Native American Education Program students learn to make Navajo fry bread

At first, Sumner Middle School sixth grader Portia didn’t know what Navajo fry bread was. 

But by the end of her Native American Education Program class this week, she would know not only what it was, but its history and how to make it.

The SBLSD Native American Education Program is a partnership with the Puget Sound Educational Service District. The program works directly with about 170 Native students throughout our District and supports them with any cultural educational support they may need. 

In this month’s lesson, students learned that Navajo fry bread is a popular food among Native American tribes, but it is also connected to a painful past in Native American history.

In Winter 1864, the U.S. government forced 8,500 Navajo people living in Arizona to leave their ancestral lands and walk 300 miles east to the Bosque Redondo Reservation in New Mexico. It is known as “The Long Walk.” On the march, 200 Navajo died and another 2,000 died at the internment camp they called a reservation. Four years later in 1868, a treaty was signed allowing the tribe to return to their reservation in Arizona.

In New Mexico, the Navajo people lived on land that couldn’t support the traditional foods they grew, and were given canned goods, including white flour, processed sugar and lard – which became the makings of fry bread. 

Making and eating a piece of fry bread allows students to think about the strength and ingenuity of Indigenous people, while not forgetting those lost, said Program Coordinator Jason Lafontaine, who is also a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa.

In the Sumner-Bonney Lake School District, there are about 370 students with Native American heritage. Of those students, 170 are signed up for the District’s Native American Program. 

If you have Native American heritage and would like to take part in the program, contact your school about the SBLSD Native American Education Program. 

November is also Native American Heritage Month. To view resources, visit