White AED metal box with red defibrillator

UIowa Hearts Richard Kerber

The following is written by graduate student and Special Collections student worker Emily Schartz


White AED metal box with red defibrillator
Automated External Defibrillator found at Main Library, University of Iowa

To wrap up American Heart Health Month, we’re remembering University of Iowa professor, cardiologist, and researcher Richard Kerber (1939-2016). If you have noticed the white AED (Automated External Defibrillator) boxes around, you have seen Kerber’s long-lasting impact on our campus and community. Kerber was a pioneer in Echocardiography and CPR research, as well as a driving force in expanding public defibrillation programs.

Richard Kerber was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1939. He completed an undergrad degree in anthropology at Columbia 1960 and in June of that same year married Dr. Linda Kaufman Kerber, now retired professor of history. He went on to complete medical school at New York University, graduating with his medical degree in 1964.

After school, Kerber joined the U.S. Army Medical Corps and worked in both a mobile Army surgical hospital and a base hospital in Vietnam between 1967 and 1968. He was awarded the Bronze Star in 1968 for his service. After completing his medical education with a cardiology fellowship at Stanford University, Kerber joined the University of Iowa in 1971. He remained at the University of Iowa for the rest of his career.

At Iowa Kerber took on many roles, serving as Director of Echocardiography, as well as Associate Director of the Division of Cardiovascular medicine, from 1983-2008 and Interim Director from 2009-2012. He helped establish the CPR training program for UI Hospital staff and faculty and served on task forces and committees that established the UI Hospital’s Code Blue and CPR guidelines and policies.

Kerber standing with 5 Black Students in classroom
Kerber with students from the Short-term Minority Student Research Training Summer Program

Outside of the University of Iowa, Kerber remained involved in Echocardiography and CPR research. He served as the 11th President of the American Society of Echocardiography (ASE) from 1997-1999 and worked closely with colleagues in the American Heart Association (AHA), serving as chair of the AHA’s Emergency Cardiovascular Care Committee. His work with these organizations and taskforces helped establish the standards used to train laypeople in CPR beyond the University of Iowa.

A well-loved professor and a dedicated researcher, Kerber published more than 250 articles as well as many book chapters and abstracts over the course of his career. He was in charge of the Cardiology Fellowship Program and mentored students participating in the Short-term Minority Student Research Training Summer Program for many years.

Though he gave many lectures over the course of his time at Iowa, he is perhaps best remembered for his “Deconstructing the Body: Medical Imaging, Medical Art and the Art of Medicine,” where he examined depictions of the body in art throughout history. You can certainly sense his sense of humor from some of the art he chose to include.

Kerber had many interests outside of academics. He is remembered as a successful clarinet player and participated in orchestras and chamber groups. He was also an avid cyclist and rode in RAGBRAI (the Des Moines Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa) multiple times.

White and black photo of Kerber at piano holding a clarinet, white music notation overlays image
Richard E. Kerber, MD. Photograph by Ina Lowenberg.

In 2017, the Richard E. Kerber HeartSafe Initiative was launched in memory of Kerber with the goal of expanding CPR and AED training for University of Iowa faculty and staff in non-medical buildings. In 2019, inspired by the HeartSafe Intitiative, the Rotary-Kerber HeartSafe Community Campaign was launched to expand community-member training in CPR and AED use in Iowa City and Coralville. These initiatives have certainly had an impact, Johnson County was just recognized as a HeartSafe Community by the Citizen CPR Foundation in January of this year and AEDs can be found in buildings all across campus.

If you’re curious, you can find a current map of public access AEDs on the University of Iowa’s campus right here.







Dr. Richard E. Kerber, Rotary-Kerber HeartSafe Community Campaign

In Memoriam: Richard E. Kerber, MD (1939–2016), The Texas Heart Institute Journal

Richard E. Kerber, MD, 1939–2016, JAHA

Richard E. Kerber, M.D., Transactions of the American Clinical and Climatological Association

Richard E. Kerber—A pioneer in echocardiography and emergency cardiovascular care, Resuscitation

Richard Kerber Obituary, Lensing Funeral Home

Saving lives: Johnson County program sends alerts to trained laypeople to respond to cardiac arrest cases, The Gazette, January 15, 2023

UI memorializes renowned cardiologist Richard Kerber with lifesaving program, IowaNow

Bright pink and black cover of Black art with collage of people

10 Black Poets to check out in Special Collections & Archives

The following was written by academic outreach coordinator Kathryn Reuter

Reading poetry by Black authors is a great way to celebrate Black History Month! We searched through Special Collections and Archives to find materials from Black poets, some who are familiar to us, and some less so. It was tough to limit ourselves to just 10 poets to highlight, but we hope the list below provides some inspiration for your next visit to our reading room. 

You can see some of these books of poetry yourself at our Black Poetry Pop-up on Wednesday, Feb. 22, from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. in Group Area D of the Main Library (1st floor, across from Food for Thought Café). Stop by the pop-up to make some poetry of your own! We will have supplies for cut and paste and blackout poetry. 

