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The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
Notes for "The One Thing That We All Have in Common"
These are the notes for "The One Thing That We All Have in Common."

Smoking Breath (John Fontenelle) -- He has tinted skin, brown eyes, and long wavy hair. Originally black, his hair is now going slate-gray about to his ears, and below that the ends are still black. His heritage is mostly Omaha and Winnebago with a little Cheyenne thrown in. He is the grandfather of Winter Cricket. Smoking Breath is the shaman of the Omaha Reservation in Nebraska. He also travels around much of the Great Plains for powwows and other events. He is widely respected. The Iron Horses look up to him, as does Blazing Grass. Warshirt will more-or-less mind if watched closely.
Origin: As a tween, he went on an autumn hunting trip with some uncles, and got lost. Alone in the woods, he called out for help, and the spirits showed him visions to lead the way home. Another shaman, seeing the boy's breath plume white in the cold air, gave him the new name.
Uniform: At powwows and other important events, he wears buckskin regalia with a large paua shell turtle pendant and other tribal jewelry. Off duty, he often wears jeans with a t-shirt or flannel shirt.
Qualities: Master (+6) Omaha Culture & History, Expert (+4) Intertribal Awareness, Expert (+4) Wisdom, Good (+2) American Politics, Good (+2) Beadwork, Good (+2) Teacher
Poor (-2) Tolerance for Alcohol
Powers: Expert (+4) Shaman
Motivation: To bridge the spirit world and the material world.

John Nobody Likes It -- Shiv calls him John They Don't Know What They're Missing. John has light copper skin, almond-shaped brown eyes, and long wavy hair of dark brown. He has big bones and chunky build. His ears are pierced, and he usually wears small diamond studs. His heritage is Ojibwe and Winnebago. He speaks English, Ho-Chunk (Winnebago), and Ojibwe. He is 24 years old in 2014.
John is a cook who travels around the Winnebago and Omaha reservations. He specializes in traditional ingredients and techniques. He hunts, gathers, and prepares many different foods. This includes a lot of things that few other people enjoy, such as wild carrots and acorns. John got into this as a teenager when he realized that commodity foods were killing his people. His grandparents taught him about hunting and gathering as alternatives. So now he goes around encouraging other people to enjoy wild foods, with somewhat patchy success. He is endlessly frustrated that most people don't seem to enjoy the way nutrient-rich foods actually taste, because those are often bitter or sour. John also enjoys traditional music through singing, drumming, and dancing.
Qualities: Good (+2) Determination, Good (+2) Naturalistic Intelligence, Good (+2) Strength, Good (+2) Traditional Foodways, Good (+2) Traditional Music
Poor (-2) But John, Nobody Likes It!

Native American names are diverse, often based on animals, personal traits, or notable events. They can change over time as people grow. However, sometimes a name sounds favorable in one language but unfavorable in another, many historic names were badly translated, and sometimes a community winds up calling someone a name that is just plain mean. Typically names are bestowed by family or elders, but sometimes by the community as a whole (which is how "Nobody Likes It" happened) or a friend and it just catches on. Add European anything to the mix and it can become very volatile -- but Shiv is showing his Finn side and balking at a name that not only sounds mean but also inaccurate. Whether it sticks will depend on how much the tribe accepts him, and if John can relate to the shift in perspective.

Historically, humans selected plants with more sweetness and calories over those with more phytonutrients, which means that domesticated crops average considerably lower nutrition than wildcrafted ones. Agriculture further focused on breeding crops for other factors, such as maximum yield and pest resistance. Some people have suggested genetic engineering to restore nutrition, but this ignores the wealth of already-rich wild species -- and the fact that those nutrients don't actually taste good to most people. The trick is to find ways of making wild superfoods more appealing. Meanwhile, of course, the subset of sensory-seekers who love intense flavors have many to enjoy.

The change from traditional foodways to commodity foods has destroyed Native American health to the point of counting as genocide.

* * *

"Plant knowledge is something that we share with our ancestors in real time," he said. "Thousands of generations passed down knowledge of how to use these plants."
-- Sean Sherman

"If you could make your food taste exactly like the place where you are physically standing, then you can really evoke that flavor profile that resonates through history," he said. "This way of thinking about food provides a direct connection that we have as indigenous people to our ancestors and to the flavors of their foods, because those flavors haven’t changed."
-- Sean Sherman

"Food is the one thing that centers all of us. It’s the one thing that we all have in common, no matter who we are," he said. "It’s a great way to understand somebody else’s culture. For natives to have that stripped away was so damaging."
-- Sean Sherman

"The most effective way to conquer people is to attack their food systems – burning crops, destroying food-storage systems, destroying bison, letting cattle graze on ancient fields," he said. "If you can control the food, you can control the people. It’s a war tactic."
-- Sean Sherman

"All These Things Woven into Something" took place on the Omaha reservation during a powwow and offers a good introduction to tribal life there.

Indian reservations in Nebraska include the Omaha and Winnebago lands.

In T-America, the Omaha have a park with colorful pavilions for storytelling and other activities.

Pam Garner, the nutritionist from Eat Healthy Omaha, is introduced in "Another Expression of Art" (Thursday, April 23, 2015).

Native foodways show great variety across Turtle Island. This Anashinaabe pyramid is typical of many hunter-gatherer tribes. Explore some Native American cookbooks. These range from very traditional to very modern in style.

Wild carrot or Queen Anne's lace is easy to grow in many places. It does well in permaculture. Carrots can taste spicy; terpenoids give bitter, spicy, or soapy flavors. Ideally the bitter and sweet flavors balance, but the mix can be unpredictable. Wild carrots tend to taste zestier than domestic ones, and among the domestics purple carrots are notorious for sometimes having a very radishy or peppery taste. However, if you stop trying to make them more carroty than they want to be, and treat them as zesty vegetables instead, they work just fine with most uses suited to things like radishes or horseradish. Grate or shave them into salads, or add a little to mashes to punch them up.

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