Indigenous Foods of Long Ago

The heart of Native American's diet came from the plant nation and were corn, beans, and squash.  Protein sources came from the animal nations  such as the buffalo, fish or deer among others. Most importantly, they still are a critical aspect of their diet today. Some refer to corn, beans, and squash as the three sisters. There is a spiritual connection amongst the three. Beans grow up the corn stalk and the squash grows between them keeping the weeds out so all can prosper. 

Gluten was never a part of the indigenous diet. It was introduced to Indigenous people when the U.S. Government established the reservation system and provided food "rations" which included flour made from wheat. Corn was the main source of flour prior to the introduction of wheat flour. In keeping to an authentic experience, Indigenous Roots offers gluten free foods.

Historically, Native Americans naturally had organic foods. The soil had not been tainted with man-made chemicals of herbicides, pesticides  or fertilizers. There was no toxic waste buried in the ground as a byproduct of industry. The water in lakes and rivers was pure and drinkable without filtration of any kind. Foods could be wild gathered and there was plenty for both humans and animals. Nature was in its purest state. This was the ultimate definition of an organic lifestyle! The time period this occurred was before European arrival. Europeans brought many things that changed the natural environment; domesticated animals and the mindset of manifest destiny just to name a few. 

As part of your immersion experience at Indigenous Roots, you will learn how to prepare and cook traditional meals using, for instance, buffalo. This will happen for our evening meals only. Here's why. Our days are filled with a lot of learning experiences with activities that are not all held in the village.  Traditional meals take a lot of time to prepare, consist of longer cooking times, and culturally requires one to not hurry. There are no meals in minutes when it comes to traditionally prepared meals!  Our breakfasts, lunches, and snacks will consist of items quick to prepare with little to no cooking so that we can get right back to the learning. We will still keep to the organic and gluten free aspect for all meals. In the future Indigenous Roots will be offering specialized programs, for example, that feature all traditional cultural meals, construction of a wickiup, workshops for teachers, and local history such as the Santa Fe Trail. 

At Indigenous Roots we strive to immerse you in an authentic experience as much as possible in these modern times. While we live in a modern era, culture is timeless. Indigenous ancestral cultural thinking and ways of being no matter how ancient are still relevant to life today. Join us for a timeless immersion in the ways of ancient indigenous knowingness about the natural world and the relationship we can still have with nature despite the modernization.  After all, how we approach something with our thinking guides the actions we take.


Wisdom Ways: Life in a Buffalo Hide Tipi (Lodge)

It is said that in the beginning the creator's helper was tasked with staying close to first man and first woman and to look after all their needs.  When winter came, man and woman shivered.  Creator's helper knew they would need a shelter. It was the shape of a rustling Cotton Wood tree leaf that inspired the idea. The Creator's helper chose the slender trunks of pines for the poles, Ash wood for the pegs, Choke Cherry shoots for the pins, tanned buffalo cow skins for the cover, buffalo bull raw-hide for the rope, and a tanned buffalo calf skin for the doorway. The Lakota word for the dwelling is tipestola. It is pronounced thipȟéstola. It means 'she or he lives in a sharp pointed lodge'.  

Somewhere along the way the word got shortened to 'tipi'.  I was taught to refer to it as a lodge if I was speaking in English. It is my understanding that the Blackfoot people call it "niitoyis' and the Kiowa say 'do-heen'. There are over 25 tribes who used the lodge. Some used a 3 pole base while others used a 4 pole base. The 3 pole base lodge is tilted more so than the 4 pole base lodge. The poles of the 3 pole based lodge are mostly placed in the east which braces it against prevailing west winds. This makes it sturdier. The lodges used at Indigenous Roots are 3 pole based and are made from canvas. 

The cover of the lodges in ancient times were made from the hides of mostly buffalo. Anywhere from 16-20 hides were used. The men would hunt for the buffalo and the women would tan the hides. Once the hides were tanned a group of women would pray before sewing the hides together with bone needles and sinew thread. A thought of happiness and love was intertwined with each stitch in order to bring about joy and love for the family that would dwell underneath the cover. They could finish the sewing in one day. Once the cover was in place a sagebrush fire was burned inside. This helped with waterproofing so the hides would stay soft even after a rain. It was also a part of a purification ritual.  In the 1880's, as part of the U.S. Government's assimilation/genocide plan of indigenous peoples, there was a massive slaughter of buffalo by whites. Canvas then became what most lodge covers were made of.  The structural design however, never changed. 