1.The Last Poets 

First on our list is the poetry and music collective The Last Poets. Originally founded in Harlem, New York, in 1968, the group has since experienced several iterations with different members. Music historians and critics consider The Last Poets to be the forefathers of hip-hop because of their groundbreaking spoken word poetry and protest raps. Of their founding, Abiodun Oyewole writes, “The Last Poets were born on May 19, 1968/ In Mount Morris Park in Harlem, New York/ It was a birthday celebration in memory/ in honor of Malcolm X/ The Last Poets were on a mission/ we became the voices of the East wind/ blowing away the West with our sound/ The Last Poets, men who knew/ in their youth the truth must be told/ the lies must be revealed/ and we got to be sassy and funky and sincere/ about it” (from the poem “Invocation”). The pamphlet Selected Poems: The Last Poets was printed in 1993 and is part of the Andrew William “Sunfrog” Smith Collection of Alternative Publications. The back cover is inscribed to Sunfrog by Last Poets Umar Bin Hassan, Baba Donn Babatunde, and Abiodun Oyewole.  


2. Gwendolyn Brooks 

Born in 1917, Gwendolyn Brooks published her first poem at the age of 13 and would go on to have multiple pieces published in the African-American newspaper The Chicago Defender. A Street in Bronzeville (1945) was her first book of poetry, it celebrates the everyday people living on Chicago’s South Side. One of the copies held in Special Collections is inscribed by Brooks to Paul Engle, director of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, who praised the book in a review for the Chicago Tribune. Found in Special Collection’s second copy of A Street in Bronzeville is a photograph of Gwendolyn Brooks, her husband Henry Lowington Blakely, Jr., and their son Henry Lowington Blakely III, dated to 1945. Because the handwriting on the back of the photograph matches Gwendolyn Brooks’ inscription to Paul Engle, we believe this family photo was labeled by the author herself, and perhaps tucked into the book before giving it to a friend.  


Inside cover of dissertation
For my people. Margaret Walker. Theses/ Dissertations T1940 .W18



3. Margaret Walker 

Like Gwendolyn Brooks, Margaret Walker was an influential poet of the Chicago Black Renaissance. Walker is also a two-time graduate of the University of Iowa. You can visit her 1940 master’s thesis, a poetry collection titled For My People, in the University Archives. With this volume of poetry, Walker won the prestigious Yale Series of Younger Poets Competition. While a master’s degree student at the University of Iowa, Walker was roommates with artist Elizabeth Catlett. In 1992, the two old roommates collaborated to produce an illustrated edition of For My People. Catlett’s prints from this work are held at the Stanley Museum of Art, and you can view them on the Iowa Digital Library. Margaret Walker returned to the University of Iowa to earn her PhD in 1965. For her dissertation, she submitted her first completed draft of her acclaimed novel Jubilee 


title page of Phillis Wheatley
Memoir and poems of Phillis Wheatley PS 866. W5 1834


4. Phillis Wheatley 

In 1773, Phillis Wheatley became the first African American author to publish a volume of poetry. Born in West Africa, Wheatley was kidnapped and sold by slave traders. The Boston merchant John Wheatley bought her as a slave for his wife and the couple renamed the young girl. In the Wheatley household Phillis received tutoring in reading and writing – she wrote her first poem at the age of 14. Not finding publishers in New England willing to support her writing, Wheatley traveled to London where her collection Poems on Various Subject was published. Special Collections and Archives holds an issue of this volume, printed in 1834, which also includes a memoir of Wheatley written by Margaretta Matilda Odell.  



5. Amira Baraka 

Born Everett LeRoi Jones (in Newark, New Jersey, in 1934) Baraka changed his name to Amiri Bakraka after the assassination of Malcolm X in 1965. The same year, Baraka founded the Black Arts Repertory Theater in Harlem, New York, effectively sparking the Black Arts Movement. Baraka wrote in multiple genres, penning poems, plays, and essays. Baraka’s influence as an artist, activist, and teacher cannot be overstated. Special Collections and Archives houses two inscribed volumes of Baraka’s poetry [Selected Plays and Prose of Amiri Baraka/ LeRoi Jones (1979) and The Sidney Poet Heroical, in 29 Scenes (1979)] – as well as a sampling of poems stapled together in a pamphlet titled Black Art. Printed in 1966, this pamphlet came to the University of Iowa through the collection of artist Lil Picard.   



6. Langston Hughes 

Like Baraka, Langston Hughes was a writer who excelled in multiple forms. Considered a leader of the Harlem Renaissance, Hughes’ poems such as “Harlem” (also known as “A Dream Deferred”) and “I, Too” are iconic pieces of American poetry. We hold a number of Langston Hughes publications in Special Collections & Archives, but one of our favorites is this first edition of Shakespeare in Harlem, inscribed by the author to his friend Lee Crowe.  


Brown and yellow cover of Ten Poems book
Ten Poems by Rita Dove (PS3554.O87 A17 1977 )

7. Rita Dove 

Rita Dove was born in Akron, Ohio, in 1952. She earned her MFA in creative writing from the University of Iowa in 1977. She was U.S. Poet Laureate at the Library of Congress from 1993 to 1995. Pictured here is Dove’s collection Ten Poems, of which approximately 200 copies were printed by hand in Lisbon, Iowa, at Penumbra Press in 1977.  


