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As with many cultures around the world, Native Americans have an all-purpose flat bread that is a staple of their cuisine. Dry bread is considered a food of intertribal unity and is made at all Indian powwows. The dough is a variation of that used for flour tortillas, consisting of wheat flour, shortening, salt, and water, leavened with baking powder or yeast. Navajo Fry Bread is a tradition Arizona and New Mexico, and fry bread with honey butter is a specialty in New Mexico.
Although considered a "traditional food," Navajo fry bread actually evolved in the mid-19th century. Beginning in 1860, approximately 8,000 Navajos spent four years imprisoned at fort Summer, New Mexico and were given little more than white flour and lard to eat. American scout Kit Carson and his troops drove the Navajo people from their lands by destroying their means of survival. They killed sheep, goats, and horses; poisoned wells; burned orchards and crops; and destroyed shelters and anything else that was of value to the Navajo. Carson and his troops then rounded up thousands of starving Navajo and sent them on the 300 mile "Long Walk" to Fort Sumner at Bosque Redondo, New Mexico. This was truly one of the saddest events in United States history.
The U.S. government provided those on the reservation with wheat flour as part of a commodities program. Because of this, lard and wheat flour became the main ingredients in the making of Navajo fry bread. The Navajo women had to make the best of what was often considered poor-quality rations in reservation camps and the varying availability of government-issued commodities. They thus created fry bread.