November 23, 2021

Native American Heritage Month! MCA Denver Staff Shares Their Influential Artists & Creators

Tai Bickham


November is Native American Heritage Month! It is a time to honor and recognize the diverse cultures, contributions, and achievements of Native Americans. In recognition, we asked MCA Denver staff to share artists/creators who have impacted their lives, as well as those that have made an influence on arts and culture in contemporary society.

Courtney Law - Director of Communications, Partnerships, and Digital Initiatives

Who is an artist/creator that has been an influence in your life?

portrait of Chef, Sean Sherman, in front of his food truck


I really admire Sean Sherman, an Oglala Lakota Sioux chef, cookbook author, promoter of Indigenous cuisine, and cofounder of Sioux Chef, an Indigenous food education and catering business. 

Per their website, Sioux Chef is “committed to revitalizing Native American Cuisine and in the process, we are re-identifying North American Cuisine and reclaiming an important culinary culture long buried and often inaccessible.” 

I selected Sean Sherman because I’m really fascinated by people who work really hard to keep traditions alive, bring them to life and into contemporary life, and share them with others. I also greatly respect people who closely study their natural environment and find creative and thoughtful ways to utilize what is around them, regardless of the season or how harsh the climate may be. 

Share and discuss your favorite work from this artist/creator?

The forced assimilation of the 19th and early 20th centuries meant that much of Native American food culture across the country was erased. As he came up in the restaurant world, from dish washer to executive chef, Sherman sought to learn more about the foods his ancestors ate. So he spent years studying wild edibles and ethnobotany, he learned from oral histories and spent a lot of time foraging in and around Minnesota to learn more about what grows and when, as well as how to prepare and preserve those native plants and animals.

NPR interviewed Sherman in 2014. He said, “his goal is to bring a sophisticated touch to traditional ingredients, and he hopes it will be a way to share old traditions with new diners.” 

Sherman’s efforts have inspired others. Now, other Indigenous groups are reviving pre-colonization foods in order to reincorporate them into local diets. Examples include, the Traditional Western Apache Diet Project and the Crow Creek Fresh Food Initiative, both offshoots of a food sovereignty movement. 

cover of Sean Sherman's cookbook, The Sioux Chef

Share some resources for us to learn more!

Sean Sherman at 2018 World of Flavors

The Sioux Chef 

The Movement to Define Native American Cuisine