  Lodges have a lining inside. The lining was tied to the poles and along the bottom flat rocks or household items such as a parfleche ( a rawhide bag used to store dried meat and other items) were placed to hold the base of the liner down. The purpose of the lining was protection from the sun, rain, or snow. As air was drawn up under the lodge cover, it traveled between the liner and the cover. Thus it created a draft that helps exit the smoke of a fire burning inside the lodge for warmth. The liners and cover were often painted with designs that held spiritual meaning to the the family members that dwelled within. The door of the lodge always faced east. That way the family was always greeted by the sun, the morning star. The practical use of the smoke hole in the lodge's top was for the smoke to rise out of the lodge when there was a fire inside being used for warmth. The spirituality of it was so the family could look up at the above world. 



Life Among the Wild: Lions, Rattlesnakes, and Bears, Oh My!

Nature. It's us and it's them. Together, the natural world and all that resides within it, moves in an entangled collaborative oneness. If. You. Can. Realize. It. We are a part of nature, not apart from nature. Indigenous cultures have always known this. In ancient times that's all there was, nature.  Everything in nature is sacred. Everything in nature teaches. The wolf teaches how a community should behave.  When a cub is orphaned other wolves take it in as its own. The pack functions and thrives on teamwork. Apply that concept to us humans. What can we learn? What will we do with that understanding learned from the wild side?    

At Indigenous Roots we live among and with the wild. Remoteness. Silence. Beauty. Serenity. Here the black bear exists, here the coyote runs, here a mountain lion rests, here a rattlesnake survives, here an elk calls out to its young, all because here are their homes. There is more of the wild.  Ponderosa pines rise up seamlessly connecting to the sky. Gamble Oak and Mountain Mahogany are deeply rooted in the soil.  The milky quartz lays gently upon the earth holding wisdom beyond human understanding. All are breathing as one. All sway when the wind blows, all reach out as the rain pours, all feel the healing touch of the sun. Together. This is a community.  

Part of what we teach at Indigenous Roots is living among and with all things in the natural world as a community. Besides a spiritual  connection aspect, we take many preventative steps such as locating our outdoor kitchen area away from our living space. What are the best ways to reduce the risk of black bear or mountain lion encounters? Seeing a black bear can be a thrilling experience and have a spiritual meaning. The presence of a bear is not necessarily a problem or a threat. They are a part of the natural world just as much as we are and deserve respect.  Black bears would just as soon avoid people, but bears that learn to associate humans with food begin to lose their natural fear of people. A mother bear with cubs may be aggressive if she feels you are a threat to her cubs. You will not encounter grizzly bears at Indigenous Roots. Black bears do live here. 

Black Bear

Here are some 'Be Bear Aware' safety tips from Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife to help keep them and you safe. 

 Never feed wildlife. * Keep a clean camp site and clean up thoroughly after every meal. * After grilling, allow the fire to continue until food scraps and grease are burned completely off the grill. * Do not eat in your tent or keep food in your tent. * Do not leave pet food outside for a long period of time.  Any uneaten pet food should also be stored in a secure container. *  Store unused food and garbage in secure containers out of the reach of bears and away from your sleeping area. *  Never hike alone. * Keep children close to you. * Do not approach the bear. * Make noise while hiking. * If you come in close contact with a bear, talk to it firmly and make yourself look as large as possible. * Pick up small children. Hold the hands of older children. You do not want them to panic and run. * Back away slowly, but do not run. * Teach children about bear safety. 

Indigenous roots provides you with an air horn while hiking to use to scare a bear away. One is included in each tipi (lodge) as well. We hike in groups. The staff carries a flash/bang flare gun.and Bear Spray.  Another useful deterrent is to blast the bear in the face with water. A large toy water gun such as the ‘Super Soaker’ can also be useful, especially when filled with vinegar diluted with water. If you are attacked by a black bear, DO NOT PLAY DEAD. Try to escape to a secure place such as a car or building. If escape is not possible, try to fight back using any object available. Concentrate your kicks and blows on the bear's face and muzzle.

Mountain Lion

It is extremely rare to see a mountain lion, They are an important part of the ecosystem. Its presence does not establish a problem or a threat. They are wild and deserve respect. They are most active at dusk and dawn. Take the following precautions in mountain lion country. Hike close to each other in groups. Be noisy. Keep children next to you. Do not approach the mountain lion. Never feed wildlife. If you see one, announce it to the group you are with and point in the direction you see it. That way all can turn to face it. 

if you do come in close contact here is what to do. Stand upright, raise arms and look big. Stop, back away slowly without turning your back towards it. Pick up small children. Hold the hand of older children. You do not want children to  panic and run. DO NOT RUN! Running may stimulate a lion's instinct to chase and attack. If it acts aggressive, wave your arms, shout, throw things at it without crouching down, wave your jacket at it, fight back if it attacks (remain standing and keep getting  back up if you fall). 


