The village of Gresham is hosting a frybread contest where area tribes compete for bragging rights by showing who can make the tastiest piece of golden bread. The Menominee, Stockbridge-Munsee and Ho-Chunk tribes take part in the contest each year to commemorate Native American Heritage Month and honor the women in the three tribes. However, turmoil boils over when the committee organizing all the festivities opens up the contest to other tribes, non-natives and even men.
The tenuous situation gets worse when the gentle TImothy Lockhart is found dead, leading tribal leaders to point fingers at each other and at certain residents of Gresham. To add insult to injury, most of the contestants also received threatening messages prior to the first murder, creating the fear that someone else could be next.
Is it one of the contestants? One of the protesters who believe making frybread is a tradition forced on natives by white men? Zachary Gagewood knows he has no time to lose, especially when the killer sends him a note, vowing that Timothy is only the first to die...
Oil popped in the pan as a piece of golden bread slowly took shape. Craters were forming on the bread. Zachary watched through the lens of his camera as the raw piece of flour and water was turning into sustenance. He was already imagining the Indian frybread covered by beans, meat, cheese, lettuce and tomatoes to make a tasty meal, followed by an image of another piece of frybread drizzled in honey to make a yummy dessert. Zachary took a deep breath, knowing it would do no good to let hunger overtake him. The frybread would be ready soon. As the golden hues continued to form, Zachary continued to snap photos.
A pair of tongs appeared in Zachary’s field of vision, turning over the piece of frybread. Zachary glanced up from his camera to see Christopher White Eagle set the tongs on a paper towel to soak up any residual oil.READ MORE
“Thanks for letting me snap some photos, Christopher. Snapping food prep photos is always a good time, but nothing beats the aroma of cooking frybread.”
Christopher chuckled. “No problem. I’m just glad I had the opportunity to invite you over for a photo shoot where I keep my clothes on. I’m sure you were relieved when I answered my door in a polo shirt and jeans.”
Zachary chuckled as he remembered the horrible feeling of dread that came when he visited Christopher’s house more than a year ago to shoot photos for a Native pride calendar only to discover that all the calendar men were completely nude.
“You know, Mr. August was very well endowed,” Zachary said as he silently prayed for the blushing sensation in his cheeks to die down. “I’m surprised you didn’t invite him to come live with you.”
“He and Mr. February already had a thing going. I didn’t want to cause any strife.”
“Talk about your summer-winter relationship.” Zachary chuckled. “So, about the frybread. Are you planning to enter this year’s contest?”
Christopher shook his head. “No. I’m not allowed to enter. The rules state that only a woman can participate in the contest. Each of the tribes chooses their most talented woman to fry up some bread and get bragging rights. Can you believe how incredibly sexist that is?”
“That does seem incredibly sexist, and not because it discriminates against men. It holds up this outdated belief that men are the hunters and gatherers, and the women maintain the home. I think men are just as capable as anyone to make frybread so delicious.”
“It sounds even worse that the tribes are doing this. I mean, the last thing proud peoples should do is dangle women out like sacrificial lambs for bragging rights. We don’t do it in the pow wows, so why do it in this contest?”
“I thought the coordinators were looking at revising the rules to include more representatives, including men. Maybe that’s just an unfounded rumor I heard on the street.”
“I know they were looking at it, but as far as I know, the contest organizers haven’t changed the rules, but it’d be nice if they did. Right now, we just have representatives from the Menominee, Ho-Chunk and Stockbridge-Munsee tribes.” Christopher sighed. “Of course, we’ve also got some folks that are blasting the contest because frybread isn’t a traditional part of Native culture.”
Zachary arched an eyebrow. “How do they come to that conclusion?”
Christopher removed a piece of frybread with the tongs and placed some more dough in the pan. “When tribes were forced from their homelands to reservations established by the U.S. government, their primary sources of food were cut off, and they were given flour and other staples to provide for their nourishment. Frybread was created out of necessity instead of culture, but we held onto the food staple even after the dust settled.”
Zachary licked his lips. “I remember my mom and my grandmother cooking up frybread a lot when I was growing up, but the tastiest frybread I know of came from this food booth at the Waupaca County Fair. An Oneida man and his family made the frybread by hand, and even though there were these long lines, people were willing to wait because his bread tasted so good.”
“Your family made frybread? Do you have any Native blood in you?”
“Not much, but my family always believed in making a variety of ethnic dishes. While most folks were going to fish fries on Friday evenings, my mom was making bangers and mash. My grandmother made Ukrainian Easter bread. It was important to my family that we have a palate that went beyond hamburgers and mac and cheese.”
