With COVID-19 roaring across the world, the weak spots in our society and especially medical systems have been laid bare. Nowhere is this more evident than on Indian reservations across the United States. Keeping with the national trend, Native nations have been forced to close casinos and, in some cases, completely cut off all tourism or access to reservations altogether. While these measures are clearly necessary, keep in mind, casinos and tourism are the only revenue streams for most Indigenous communities.
People living on reservations are incredibly vulnerable during this time. Navajo Nation only has 170 hospital beds, 13 I.C.U. beds, 52 isolation rooms, and a mere 28 ventilators available for the entire population. High rates of disease create entire immunocompromised communities. That’s compounded by the fact that there are only 13 (total) grocery stores for an area a little bigger than West Virginia. The population of the Navajo Nation is just over 350,000 people. And that’s just the Navajo. Add in the remoteness of other Indigenous communities like the Havasupai or hundreds of communities in Alaska, where you literally have to fly in supplies, and you have a possible catastrophe on the horizon for these already at-risk Indigenous people.
All of the money for health care for all Native nations comes from the federal government (through treaty provisions). And, so far during this pandemic, funding for the Indian Health Service (IHS) has been non-existent or an afterthought in Washington, D.C. Recently, $40 million was allocated to the 574 Indian nations by the feds with no clear way to distribute those funds. That equals roughly $70,000 per nation. Time magazine reports that the cost of one person getting COVID-19 and needing hospitalization costs $34,927.43. In short, these communities need a continued influx of resources.
You can help funnel cash into Indigenous communities right now by doing what you’re (hopefully) already doing anyway: Ordering food. Below, we’ve compiled a list of Indigenous food producers around the country that will deliver right to your door. Using these food vendors will help infuse cash into the U.S.’s most at-risk and likely-to-be-left-behind communities right now. Plus, the food is sustainably grown and harvested and created outside of our industrial farming system. These are all wins, folks.
RED LAKE NATION FISHERY
Who They Are: The Red Lake Nation up in Minnesota is your best bet to source brilliant white fish. They sell crappie, walleye (their best seller), whitefish, northern, and perch all caught and processed by local Red Lake citizens. They also sell a gorgeous in-house smoked whitefish. The fish is sustainably managed and will arrive at your door with next-day delivery.
What To Buy: Right now, Red Lake Nation Fishery is offering free shipping on their Fresh Frozen Walleye Filets. They come in five or eleven-pound packages priced at $69.95 and $153.89 respectively.
BOW & ARROW CORNMEAL
Who They Are: The Ute Nation in Colorado is the home of Bow & Arrow. The company started in the 1960s and has been growing its heritage corns on 7,700 acres of high desert land. They sell white, yellow, and blue cornmeal in both consumer and bulk packaging. This is the real deal and will take anyone’s cornbread, tamale, or tortilla game to new heights.
What To Buy: You can score six 24-ounce bags of two each blue, yellow, and white cornmeal for $48.99.
RAMONA FARMS TEPARY BEANS
Who They Are: Tepary beans have been cultivated in what’s now America’s Southwest through Mexico for over 7,000 years alongside corn and squash — the venerable Three Sisters of Indigenous American agriculture. Ramona Farms (Pima) is an excellent Indigenous-run farm that sells black, white, and brown varieties of the bean.
What To Buy: You can score one, two, and five-pound bags of white, black, or brown Tepary beans for $6, $10, and $23 by weight.
NATIVE HARVEST WILD RICE
Who They Are: Wild rice is the cornerstone of many Indigenous cuisines. Manoomin literally means ‘the food that grows on the water’ in Ojibwe. Native Harvest up in Minnesota works tirelessly to preserve and promote the cultivation of wild rice via the White Earth Land Recovery Project. The nutty and wild nature of this product is rice turned up to eleven and definitely worthy of a place in your pantry.