A rattlesnake's instinct is to protect itself. The same is true of humans in known rattle snake territory. How do we do that, for them and for us? Rattlesnakes eat mice, small birds, frogs, rats, and some insects. They do not stalk humans. They are cold blooded which means they need external sources of heat such as sunny locations. Rocks hold heat which is a great place to be if you are a snake. Sometimes they will seek out clumps of grass or other areas to cool down in.  Snakes 'hear' by sensing vibrations on the ground and through sound wave vibrations. They have no external ears, but do have inner ear structures. Snakes use their tongues to smell. As it flicks its tongue it is literally tasting the air. The prongs of the forked tongue fit perfectly into the two holes in the Jacobson's organ which is located in the roof of its mouth. The organ sends sensory information to the brain which interprets the smells.

Poisonous venom is its key defense. Human's key defense in rattlesnake prone areas is being wary, certain, and safe. How?  Walk with a deliberate heavy step to send out those vibrations snakes need to know you are nearby. Watch where you are about to step. They will try to avoid you. They will not seek you out. But, you could surprise one. They mostly stay hidden, out of danger by resting on the ground under brush, in nooks of rocks, in a pile of wood, in thick grass, or perhaps it is moving from one spot to another. 

1. Dress appropriately: Most bites occur on the hands, feet, and ankles. Besides looking before you reach for something, gear up with ankle high closed toe/heel hiking boots made of Cordura nylon or leather.  Couple those hiking boots with snake gaiters. They provide protection from the ankle to the knee. Indigenous Roots provides snake proof gaiters for children and adults. 

2. Never hike alone!  Stick to well used trails. Keep alert as you hike, walk, and climb. Do not wander off into tall grass, underbrush and weeds where rattlesnakes may be. 

3. Don't stick your hands down holes, under rocks and ledges or even into brush. Carry a sturdy stick, to help prevent using your hands in areas where snakes may be. Probe brush and undergrowth a bit with your stick before you walk on or near them. That way if a snake is present it has time to get away. 

4. Don't sit down on tree stumps, rocks, or logs without first checking the area including inside the log. Step on and not over when you need to cross logs and rocks.

5. Use a flashlight at night at all times by lighting up the area around you to check for wildlife, including snakes. Indigenous Roots provides solar lights for the pathway to the bathroom and a headlamp for each person. Parents should accompany their children at night for whatever the reason to be out. Always keep the door zipped up in the bathroom shelter. 

6. Always check your tipi (lodge) each time you go in it for the possibility a snake sought a warm spot or nook to curl up in. At Indigenous Roots, we follow this protocol: remove all bedding every morning, shake it out well, place it in the secure storage area. Just before going to bed get your bedding from storage, shake it out, inspect tipi, place bedding down and hop in bed. 

7.. If you see a rattlesnake including baby ones, don't panic. Give it a lot of space. You can easily walk around it without frightening it.  Back slowly away out of its striking distance (10 ft is a good distance). As you walk way around it be alert for other snakes in the same area. Do not bother it in any way. Period. Just get away. It is just trying to live. It will not chase you.  But, if it feels threatened it could strike and bite you. 

Striking position is when the body is coiled, head is raised and sometimes it will rattle (but not always).  Its strike is faster than the human eye can track. Teach children the important precautions as well. 

6. If you are bitten, move out of its striking distance so it does not strike again. Look around, are there other snakes in the area? Usually they are solitary unless you have happened upon a den. It will be hard, but do not panic! Dashing about moves the venom through your body faster. 

7. Keep the bite area lower than the heart. It is best if you are carried out. Of course a  hospital visit is a must for anti-venom. At Indigenous Roots the Stonewall Fire Department is who would respond.  Our protocol is to call 911.  Trinidad's hospital is 30 minutes away.  We have a Wilderness First Responder on staff. 

Well, that is a lot of information to take in! Just know that we at Indigenous Roots are well versed in living with wildlife, after all it is a Native American cultural aspect. We will educate you on how to live among and with wildlife that keeps you and them safe.  No one can really predict what a wild animal might do, but taking precautions and being educated about wildlife potential hazards is just plain smart. 

At Indigenous Roots learn the Native American cultural values of respect for all things in nature. Discover how ancient communities included nature and humans. As in ancient times, we too will be a part of the wild community.