“You’re definitely a Renaissance man, Zach. It’d be awesome if more people were like your family.”
“You wouldn’t say that if you ever went on one of our camping trips.” Zachary glanced at Christopher’s quizzical expression and grimaced. “You don’t want to know.”
“Noted.” Christopher transferred some of the frybread from the paper towel to a plate.
“The frybread family tradition still goes on. Chad, my nephew, loves making it.”
“I’m just glad you guys are hosting the event in Gresham this year. The Lonesome Pine Ballroom is a great size for the amount of people that come to enjoy the frybread. Plus, it’s a piece of history, unlike the casinos, which tend to exude a more modern appearance.”
“I know your sister is loving it, too, as she’s got that great Native American art exhibit opening up this week.”
Christopher nodded in agreement. Anne Marie White Eagle, a former art teacher living in Gresham, had opened her own gallery a few years ago and enjoyed showcasing local artists. Her new exhibit was specifically geared toward Menominee up and coming artists, both children and adults.
The back door opened, and Trey Alegria walked in with an armful of firewood. Trey and Christopher had been dating for almost six months. Trey was Ojibwe on his mother’s side and Hopi on his father’s side, living near Suring and teaching at the College of Menominee Nation.
“Hey, sweetness. Do you know you can smell that frybread all the way down to the driveway? If it gets out to the street, it might distract passing drivers and cause them to crash in the ditch.”
Christopher, who was turning over a piece of frybread, stuck his tongue out in reaction to Trey’s comment. “You’re just jealous because I make better frybread than you.”
Trey turned to Zachary. “Do you hear the smack talk my beloved is engaging in? He’s lucky I’m captivated by his beauty. Otherwise, I might run off with someone packing a bigger sturgeon.”
Christopher gasped. “You did not just exploit my sacred fish for humor.”
Trey placed the firewood next to the fireplace and then put his hands on his hips. “I’m sorry. Who was the one thrusting into me this morning and saying, ‘Take my sturgeon, bitch!’”
Zachary made a face. “Ew! I did not need to know that! I did not need that particular image in my head, and I might never eat sturgeon again!”
Christopher laughed. “Sorry, Zach. You know that we just consider you to be one of the girls.”
“Thanks. Now I’ll have to run home and let my cowboy honey ooze masculinity to make me feel like a man again.”
“Give the ‘man’ some frybread, Christopher,” Trey said. “Everything’s better when you munch on frybread.”
Christopher nodded in agreement and gave Zachary a piece of frybread and a squeeze-bottle of honey. Zachary vigorously smothered the frybread with the honey and took a bite.
“So, guys,” Zachary said with his mouth half-full, “what are you planning to do with all this frybread? You’ve almost got enough here to feed an army.”
“There’s a ceremony at the high school this afternoon, and we agreed to feed the masses. I’ve still got another hundred and fifty pieces to make in the next few hours.”
“You can do it, sweetie.” Trey kissed Christopher on the cheek. “You’re amazing with your frybread prowess.”
“Um, you could be helping, too, you know. I know from your grandmother that you have some amazing skills, as well, especially with mixing parmesan cheese into the dough.”
“Well, I need to prepare myself for the contest, as I’ve been asked by the Ojibwe Nation to be its first representative in the frybread contest.”
Christopher did a double take. “Wait a minute! You’re a man! Plus, the Ojibwe have never been part of the local frybread contest.”
“It seems that the committee revised the rules at the last minute and not only allowed men in, but also opened it to other tribes and even non-Natives.”
Zachary’s jaw dropped. “Wow! That’s huge. I wonder who all will participate this year.”
Christopher hugged Trey. “Oh, man! I am so proud of you, sweetie! I’ll be on the sidelines, cheering you on.”
Zachary glanced over at the frybread cooking on the stove and saw that it was turning a less-healthy shade of brown. “Um, I hate to interrupt this touching scene, but you might want to mind the frybread, Christopher.”
Christopher glanced over and gasped. He quickly took the piece of bread off. “Sorry about that. I was just so caught up in the moment.”
“I totally understand. I’m happy for you guys.”
Trey grinned. “Be happy for yourself. The committee asked me to ask you if you’d be interested in taking photographs of the event.”
Zachary’s eyes widened. “Wow. Are you sure they wouldn’t want someone from one of the tribes to shoot photos?”
“Apparently, Anne Marie really hyped you up to the committee, and they decided that since you’re in Gresham anyway, they might as well utilize your services.”
Christopher walked over to a cabinet and pulled out a bottle of wine. “Sounds like we should all be celebrating. I’ve been waiting for an occasion to take out this taste of heaven.”COLLAPSE