Three Osages took top honors in this year’s National Indian Taco Championship held Oct. 6 in downtown Pawhuska with Debra Lookout winning first place for the third consecutive year.
The Indian taco championship event, now in its eighth year, was moved to the fall season for the first time this year. In prior years, the event was held in May. This was also the first year for a competition dance held during the event and the People’s Choice award with a $1,000 prize to the contestant receiving the highest votes.
Lookout (Osage) won $1,000 for her first place finish. Beatrice Realrider won second place ($750) and Deda Oliver (Osage) took third ($500). Majorie Williams (Osage) won this year’s People’s Choice award.
The Oct. 6 event carried on amid rain hitting Pawhuska in the morning and afternoon as the contestants and spectators awaited the Indian taco judging results. Mike McCartney, executive director of the Pawhuska Chamber of Commerce, said this year’s entry count of 14 doubled from last year’s despite the date change and two cancellations at the last minute.
“It would’ve been nice if the rain held out, but we can’t do anything about that,” McCartney said. He said the event date change occurred due to May conflicts including end-of-school activities, graduations and for Osages – the June In-Lon-Schka dances.
The 14 food stand contestants braved the cool winds and wet weather that day despite some challenges in cooking their frybread for the competition judges and for sales to the spectators.
Oliver set up her food stand alongside the others in front of the Triangle Building. “We knew we had the tent and tarp so we knew we were good,” she said while cooking frybread.
To avoid the wet pavement, Oliver and her family walked on rugs while they worked and used portable space heaters. “My feet got cold,” she added with a smile.
Contestants Ruth Shaw and Jennifer Tiger said they had problems getting their grease hot enough for cooking frybread at their stands with the dampening weather. As a result, Shaw said some of her first pieces of frybread came out doughy inside.
Tiger pressed on with cooking and selling food despite temporarily losing a booth worker who left to grab a jacket when the rain started. In the end, Tiger estimates her stand went through 30 pounds of dough to make Indian tacos this year.
Paula Mashunkashey and her daughter Julie Miller brought their “Rez Chicks Flour Co.” food stand back to the competition, which they’ve entered during the recent years. Mashunkashey said “heck no!” when asked if she considered cancelling due to weather. Mashunkashey, Miller and family members sold Indian tacos as well as fruit tacos topped with whipped cream and “NDN hot dogs” which featured a hot dog wrapped in frybread.
Eli and Gina Red Eagle entered the contest for the third time this year selling both Indian tacos and meatpies. This year, both Red Eagles took pride in the chili beans they cooked for the tacos.
“What do they say on ‘Fried Green Tomatoes’? Secret’s in the sauce,” Eli Red Eagle said referring to the 1992 movie.
Brian Lookout entered the competition for the fourth time this year featuring a Tex-Mex chili used on his tacos. Brian Lookout operates his own Ah-Tha-Tse Catering business and used his love of spicy food as inspiration for cooking this year.
“Everything I love is Tex-Mex,” Lookout said of his chili in which he used six pounds of fresh New Mexico green chile and chipotle peppers.
Scores of public spectators participated as judges for rounds of judging in which they met in a vacant building where event organizers gave each participant an Indian taco dish. Those dishes were sampled for a few minutes before each dish was replaced with a new one. During each judging round, the judges wrote down their scores for each taco dish and those scores were tabulated to determine the winners.
Studie Red Corn and sister-in-law Electa Red Corn participated as judges this year. Electa Red Corn joked that she scrutinized each dish by lifting it up and looked at it from every angle and sniffed each dish’s aroma.
“It was fun, but it felt really serious in there,” Studie Red Corn said of the fellow judges who scored each dish. “Anonymity was maintained, but I think I recognized Jodie and Jennifer’s,” he said referring to Tiger and Jodie Revard’s Indian tacos featuring organic pico de gallo chili.
Despite the diverse recipes used for judging the tacos, Debra Lookout’s basic Indian taco took first place without any changes to her taco from last year. “I just make it as I like to eat it,” Lookout said after the results were announced. Her taco dish includes beef, lettuce, cheese, beans and mild picante sauce.
The Indian Taco Championship is sponsored by several entities including the Pawhuska chamber, Osage Nation, and Osage County Tourism. McCartney said plans are already underway to prepare for next year’s Indian Taco Championship event. “We learned from (this year’s event) and will make it better next year,” he said.
The 2013 Indian Taco Championship is slated for the first Saturday in October, McCartney said.
Original Publish Date: 2012-10-16 00:00:00