AN ASPHN BRIEF

COMPLEMENTARY FEEDING:
CHILDREN BORN TO NATIVE AMERICAN FAMILIES

For the first time, the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services included dietary recommendations for infants and toddlers in the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, or DGA. ASPHN is providing these complementary feeding briefs to assist nutrition professionals in supporting families’ cultural preferences. Learn more below.

last update: 2023-11-15

INTRODUCTION

Nutritionists working with Native American or Alaskan Native parents may receive questions about use of indigenous foods in transitioning infants to toddler foods. The United States government officially recognizes 574 Native American and Alaskan Native tribes. This is a dynamic list although many other tribes are not officially recognized. Each tribe has individual traditions and cultural foods. Please find here references that may assist you in learning more about indigenous foods to assist caregivers.

INTRODUCTION

Nutritionists working with Native American or Alaskan Native parents may receive questions about use of indigenous foods in transitioning infants to toddler foods. The United States government officially recognizes 574 Native American and Alaskan Native tribes. This is a dynamic list although many other tribes are not officially recognized. Each tribe has individual traditions and cultural foods. Please find here references that may assist you in learning more about indigenous foods to assist caregivers.

RESEARCH SUMMARY

  • There is little information available specific to traditional feeding of infants and children among Native American and Alaska Native tribes.
  • Traditionally infants were breastfed however currently American Indian and Alaska Natives (AI/AN) have among the lowest initiation rates. From National Immunization Survey 2019 data, the overall breastfeeding initiation rate was 84.1% and for AI/AN it was 75.6%, which was the second lowest.
  • First foods often include(d) flint corn mush.
  • The indigenous food movement is growing. Native food systems are important to health, wellbeing and culture.  Sixth Annual Conference on Native American Nutrition September 2023

If you have resources or references that could be useful to others, please contact Martha@asphn.org. These references are just suggestions and may or may not be factual.

RESEARCH SUMMARY

  • There is little information available specific to traditional feeding of infants and children among Native American and Alaska Native tribes.
  • Traditionally infants were breastfed however currently American Indian and Alaska Natives (AI/AN) have among the lowest initiation rates. From National Immunization Survey 2019 data, overall breastfeeding initiation rate was 84.1% and for AI/AN 75.6% which was the second lowest.
  • First foods often include(d) flint corn mush.
  • The indigenous food movement is growing.  Native food systems are important to health, wellbeing and culture.  Sixth Annual Conference on Native American Nutrition September 2023

If you have resources or references that could be useful to others, please contact Martha@asphn.org  These references are just suggestions and may or may not be factual.

GENERAL INFORMATION: WEBSITES

First Things First (FTF) Arizona’s early childhood agency partners with several Arizona tribes to support the introduction of indigenous foods to their communities’ infants, toddlers and preschoolers. These partnerships include distributing blue corn to Navajo Nation families through a food assistance program to offering classes in cooking with traditional foods.

Head Start Traditional Foods Preschool Curriculum The Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association, Inc has provided information about traditional foods in this curriculum. Nutrition information and recipes are included.

Seeds of Native Health A campaign for indigenous nutrition. Information provided on funded grant projects.

North Dakota Studies: Culture Turtle-Mountain On this site created by the State Historical Society of North Dakota, traditional and current-day information is provided about the North Dakota Turtle-Mountain Chippewa way of life and culture. Traditional foods and adaptation of commodity foods are included but no specific information about early child feeding is provided.

Finding Our Roots: Indigenous Foods and the Food Sovereignty Movement in the United States Laura Ferguson, M.A created in 2019 a Family and Consumer Sciences unit for teaching Grades 10-12 about indigenous foods and food sovereignty. There are many links to videos and references. No specific information about infant-toddler foods is included.

First Nations The mission of First Nations is to strengthen American Indian economics to support healthy native communities. This organization develops and funds projects some of which promote access to healthy foods and sustainable food systems using native agriculture. This site provides general information about traditional foods but no information specific to early child feeding practices. They also created a brief Nourishing Native Foods & Health: A Core Program of First Nations Development Institute.

Indigenous Peoples Task Force Founded in 1987, Indigenous Peoples Task Force has expanded from the initial purpose to develop and implement culturally appropriate HIV education and direct services to the Native community in Minnesota. Today they connect people to indigenous healing traditions, medicines, foods and language. The Indigi-Baby program seeks to expand the use of indigenous plants to feed infants and toddlers and has created Indigi-Baby Food.

Bidii Baby Foods Bidii Baby Foods is a source for organically grown indigenous baby food. This organization is Navajo owned and a domestic business on the Navajo Nation. They sponsor community planting days and educational events. Click here for a 2023 article about Bidii Baby Foods.

Partnership With Native Americans® This website provides general information about Native American history, cultures and reservations with no specific references to early child feeding practices. The organizations serves immediate needs such as food and water assistance and asks for donations for projects.

Center For Indigenous Health Research and Policy (CIHRP) The Center for Indigenous Health Research and Policy (CIHRP) is based in Tulsa, OK and works to eliminate health disparities and cultivate health and wellness in indigenous communities. This site provides information about many research projects and links to research articles. In July 2023 CIHRP received a $3.5 million donation from Novo Nordisk Inc., to fund the Indigenous Foodways and Health Initiative. The funds will support indigenous food systems and practices that strengthen language revitalization and access to traditional foods.

USDA Indigenous Food Sovereignty Initiative Information is provided about the USDA Indigenous Food Sovereignty Initiative. Find cooking videos and recipes, guides for foraging for native edible plants in different areas of the US, etc. This site talks about general foods important to tribal members but does not discuss early child feeding practices or foods.

GENERAL INFORMATION: BOOKS

Indigenous Food Sovereignty in the United States. Restoring Cultural Knowledge, Protecting Environments and Regaining Health. University of Oklahoma Press 2019.

This is a collection of writings from those involved in the indigenous food movement covering many regions and tribal lands. Topics include: adoption of commodity foods into traditional food; native seeds; seed banks; and how to establish indigenous food sovereignty. Information specific to early child feeding practices is not provided.

Early Uses of California Plants. Balls, Edward K., University of California Press Berkeley and Los Angeles 1962.

Edward Balls has compiled information from many sources to discuss usage of native California and west coast plants. Uses of plants for food, traditional medicines, and domestic items are discussed. References are made to food preparation and use for infants and children.

GENERAL INFORMATION: COOKBOOKS

Most of the following cookbooks are available for purchase online.

Spirit of the Harvest: North American Indian Cooking. Cox, Beverly and Martin Jacobs. New York Stewart, Talbori and Chang. 1991
Provides Native American recipes for different areas of the US – southeastern coast and woodlands, northeastern coast and woodlands, great plains, southwest and the west.

Foods of the Southwest Indian Nations: Traditional and Contemporary Native American Recipes. Frank, Lois Ellen. Berkeley: Ten Speed Press 2002
Provides recipes and native food information from the Pueblos and Indian reservations in the Southwest. Many traditional recipes have been updated for contemporary palates and kitchens.

Smithsonian American Table. The Foods, People and Innovations That Feed Us. Kingsley, Lisa in Collaboration with Smithsonian Institution. HarperCollins Publishing 2023
Recipes used in the cafeteria at the National Museum of the American Indian are provided.

The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen. Sherman, Sean with Dooley, Beth. University of Minnesota Press 2017
Recipes provided use no European staples using instead indigenous American fruits and vegetables, wild grains, game and fish.

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