Food and Drink

Comic: One Sioux chef's attempt to reclaim Native American cuisine

This comic, illustrated by Chelsea Saunders, is inspired by an interview with chef Sean Sherman from TED Radio Hour's episode The Food Connection.

Panel 1: Sean Sherman: "I'm a part of the Oglala Lakota Sioux tribe, born and raised in Pine Ridge, S.D."
Panel 2: "Like a lot of people on the reservation, I grew up with the Commodity Food Program because we were poor. We just had these black-and-white cans of beef and juices. And that's dinner, you know, and that sucks."
Panel 3: "All throughout high school and college, I worked in a lot of touristy restaurants. After college, I moved to Minneapolis and became a chef at a young age. A few years into my chef career, I realized the complete absence of Indigenous foods. I could name less than a handful of Lakota recipes that were truly Lakota."
Panel 4: "What happened? Where were all the Native American foods at?"
Panel 5: "Traditionally, Indigenous education was thousands of generations of knowledge and tradition being handed down, family member to family member. It gave people a blueprint on how to live sustainably by utilizing plants and animals from their region.
Panel 6: "My great-grandfather saw his kids shipped to boarding school, where they were made to cut their hair, speak English and practice Christianity. By the end of the 19th century, less than 2% of original Lakota tribal land was under Indigenous control.
Panel 7: "In my quest to find Lakota recipes, I spoke to many people. Over time, I filtered out which ingredients were native and which were adopted later on. It was a long path of self-study because there was no "Joy of Native American Cooking" out there for me.
Chef Sean Sherman, a member of the Ogalala Lakota Sioux tribe, is trying to change the representation of American cuisine by serving food that celebrates and preserves Lakota cooking.
Panel 9: "After years of study, I started my company called the Sioux Chef in 2014. My goal is to get Indigenous food back into tribal communities and break the cycle of reliance on government food."
Panel 10: "If we can control our food, we can control our future. It's an exciting time to be Indigenous because we can use all of the teachings from our ancestors, and apply them to the modern world. this is an Indigenous evolution and revolution at the same time."
Chelsea Saunders for NPR

About Sean Sherman

Chef Sean Sherman is the founder of "The Sioux Chef," a company committed to revitalizing and reclaiming Native American cuisine. He is a member of the Ogalala Lakota Sioux tribe. His main culinary focus has been on bringing indigenous food systems like land stewardship and wild food usage to a modern culinary context.

His restaurant Owamni in Minneapolis features dishes that prioritize Indigenous-sourced foods native to his region, and leaves out colonial ingredients like beef and chicken to create a "decolonized dining experience." In 2017, he co-authored the cookbook The Sioux Chef's Indigenous Kitchen.

Through his nonprofit NATIFS, he also co-founded the Indigenous Food Lab, a professional Indigenous kitchen and training center dedicated to preserving Indigenous food education.

He was the recipient of a 2015 First Peoples Fund Fellowship, the 2018 Bush Foundation Fellowship, the National Center's 2018 First American Entrepreneurship Award, the 2018 James Beard Award for Best American Cookbook and a 2019 James Beard Leadership Award.

This segment of TED Radio Hour was produced by Rachel Faulkner and edited by Sanaz Meshkinpour. You can follow us on Twitter @TEDRadioHour and email us at

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