Indian fry bread is tradition to
the Navajo, and comes with a story of great pain and
suffering. Though the tradition of fry bread is common among
many Southwestern Tribes, it is the Navajo who developed
I do not feel that I can share the recipe without
sharing it’s origins and what it means to some today.
The Navajo planters lived from the Earth as their
ancestors had for hundreds of years before. They also raised
livestock to feed their family. The Navajo dinetah (or
homeland) was bordered by the four sacred mountains, from
northeastern Arizona, western New Mexico, and north into
Utah and Colorado. They planted crops in the fertile valley
lands, such as Canyon de Chelly known for Ansazi ruins.
The Navajo traded with the Spanish, Mexican, Pueblos,
Apache, Comanche, and even the early American pioneers.
Around 1846, large numbers of pioneers moved into the area
and the Calvary came with them. This is when troubles began.
The troubles escalated with the murder or Narbona
(1766-1849), a well-respected Navajo leader on August 31,
On this day, Narbona along with several hundred of his
warriors, had come to meet and discuss peace with U.S.
Colonel John M. Washington and others of the military
stationed in the area. There had been trouble with the “New
Men”, the New Mexican settlers who had driven Mexican
settlers out of the area.
After several hours, it was believed a settlement had
been agreed upon. However, a young warrior by the name of
Sadoval, had plans of his own. Mounting his horse he began
to ride in front of the Navajo party, attempting to have
them break the treaty. A U.S. Calvary soldier began to say
that one of the horses ridden by a Navajo was his, and what
peace there was in the meeting that was disintegrating into
Colonel Washington commanded the Navajo to stand down
and return the horse to the soldier or he would fire into
them. The rider and horse were now gone, and the Navajo
party did not comply. A canon was fired, and Narbona was
mortally wounded. It is told that he was scalped by a U.S.
soldier as he lay dying.
This disastrous attempt at peace led to the “Long
Walks”. In September 1863, Kit Carson (1809-1868) was
dispatched into Navajo land to retrieve a surrender. When no
Navajo came to meet with him, he ordered the burning of the
land. Attempts were made to starve out the Navajo, and many
were captured and taken to Bosque Redondo near Fort Sumner.
Hundreds starved on the 300 mile walk, and more would die
later in the crowded and disparaging conditions. Navajo were
placed with the Mescalero Apache were home peace was often
not the case. The camps were meant for 4,000 to 5,000
people, yet there were now over 9,000 people, and supplies
The government supplies of lard, flour, salt,
sugar, baking powder or yeast, and powdered milk were often
rancid. Fry bread came from these few foods provided during
the 4 years of captivity. Since that time, it has become
common food at most all PowWows of numerous tribes
To some, Indian Fry Bread is a sacred tradition. It is
to be consumed by the people until the earth has again
NAVAJO FRY BREAD