Nutritionist shares appreciation for Tanka Bar mission

August 01, 2013

Photo by German Eliseo Rodriguez
When nutritionist Katelyn Wilson learned more about Tanka Bar last year, she had just come to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation for an agricultural internship in sustainable organic agriculture.

"What struck me most was they [Tanka Bar founders] are going above and beyond a normal product -- hypoallergenic, gluten free and dairy free," she said.

Ms. Wilson has a Bachelor's degree in food science and nutrition with a specialization in dietetics. She began doing contract work with Little Wound School in Kyle, SD, the town where our Tanka headquarters is located, but has since moved to California with her husband, Ryan.

"I support Tanka as a health practitioner because it uses buffalo rather than beef," she said. "Offering protein without the higher fat content. For people sensitive to preservatives and different flavor additives added to snack and on-the-go foods, this is a clean product. A lot of people going to see practitioners are dealing with chronic issues. A lot of those deal with inflammation in the body that can be irritated by flavorings and preservatives."

Ms. Wilson grew up in Seattle, which she said is a Mecca for natural health foods. A place like Seattle is a complete opposite to a location like the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation -- a place the government has deemed a food desert. The natural food movement is still new to the location, she said.

As with many Native communities, the government commodity food program is a part of household diets. Ms. Wilson said the program was meant to provide a basis of foods to encourage homemade meals, but has grown toward non-perishable food items.

"In that way, the homemade diet has been almost discouraged and the result is obviously a high-glycemic load diet and also a diet high in chemical products and low in fiber," she said. "It would behoove the government to encourage using commodities in a healthy way. Some states are cracking down on what is given in commodities and nutritional standards have increased."

Ms. Wilson said she is a supporter of the world going back to a way of eating that existed before we had preservatives to keep shelf life and to make things tastier without natural ingredients. She said that this is "not reinventing the wheel," but just utilizing foods that were proven to be helpful to maintain stamina.

She praised Tanka Bar as a product that gathers up the richness of the Lakota culture -- using buffalo and cranberries, reminiscent to the wasna that warriors took with them on rides.

"It's a practical thing to grow from and increase the industry. Knowing there is someone out here moving in the right direction and doing it in a way that is extremely credible, extremely smart and nutritionally sound is phenomenal," Ms. Wilson said. "I also really like that on the website you can read the future goals to enrich the community and bring back the buffalo herds. I think that is really important to the Lakota people."

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