Tim Giago: 'Commod bods' going out of fashion

With the annual state fairs popping up around this country some fair managers are looking to eliminate the greasy, trans fat meals served by the food vendors. Apparently, “commod bods” are going out of fashion.

For example, the Indiana State Fair decided to remove all trans fat from the goodies it serves each year. Now one can indulge their hearty appetites for deep-fried Snicker bars, deep-fried pickles and deep-fried Oreo cookies without worrying about tans fat. Deep fried pickles? Yuck!

Neither New Mexico nor South Dakota has caught on to this latest healthy trend because at last week’s Santa Fe Indian Market I saw many shoppers wandering around with grease dripping from their artery clogging clumps of Indian fry bread. And this grease was loaded with trans fat. Talk about a “commod bod” waiting to happen!

But as one blogger put it last week, “What the heck, it only happens once-a-year so bring on the funnel cakes and the fried bread.”

The New Mexico State Fair is about to kick off and the expected 700,000 visitors will purchase goods and food from 525 vendors. It runs from September 7 to September 23 and I have not read anything about the elimination of trans fat as yet. With its world famous Indian Village, I suppose you can check your arteries at the main gate because the fry bread will be plentiful and packed with trans fats.

Was it my imagination or were there fewer artists and craftsmen present from the very wealthy casino tribes at the Santa Fe Indian Market?

Don’t get me wrong. I believe the casinos have done wonders to lift the poorest people in America up from the dungeons of poverty. But I have observed that with a lot of money also comes a lot of apathy; apathy towards the culture, the traditions, the crafts and the arts seems to be growing more common among those people from the Indian nations with very large and very profitable casinos. The people of the 19 Pueblos have, for centuries, maintained a very close relationship with their spirituality and traditions. If there are any Indian tribes in America that will be the least effected by sudden wealth, it will be the people of the Pueblo, the Hopi and the Lakota.

But I do not see the same commitment and dedication in other parts of Indian country. My daughter, while a student at the University of Minnesota, told me that the people of college age that she met from some of the local Minnesota tribes had little or no interest in attaining a higher education. One young man told her that he was getting more money every month than he could possibly spend so what good would college do him?

Sadly, these are the future leaders of their nation and it is they who will replace the elders that fought long and hard to bring them the wealth they now enjoy. It is true that many of the elders did not have a college education because they grew up at a time when college was a luxury they could not afford. They learned the P’s and Q’s of tribal government and leadership in the school of hard knocks. But in the process they learned their own history and they knew the strength of the culture and traditions. At one time it was all they had.

There are those people from the new tribes back East that grew up in poverty, but they never had the connection to their culture because of assimilation. They have become very wealthy by way of their geography and I must give them credit for trying to re-connect with a culture they never knew. They are building museums and making every effort to revive a culture that had been nearly destroyed. Now they have the money to pursue these goals.

But I digress. Now back to those fat-soaked foods. Whenever I go to a fair I am hard pressed to ignore the tempting, but unhealthy cuisine.

When I visit the Indian Village at the New Mexico State Fair next week I will be sorely tempted to treat myself to a deep-fried Oreo cookie. But I think I will settle for the turkey leg instead. Much healthier. But I will surely crave one of those trans fat soaked Snicker bars. Yummy!

Tim Giago is an Oglala Lakota born and raised on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. He was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard in the Class of 1991. He was the founder and publisher of The Lakota Times and Indian Country Today newspapers and the founder and first president of the Native American Journalists Association. His new email address is najournalist@msn.com.

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