Fast food and freshness are synonymous at the Tatanka Truck, a food truck dedicated to offering healthy, authentic and historical Native American cuisine.
Its food that isn’t your typical street fare. Instead of cheeseburgers, there’s squash, bison, turkey and walleye tacos. Instead of lemonade, there’s iced cedar maple tea, which is a personal favorite of head chef Sean Sherman, better known as “The Sioux Chef”.
Sherman, a member of the Oglala Lakota tribe, was already well known in the Minneapolis for his catering business, which also focuses on using recipes from the Dakota and Ojibwe cultures. The ingredients are “super regional” and don’t include any processed sugars, dairy, chicken or anything else which wouldn’t have been available to tribes pre-contact, or before interaction with the US government and their move to reservations.
“[The truck] is bringing back those taste buds… they’ve been infiltrated,” said Claudia Serrato, an anthropologist who is friends with Sherman and involved with the truck. “[It’s] assisting the memory, that genetic memory, initiating progress towards healing.”
As a business, Tatanka is still in its infancy; It has only been open a week and a half, and its website homepage still tells readers they are preparing the truck to open.
Despite this, it is evident a strong bond between community and business is already at the forefront of Sherman’s mind, with stickers that proclaim “Protect the Sacred” and “Live life peacefully” on the serving window. Of the five working employees during the Wednesday lunch rush, only one was not related to the Native American community.
“Part of this [Tatanka] was we wanted to create jobs for the Little Earth community in Minneapolis,” Sherman said about the truck’s goals. “It’s kind of a lightweight business, we can test the waters and get a lot of exposure.”
For only one of many food trucks in the area, they have received a fair amount of exposure, being written up in the British-based newspaper The Guardian, and named in multiple local articles about food trucks to visit this summer before Tatanka even opened.
On Wednesdays, where Sherman sets up near the government center in downtown Minneapolis, he sees people who often haven’t heard of the style of cuisine he serves before.
“It’s delicious, it’s ridiculous,” said Rachel Lukaski about her Wagmu, or squash, tacos and iced cedar maple tea. “I’m a vegan, so it’s really nice to have a place with options for vegans.”
Lukaski found out about the truck after seeing Sherman on the news and brought friends John Hirst and David Lopez on to the truck on their lunch break. All agreed it was worth a return visit, especially because it was a quick walk from their office.
“I don’t want to try to describe it,” said Lopez about his smoked turkey taco. “But you should try it.”