Who They Are: Tanka Bars take grass-fed wild bison and combine it with cranberry to create an aasna bar, commonly called pemmican. It’s a superfood in bar form and it’s goddamn delicious. Tanka Bar was founded in one of America’s most economically depressed communities, The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Supporting this company means supporting the Lakota people, a community in need of serious support right now.
What To Buy: For $28.80 you can grab a box of 12 Slow Smoked Bison and Cranberry bars for easy lunch supplements or post-workout boosts every day.
SHE NAH NAM SEAFOOD MARKET SALMON and SEAFOOD
Who They Are: Out in the Pacific Northwest, the Nisqually Nation is killing the local salmon game. She Nah Nam Seafood Market is a Northwest institution. You can score bags of local oysters, crabs, prawns, clams, cod, and all the salmon.
What To Buy: Their smoked salmon is a must-have year-round and comes in a nice, air-tight package right to your door from $17.59 to $21.59 per piece. You can also order freshly caught wild salmon fillets for delivery for $10 to $40 per cut. You’ll never go back to farm-raised fish after you’ve sampled She Nah Nam’s catch.
YANABAH NAVAJO TEA
Who They Are: Yanabah Tea is from the highlands of Navajo Country. The company is run by local Dine residents and celebrates the traditions of gathering around a fire, drinking tea, and connecting with the people around you.
What To Buy: They sell mint, green, and traditional blends for about $7 per box. This is a great way to connect with Navajo traditions and American flavors.
BOW & ARROW BREWING CO. (Albuquerque, NM)
Who They Are: Bow & Arrow Brewing Co. has the distinction of being the first-ever Indigenous and female-owned and operated brewery in America. Co-founders Shyla Sheppard (Three Affiliated Tribes) and Missy Begay (Dine) teamed up to bring an Indigenous mentality to the world of craft beer and created one of the most unique beer experiences in America in the process. Bow & Arrow’s beers are delightfully well-crafted and incorporate Indigenous ingredients local to the Southwest. Think Navajo blue corn, high desert Navajo teas, and wild yeasts from the ancient land.
What To Buy: We fully admit that this selection is just for people living in the ABQ area. Still, you can get cans, bottles, and growler fills directly from the brewery on a carry-out-only basis (prices vary). On the flip side, no one is stopping you from buying some dope merch from one of America’s best craft breweries. Check out the available beers and merch here.
TOCABE: AMERICAN INDIAN EATERY (Denver, CO)
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Our bison ribs have now been added to our online take-out menus, grab them while you can as we are making smaller batches than usual. You can also run through the line in house and we can pack them up to go. The full menu is also available for take-out. Please continue to support small restaurants. Our industry is tough to begin with and these times have only made everyone's day to day more difficult to get through. We get into this industry for our love of people and food. We are looking more than ever for your help getting through this. Thank you everyone!
Who They Are: Tocabe is Denver and the U.S.’s only American Indian fast-casual eatery. Their ethos has always been one that supports the local community while offering American foods you sadly cannot find widely in America, though the food they’re serving is actually American. Via their app or online, you can order food for carry-out if you’re in the Denver area. Wild rice bowls, bison ribs, and wojapi (stewed berries) are all highlights of the menu and sourced from Indigenous food producers around the country.
What To Buy: You’ve got to try the bison ribs ($12.85). The slow-cooked ribs are braised off bison stock and then glazed over a fire with a berry-based BBQ sauce. You’ll never go back to beef after you try these ribs.
Who They Are: The Ute Nation has been controlling their massive bison population by sustainably culling the herd, which is great for anyone who loves the lean and nutrient-rich source of protein. The free-range bison lives off grass in the wilds of the Ute Nation and that’s basically it. No hormone injections. No feedlots. No unethical slaughterhouses. Plus, the bison herd offers a chance to get money flowing into the community via a natural resource that’s already there and in balance with nature.
What To Buy: Get a 16-ounce package of Smoked Bison Jerky Sticks for $59.99.