The Power of Frybread: An Alaska Native’s Story of Survival

Let’s talk about frybread. It can be found at almost every gathering, celebration, and Indian “doing”, but certainly at every powwow. Songs pay homage to it, t-shirts are emblazoned with “frybread power”, Rez kids argue over whose grandma makes the best frybread. Frybread is a cultural phenomenon linking generation after generation– but it’s complicated.

The invention of frybread is synonymous with the introduction of processed foods, loss of indigenous nutrition systems, and the rising decline of community health.  With our seed banks burned, our longhouses destroyed, and our subsistence lifestyles made illegal, starvation knocked at the door. It was there, amidst that famished food desert that fry bread was born. Our buffalo, fish, and three sisters (corn, beans and squash) were replaced with commodity rations of flour, sugar and lard– quintessential frybread ingredients. Despite drastic change in our food systems, we still managed to make something out of nothing.

One of our favorite encounters while in Alaska was with this young Cupik, Cody Ferguson. He invited us over for his famous frybread and shared his own story of survival.

We appreciate Cody for reminding us how resilient our people are.

We appreciate Cody for being brave enough to share his story with us, and for feeding our spirit with his truly delicious bread. 

So today we celebrate frybread, and how powerful it is to make something so delicious out of so little. 

And like all complicated stories of resiliency, we also celebrate the opportunity for our people to seek wellness again. We find that Well For Culture, by Thosh Collins and Chelsey Luger, do a really great job of encouraging our reconnection to ancestral foods, a privilege we hope you all have.

Cody Ferguson for Project 562


Please celebrate the resiliency of your favorite frybread maker and tag them! or even better, comment below and tell us your favorite fry bread story!