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A Native American Thanksgiving

Harvests feasts have an ancient tradition in the Americas that long predate the era when our ancestors allowed starving refugees and involuntary passengers from the Old World to settle here.   The newcomers were so impressed by the farming skills of our ancestors that they created one of North America’s most important holidays to honor them . . .  Thanksgiving!

Your family can also honor the culinary gifts that the indigenous peoples of the Americas gave all humanity by planning “An All American Thanksgiving.”   Only serve dishes that originated in the Americas!

It’s going to be tough . . . not because of the limited choices, but because there is so much to choose from.   Throughout the world, American vegetables predominate on the dinner table.   The Muskogeans also gave the world deep fried, corn meal battered,  poultry and fish that’s now called “Southern Fried.” (They used hickory nut oil with zero cholesterol.)   Most all indigenous Americans liked to barbecue meats.


Smoked turkey, baked turkey, fried turkey
Fried duck, baked wild duck, roasted wild duck
Smoked wild goose, baked wild goose, roasted wild goose
Smoked venison, roasted venison
Smoked buffalo, grilled buffalo
Roasted elk, smoked elk
Smoked fish, barbecued fish, fried fish, baked fish
Roasted bear, smoked bear, barbecued bear
Deep fried turtle or frog legs
Fried quail, smoked quail
Baked possum with sweet potatoes*
*It is something like roast pork.

Brunswick stew


Corn bread, corn on the cob, niblet corn, creamed corn, hominy corn, grits, sofke, hush puppies, corn flat cakes, hasty pudding, corn soup, tamales, tortillas, popcorn

Northern wild rice, Southern wild rice
Sunflower seeds

Ramps (onion relative)
Maple Syrup

Green beans
Bush beans
Pole beans
Lima beans
Navy beans
Kidney beans
Pinto beans
Purple beans
Red beans
Speckled beans
Black beans
Has beans

Sweet potatoes
White potatoes
Andean purple potatoes
Jerusalem artichoke (Indian potatoes)
Yucca roots

Wild garlic
Ramps (member of onion family)
Bell pepper
Pimiento pepper
Hot pepper

Yellow crookneck squash
Butternut squash
Cousaw squash
Acorn squash
Calusa squash (sweet)
Calabaza squash (sweet)


Black Walnuts
Butternuts (White Walnut)
Pine nuts
Brazil Nuts
Live Oak acorns


Muscadine grape
Scuppernong grape
Catawba grape
Concord grape
Coco Plums
White Mulberry
Red Mulberry
Black Cherry
Paw Paw
Pashion Fruit
Red plums
Purple plum
Coco Plum
*Most commercial strawberries in the world are hybrids created from the native strawberry of the Southeast, which was grown by American Indians.
Tuna Cactus fruit


Ginseng tea
Sassafras tea
Yaupon tea
Corn beer

Getting hungry?     Happy Thanksgiving to all my friends around the Americas . . . even if your country doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving.

Richard Thornton

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Richard Thornton is a professional architect, city planner, author and museum exhibit designer-builder. He is today considered one of the nation’s leading experts on the Southeastern Indians. However, that was not always the case. While at Georgia Tech Richard was the first winner of the Barrett Fellowship, which enabled him to study Mesoamerican architecture and culture in Mexico under the auspices of the Institutio Nacional de Antropoligia e Historia. Dr. Roman Piňa-Chan, the famous archaeologist and director of the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, was his fellowship coordinator. For decades afterward, he lectured at universities and professional societies around the Southeast on Mesoamerican architecture, while knowing very little about his own Creek heritage. Then he was hired to carry out projects for the Muscogee-Creek Nation in Oklahoma. The rest is history. Richard is the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the KVWETV (Coweta) Creek Tribe and a member of the Perdido Bay Creek Tribe. In 2009 he was the architect for Oklahoma’s Trail of Tears Memorial at Council Oak Park in Tulsa. He is the president of the Apalache Foundation, which is sponsoring research into the advanced indigenous societies of the Lower Southeast.



    Now you’re talking! There is no better way to serve a turkey than slow smoked on the grill.

    Where can I find out more information about Native American cooking prior to Columbus’s arrival.

    Thank you

  2. Hey Ed,

    Most of the websites I looked at for this subject were by non-Native Americans, who didn’t know diddlysquat about the subject, but were paid $10 to write a “how to” article on the net. I found this book, being sold by the Manataka Indian Council that seems legit, but I have never read it.

    FOODS OF THE AMERICAS : Native Recipes and Traditions

    The secret to smoking poultry is using the right wood. A lot of woods give the meat a chemical or turpentine taste. I am using hickory charcoal to cook my turkey this Thanksgiving.


    Happy Thanksgiving Richard! My Mother loved the pictures of your pole beans. Keep up the good fight! Your Friend, Dave Turner

    • Well, thank you sir. Tell your mother that they were crowder peas and sugar snap peas – but also legumes like pole beans.

      I found that Blue Lake green beans do better on these terraces than pole beans. They are not as much affected by the hot dry weather in late summer, and so keep on bearing into late September.


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