Erik is a member of the Blackfeet tribe, and he was born on the reservation that stretches along the edges of Glacier National Park in Montana.

Carolyn and I were having dinner with Erik, and his wife, Holly, in the dining room of the Izaak Walton Inn, a quaint, old-time and woodsy place built right along the railroad tracks leading into Glacier National Park. Izaak Walton Inn is about a block from the Amtrak stop, so visitors like us can just train up and walk in, which is just what we did.

As the appetizers were served, I started talking about my interest in visiting the local Blackfeet reservation. Holly mentioned that Erik was a member of the tribe.

First Nations people are a somewhat invisible portion of the American population. Just as I’m Italian, though you wouldn’t guess it by my last name, Erik’s Native American heritage was not apparent until Holly mentioned it. We’re all Americans here; some of us have just been here longer than others.

Before they were moved to the reservation, the Blackfeet, as Erik explained, were a migratory, hunting and warlike people who, as he said, you “didn’t want to mess with.” The warrior spirit is alive in Erik’s family: both his sons are in the military. Indeed, in many Native American communities, there generally seems to be a self-sacrificing motivation to go to battle to defend your people. Native Americans make up the single largest ethnic group, per capita, in America’s military.

Though Erik has distanced himself from his tribal community – “haven’t been back in years,” he said – one could see in him traces of his heritage.

Being migratory, the Blackfeet were not traditionally agricultural: they hunted animals and ate them. Erik told us he hunted for years, which is something a lot of people do in this part of the world. I’m guessing for Erik’s family, it was a tradition. 

Our appetizers included elk and buffalo sausage and two lamb “lollipops” (meat on the bone).

Erik ate his elk and buffalo sausage, but he didn’t care much for the lamb, which likely was not something his ancestors ate much either, though they likely hunted both elk and buffalo.

Erik explained that he didn’t like eating lamb because “lambs are so cute,” which is kind of true, but I think it all goes back to what we grew up eating.

During the Olympics, the Beijing government encouraged local food vendors to dial back the dog meat on menus for fear of offending foreigners, like us. Indeed, the idea of having Fido for dinner is repulsive to most Americans, but there’s really no reason why eating dog – or even cat – should be more objectionable than eating cows or pigs. Calves and piglets are also cute, and if you’re going to eat meat, there seems to be no reason why one animal should be considered edible while another is not…except for what we’re used to eating.

Next: On the Path of the Pinon

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David Hammond

David Hammond, a corporate communications consultant and food journalist living in Oak Park, Illinois, is a founder and moderator of LTHForum.com, the 8,500 member Chicago-based culinary chat site. David...