Native American cuisine and ancestral traditions in the kitchen at Tulalip Casino

Apr 10, 2018, 6:07 PM | Updated: Apr 13, 2018, 12:54 pm
LISTEN: Native American cuisine and ancestral traditions in the kitchen at Tulalip Casino
Salmon on sticks, being cooked in the traditional Tulalip tribe method (Photo courtesy of Tulalip Casino)
(Photo courtesy of Tulalip Casino)

Inside the Tulalip Casino, there is a seafood restaurant called Blackfish, where salmon is cooked using traditional tribal techniques over an open fire pit. Tribal members thought it was important to share their culinary traditions with non-natives who come into game and dine. Chef de cuisine, David Buchanan, says they skewer the sockeye on special sticks that are positioned near the open fire to roast.

“A tribal member goes out and harvests ocean spray, which is also called ironwood, and hand carves us these sticks that the tribe still uses to this day in their ceremonies, meetings and so on,” said Buchanan. “We’ll use those to skewer the salmon and slowly roast it over the fire.”

Buchanan is not native American, in fact only one person in the kitchen is, yet they follow traditional Tulalip practices in the kitchen.

“If a cook is angry or frustrated, it’s believed that that energy is put into the food and then ingested by whoever is consuming it,” Buchanan said. “I mean, it’s a Friday night, you got 300 covers, you’re not going to be able to stop and say, ‘Hey, dude, chill out!’ But we do pull them aside when we can. Or at least say, ‘Get your head back on. Focus.” Then we can follow up later, in order not to put that negative energy in.”

If a piece of salmon were to fall into the fire…

“The tribe believes that is an ancestor asking for their portion of the meat so we never throw it out, we never try to reutilize it, we actually feed the fire,” said Buchanan.

Native American chef and educator Lois Ellen Frank, who has a Ph.D. in culinary anthropology, says there are four periods of Native American cuisine. There’s Pre-Contact, prior to 1491, when native Americans ate a diverse diet of regional foods. Then there’s the First Contact period when European explorers came from the “old world.”

“There were eight ingredients that in 1491 didn’t exist outside of the Americas at all,” Frank said. “Those were given to the old world and foods from the old world came here. So I call it the Magic Eight and it includes corn, beans, squash, chili, tomato, potato, vanilla, and cacao. So we can deconstruct old world cuisine and say, well, the Italians did not have the tomato and the Irish did not have the potato and there were no chilies in any Asian cuisine or east Indian cuisine and the French had no confection using vanilla or chocolate. So our foods changed the old world. But then the old world brought things to us.”

Things like domesticated farm animals, which resulted in dairy. Next came the Government Issue period, when Native Americans were stripped of their land, relocated to reservations and given government subsidies they never ate before, like lard, flour, sugar, and Spam. This spawned new foods like fry bread but also created a diabetes and obesity epidemic.

Frank says we’re currently in the period of New Native American Cuisine, where native chefs are turning back to using hyper-local ingredients the tribes ate, cooked in modern ways. Here is a dish Frank is cooking through her catering company, Red Mesa Cuisine, in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

“Empanadita, so a little turnover stuffed with bison, local heirloom carrots, and red chile and we serve that with guajillo chile sauce. Then cornbread made and grown by one of the local tribes, both blue and white.”

Her company also teaches healthy, ancestral cooking classes to help fight obesity and diabetes. Here’s a recipe.

  • listen to rachel belleTune in to KIRO Radio on weekdays to hear Rachel Belle.
Who is Rachel Belle?

Your Last Meal

Ron and Don

KIRO Radio Newsdesk

Ron and Don’s last show on KIRO Radio

Last night was Ron and Don’s last show on KIRO Radio.
3 years ago
Kelly Herzberg in her natural habitat. (Photo by Rachel Belle)...
Rachel Belle

In Seattle, a personal shopper and stylist who only shops at thrift stores

If you think you can't afford a personal stylist, head to the thrift store with Sweet Kelly Anne Styling's Kelly Herzberg who will pull hundreds of pieces for you to try on.
3 years ago
Viaduct waterfront...
Ron Upshaw

What do we do with the waterfront after the viaduct is gone?

After the viaduct is taken down, we'll be left with a choice: What do we do with one of the most beautiful waterfronts in the country?
3 years ago
Ron Upshaw

Shower Thoughts: Ichiro can give Mariners fans something to root for

Rumor has it that Ichiro might make a comeback next year, and I for one welcome it.
3 years ago
Border wall...
Ron Upshaw

Trying to figure out why people want Trump’s border wall

A little over 40 percent of Americans now support the idea of a border wall, but what is it about it that seems so attractive?
3 years ago
Dan McCartney, Pierce County Sheriff...
Don O'Neill

Why you could hear kids’ voices on Pierce County Sheriff radios Monday night

Sometimes, "gone but not forgotten" isn't always how slain officers are remembered. But in Pierce County, a special effort is being made to commemorate a fallen deputy.
3 years ago

Sponsored Articles


Medicare open enrollment for 2022 starts Oct. 15 and SHIBA can help!

Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner SPONSORED — Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period, also called the Annual Election Period, is Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. During this time, people enrolled in Medicare can: Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan and vice versa. Join, drop or switch a Part D prescription drug plan, […]

How to Have a Stress-Free Real Estate Experience

The real estate industry has adapted and sellers are taking full advantage of new real estate models. One of which is Every Door Real Estate.
IQ Air

How Poor Air Quality Is Affecting Our Future Athletes

You cannot control your child’s breathing environment 100% of the time, but you can make a huge impact.
Swedish Health Services

Special Coverage: National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

There are a wide variety of treatment options available for men with prostate cancer. The most technologically advanced treatment option in the Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform.
Marysville Police Department

Police Opportunities in a Growing, Supportive Washington Community

Marysville PD is looking for both lateral and entry level officers. Begin or continue your career in law enforcement for a growing, supportive community.

Small, Minority-Owned Businesses in King County and Pierce County Can Now Apply For $10,000 Relief Grants Through Comcast RISE

Businesses in King County and Pierce County can apply beginning on October 1, 2021, at for a chance to receive a $10,000 relief grant.
Native American cuisine and ancestral traditions in the kitchen at Tulalip Casino