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'It's a small step that everyone can take' | Bills celebrate Native American Heritage Month | 2023

Buffalo Bills vs New York Jets, Regular Season, November 19, 2023 at Highmark Stadium.
Buffalo Bills vs New York Jets, Regular Season, November 19, 2023 at Highmark Stadium.

For Chef Lorinda John, a member of the Seneca Nation, food is an important way to share her culture, a culture that has existed long before the land now known as North America was inhabited by European settlers.

"It connects families and it brings people together," John said ahead of being announced as the Hometown Chef for Sunday's 32-6 win over the New York Jets. "What I like to share is how we can grow a lot of the stuff outside right where we are because of the soil, because of the environment. … So, connecting that and keeping it as local as possible with that and sharing that with people is really important."

John made Three Sister fritters, a twist on a potato pancake consisting of corn, beans and squash as well as fry bread tacos.

Hometown Chef Lorinda John at One Bills Drive, November 17, 2023.

The legend of the Three Sisters comes from an Iroquois story explaining the symbiotic relationship between corn, beans and squash. By interplanting the three vegetables, the bean sprouts can climb the corn stalk and the nitrogen produced by the bean roots nourishes the soil for the nitrogen-needy corn. The large leaves of squash plants shade the soil to help it retain its moisture and prevent weeds from sprouting.

"They're planted together because they help each other grow," John said. "The fritter is combining all of them together to mimic the corn, bean and squash of our creation story."

In honor of National Native American Heritage Month, which President Joe Biden proclaimed on Oct. 31, the Buffalo Bills acknowledged that the land Highmark Stadium, Orchard Park and all of New York state resides upon, is land that belonged to the Seneca, Cayuga, Oneida, Mohawk and Tuscarora people.

"The Bills are grateful for the opportunity to live, work and play football in this territory," the acknowledgement read.

Defensive tackle Eli Ankou, who is on the Bills practice squad, grew up in Canada going to powwows and other events that had to do with Ojibwe culture. Ankou's mother is from Dokis First Nation and ensured that her children grew up celebrating her culture.

Now, Ankou and his fiancée Shayna Powless run a nonprofit, the Dreamcatcher Foundation, dedicated to "empowering and safeguarding indigenous women, children, and future generations," according to their website.

By providing funding for organizations fighting for missing and murdered Indigenous women and fighting to advocate against human trafficking and violence, which is disproportionately felt by Indigenous women.

"If someone outside of the community can learn just a little bit about the people inside the community, it can lead to a very good outcome. It's a small step that everyone can take," Ankou said.

In addition to the land acknowledgement, students who participated in One Buffalo Sports Day held the introduction banners as the players took the field. One Buffalo Sports Day was held at the ADPRO Sports Training Center, giving children from the Seneca Nation a chance to participate in football, lacrosse and hockey drills alongside star athletes such as Bills legend Fred Jackson.

During the National Anthem, the color guard was made up of Native American participants.

At halftime, dancers from Seneca and Tuscarora territories performed during the break and the Zippo Military Recognition honorees were Vietnam veteran Dale Snyder and current senior master sergeant Josette Wheeler, both of the Seneca Nation.

Take a look at the best fan photos from the Bills vs. Jets at Highmark Stadium. This gallery is presented by SnapDragon Apples.

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