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PECS middle school students cook traditional lunch

By Naji Tobias

BRIGHTON — Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School (PECS) hosted a traditional culture cooking session on March 14.

The PECS Culture Department and the Arts and Crafts Department put on the event to showcase the cooking skills students acquired during the past several months in culture classes. Staff and 11 female students took to the Charter School’s culture camp and spent three hours preparing a meal for about 600 people.

“We do this every year for the whole school,” Brighton Culture Director Lorene Gopher said. “We used to cater out, but since we teach the children to cook traditional foods, we asked if we could have this and get our students to help out here.”

PECS principal Brian Greseth approved.

“That’s a huge step for our students,” Greseth said. “It just shows how far the Culture program is going. By the time the students leave our school, they should be able to know how to cook many, if not all, of the traditional foods that are in their culture.”

Shortly after sunrise, the crew assembled frybread dough to fry over a cooking grill under the school’s cooking chickee.

They produced about 60 pounds of frybread dough to make Indian tacos, using 125-pound bags of self-rising flour and about 15 gallons of water in the process.

“We came out here to learn about what a traditional lunch is,” said PECS sixth-grader Aiyana Tommie. “It’s fun to know that we could go a day without having to eat regular public food. I love making frybread and other traditional foods; it’s a part of my culture and my life.”

In addition, they combined six cans of diced tomatoes and kidney beans, eight bottles of tomato juice, 80 pounds of ground beef and one case of chili powder to make the chili used for the Indian tacos.

“I guess they can see we’re trying to teach them about our culture,” Gopher said. “They don’t live like we used to when we had to cook outside. They just know what it’s like to be inside and turn on a stove to cook. We’re trying to show them how we grew up.”

The students and staff also prepared sofkee, a drink that consists primarily of boiled corn and water.
Depending on an individual’s texture preference, baking soda and/or corn starch can be added to enhance the flavor. PECS Creek teacher Jimi Huff said the additions weren’t necessary for the luncheon.

“It already had the thick texture in it,” Huff said. “That’s why we didn’t add anything else.”
Students from the pre-kindergarten through eighth grades, along with staff members and parents, got to enjoy the lunch.

“This is a culmination of years of having culture camp days at our school,” PECS Culture assistant director Delma Walker said. “The girls learned so much that we were confident in their ability to cook for the whole school themselves. It’s really exciting to see them doing what they’ve been taught to do.”

PECS eighth-grader Chastity Harmon, one of the girls selected to cook by Arts and Crafts teacher Janelle Robinson, talked about the enthusiasm she had for the event.

“We got picked by our teacher because she saw that we have been working hard and didn’t play around,” Harmon said. “Back in the old days, our ancestors always cooked over a fire and not on a stove. We like that we get to make our own stuff and keep our tradition going. We hope to pass this on to our kids one day.”

The Charter School’s next Culture event is tentatively scheduled for May 1-2.

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