examines humans’ impact on the environment.
Knowledge and Technologies
The festival will showcase three themes, the first of which is knowledge and technologies. Both Native and non-Native researchers and practitioners will demonstrate how they and others in their fields apply science and technology to current environmental and food health concerns. Friday from 2 to 4 PM EDT, the museum will host a live webcast on diabetes awareness, education, and healthy living with the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center (IPCC) in Albuquerque, NM. Panelists include Dr. Neal Barnard, Margaret Brascoupé (Tesuque Pueblo), and Caitlin Baker (Mvskoke Creek) in the museum's Rasmuson Theater, and Lois Ellen Frank at IPCC.
The second theme highlighted at the festival is celebration and ceremony, which rejoices in and respects the complex relationship between ourselves and the environment. Native performers will demonstrate traditional and contemporary songs, dances, and storytelling that honor our relationship with the Earth. As part of the Indian Summer Showcase concert series, an outdoor concert Saturday from 5 to 8 PM EDT will feature Native musicians including Gregg Analla (Laguna and Isleta Pueblo), the Plateros from Tohajilee, NM,, and the Pappy Johns Band, from the Six Nations of the Grand River in Ontario, as well as the Santa Fe Indian School Spoken Word Team. The festival will also include hands-on activities that utilize natural materials and traditional techniques, giving visitors the chance to create their own pottery and make cornhusk dragonflies.
Plateros, a three-piece family band from from Tohajilee, New Mexcio, the eastern agency of the Navajo Nation, will perform Saturday evening, July 23 at the Living Earth Festival. Photo courtesy of the artists.
Bounty and Artistry
The final theme showcased in the festival is bounty and artistry, acknowledging the Earth’s role in nourishing both our bodies and our creativity. Native artists will demonstrate traditional arts including basket-weaving, bow-and-arrow-making, and carving. Demonstrators will also illustrate traditional culinary methods and dishes. On Sunday, an outdoor cooking competition will pit Don McClellan (executive chef of Atria Vista del Rio) against reigning champ (and Mitsitam Native Foods Café executive chef) Richard Hetzler in a battle to serve up appetizers, entrées, and desserts that incorporate local foods and the traditional Three Sisters: corn, beans, and squash. Each of the competing chefs will be accompanied by culinary students from the DC Central Kitchen. In support of the DC Central Kitchen's Healthy Returns Program, festival-goers will receive a biodegradable totebag as a thank you for making a $10-value food donation such as granola bars, packets of trail mix, individual 100% juice boxes, or individual boxes of raisins or nuts. (Please do not donate perishable items or sweets such as candy or cookies.)
The 2011 Living Earth Festival will include an outdoor farmers’ market with fresh produce, New Mexico roasted peppers, and traditional American Indian dishes from local and Native-owned farms and cooperatives. Photo by Katherine Fogden (Mohawk), NMAI.
Local farmers will participate in an outdoor farmers’ market, and each participant will address an aspect of agriculture, covering topics such as Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), urban gardening, bees, and commercial vs. free-range beef.
Finally, visitors will be able to purchase green chiles and have them roasted by the University of New Mexico Alumni Association (UNMAA), Washington, DC, Chapter. Donations accepted by UNMAA for the roasting go to support their scholarship fund.
Whether you are interested in environmental issues, traditional Native arts, or just love great music and fresh food, the Living Earth Festival has something for you! The festival is a great opportunity to experience all of NMAI’s excellent programming, all rolled in to one fun-filled weekend. We hope to see you there!
The new menu for Mitsitam Native Foods Cafe made it’s debut last week. As always, this summer’s menu brings tastes from five distinct Native regions. Using traditional summer foods, the variety of dishes is truly inspired.
From the Northern Woodlands, Crawfish Gumbo serves as an appetizer followed by Chilled Tomato Soup, Fried Okra and Cucumber Dust. Choose a hot dish of Stewed Summer Squash and Zucchini, Pumpkin Seed Oil, Oven Roasted Crab Apples and New Potatoes or a cold dish of Wild Rice and Watercress Salad for the main course and finish with one of this summer’s berry tarts. YUM!
Journey to South America for Pheasant Croquette dressed in an Olive Oil Puree, with Pimientos Rojas, Smoked Chili Sauce and Cilantro Oil. Cool off with Conch ceviche, fresh papaya and chives. As a main course the Fresno Chili Coffee Rubbed Pork Loin in a Coconut and Vanilla Bean Sauce or the Annatto Spiced Yucca and Chayote Salad provide an adventure for the taste buds.
(Pheasant Croquette, Olive Oil Puree, Pimientos Rojas, Smoked Chili Sauce, Cilantro) (Photo by Brieahn DeMeo, NMAI)
The Northwest Coast offers a delicious variety of seafood dishes starting with Baked Oysters with Yellow Potato and Corn Cream. Feeling in the mood for the daily catch? The Maple Juniper Glazed, Cedar Planked Fire-Roasted Salmon is the perfect choice. Also on the summer menu is Hominy and Parched Corn Salad with grilled leeks and roasted garlic vinaigrette. The Cornmeal Buck Skin Cake with Saskatoon berries and whipped cream is a must.
Mesoamerica adds a little spice to the menu featuring Roasted Calabasas Squash and Plantain Burrito with a Red Chili Sauce and Beef Tongue, Pork Pibil and Fish Tacos. This is not your grandmother’s salsa: Fried Plantain Salsa, Tomatillo and Raspberry Salsa and Salsa Quenmada, my mouth is watering just thinking about it.
(Roasted Calabasas Squash and Plantain Burrito with a Red Chili Sauce) (Photo by Brieahn DeMeo, NMAI)
(Fish Tacos) (Photo by Brieahn DeMeo, NMAI)
Buffalo is the focus of many of the dishes from the Great Plains beginning with Buffalo Chili. Buffalo burgers served with Green Chilies, Duck burgers, pulled Buffalo Sandwiches and Buffalo chili cheese fries bring a new spin on classic dishes. Tepary Bean Salad with caramelized onions, roasted fennel and agave offer an alternative to the many buffalo dishes. I’m having memory flashes of the first time I saw herds of buffalo across the plains of Oklahoma, AMAZING! And of course delicious.
Chef Richard Hetzler has created a cornucopia of dishes that highlight each unique region through the very best foods the summer has to offer. There is something for every palette this season
(The ladies of the Choctaw Nation sample Chef's dishes- Chef is explaining the dishes from just outside the frame. Photo by Brieahn DeMeo, NMAI)