Utah Indigenous Peoples Day dinner will showcase ancient superfood

(Francisco Kjolseth | Tribune file photo) The Four Corners potato, the size of a copper penny, that will be served at the Indigenous Peoples Day dinner on Oct. 14.

Guests at Utah’s third annual Indigenous Dinner won’t be served a typical steak and potatoes dinner.

The menu for the Oct. 14 event includes bison, raised by the Ute Indian Tribe near Fort Duchesne, and the Four Corners potato — a small, starchy tuber that has survived in the wild landscapes of southern Utah for nearly 11,000 years.

Tickets are still available for the dinner, part of Indigenous Peoples Day — a counter to Columbus Day. It takes place at 6 p.m. at the Utah Cultural Celebration Center, 1355 W. 3100 South, West Valley City. Tickets are $100 per person at utahdinebikeyah.org.

Karlos Baca and Josh Nez, indigenous chefs and food activists, will prepare the “Healing Through Indigenous Foodways” dinner. Jonathan Nez, Navajo Nation president, is the keynote speaker. Patrick Willie, a Diné hoop dancer, also will perform.

Proceeds will go to Utah Diné Bikéyah, specifically for its traditional foods program, which is working to incorporate indigenous foods, like the Four Corners potato, into American Indian diets as a way to improve health.

It’s part of a larger indigenous foods movement taking hold across the country.

Packed with proteins and vitamins, the Four Corners potato is small — no bigger than a copper penny. Still, it was a powerful source of nourishment for the American Indians living in the state’s Escalante and Bears Ears regions.

Mormon pioneers consumed the wild potato, and — even later — some of their descendants survived on it during the Great Depression.

After rediscovering these tubers in several small isolated areas near Bears Ears National Monument and Escalante — as well as other spots in the Four Corners region — researchers from the University of Utah collected samples, brought them to the greenhouses at Red Butte Garden and have been propagating them in 3-gallon pots for more than a year.

The potato made its modern-day dinner debut at the 2018 indigenous dinner at the Utah Museum of Natural History.