Brown/tan cover with word Cane on it
Copy of Cane published in 2000 ( FOLIO PS3539.058 C3 2000)


8. Jean Toomer  

Jean Toomer (born Nathan Pinchback Toomer in 1894, Washington, D.C.) might have objected to being on this list of Black poets because he resisted racial categorization and identified simply as “American”. Of mixed-raced ancestry, Toomer attended both segregated Black schools and all-white schools throughout his education. In 1921, he taught at an agricultural college in Georgia – his experiences there inspired him to start writing a series of vignettes that would be published as Cane in 1923. The novel has a non-traditional structure, combining poems and short stories about different characters. The copy of Cane seen here was published in 2000, it contains woodcuts by the artist Martin Puryear. Jean Toomer’s archival papers are held by the Beinecke Library at Yale, and some of the collection has been digitized, which you can browse here.   


Red cover of book with elephant and bird, palm tree and two people next to tree
The Nature of Things by Frederick Tillis (Iowa Authors Collection)


9. Frederick Tillis  

Perhaps best known as a composer and jazz musician, Frederick Tillis (1930-2020) was also a prolific poet. He earned both his MA and PhD in music composition from the University of Iowa. You can find his dissertation (Quartet for flute, clarinet, bassoon and cello) in the University Archives and a number of his poetry books in our Iowa Authors collection.  


Black and white photo collage of Black Americans
Book jacket for Re:Creation by Nikki Giovanni (PS3557.I55 R4)

 10. Nikki Giovanni  

Nikki Giovanni was one of the leading authors of the Black Arts Movement. Born in Knoxville, Tennessee, in 1943, Giovanni was raised in Ohio and attended Fisk University. Until 2022, she taught as a university distinguished professor at Virginia Tech. In addition to numerous poetry collections, Giovanni has authored several children’s books and was nominated for a Grammy Award (for Best Spoken Word or Non-musical Album) for The Nikki Giovanni Poetry Collection. We love the cover of this 1971 publication Re:Creation, which features the photography of Chester Higgins.  

Collecting Your Ghost Stories

The following comes from university archivist Sarah Keen

Have you heard footsteps where no corporeal being is walking? Have unexplainable events occurred in your building that have no humanly cause? Are there spaces on campus where the spirits of those who have walked this earth before us feel particularly present?


If so, the University Archives would like to hear your tales of paranormal encounters on campus and in Iowa City. Share your spooky stories to be added to the archives and shared with the campus community.


A Tale of Tails: Pets in the Archives

A new exhibit bound to make you feel warm and fuzzy is up in the Special Collections & Archives reading room. 

Curated by lead outreach and instruction librarian Elizabeth Riordan and academic outreach coordinator Kathryn Reuter, the exhibit A Tale of Tails: Pets in the Archives explores the pets found in Special Collections & Archives, expanding on how the notion of the “pet” continues to grow and morph with the changing years while recognizing some of the aspects of pet ownership that remain constant. 

As Riordan explained, “at the beginning of the pandemic I saw so many people on social media adopting new pets. And studies have shown a huge increase in pet adoption at the beginning of the pandemic. I myself adopted a kitten in May of 2020. It made me really think about the comfort pets bring during difficult times.”

When Riordan returned to working in person at the library, it was hard not to notice the pets that seemed to be everywhere in the collections. Whether featured in family photos, on the margins of an image, or companions in a story, pets were there. While these animal companions were nothing new to the collections, recent events and personal experiences put these archived pets in a whole new light.  

As Riordan and Reuter write in their curator statement:

Despite some of the reports saying many people returned those animals they adopted once the pandemic started to slow down, it should be noted that an overwhelming majority chose to keep their pets. They join the billions of humans across time and space who see pet keeping as an extraordinary yet common human experience. “

The curators hope that those who visit the exhibit see some of their own pet history in the stories on display and reflect on our bond with animals we choose to bring into our homes and lives. 

To get to know the exhibit, Riordan and Reuter have selected 10 items from the exhibit that they are particularly fond of:


3 metal dog tags1.Dog Tags from the Ruth Salzmann Becker Collection, IWA 0123 

Licensing a pet is one of the more concrete ways humans assert official ownership over an animal. Dog tags also demonstrate the potential dangers of living with animals – as dogs must be vaccinated against rabies before receiving a license. The oldest dog tag displayed in the exhibit is from 1915, it was the license of a dachshund that belonged to Ruth Salzmann Becker’s cousin.


2. The complete idiot’s guide to Pet Psychic Communication

If you’ve ever wished you could tell your pet just how much you love them- or, if you’ve ever really needed your pet to get on board with the house rules – this book is for you!






This zine is a compilation of Lost Pet posters readers photographed and sent in from around the globe. We hope that many of the posters resulted in reunions between pet and owner. 



4. The Wizard of Oz

In the Wizard of Oz, most animals in the land of Oz have the ability to speak. For the first four books of the Oz series, Toto, unlike the other animals, does not have the gift of speech. In the eighth book, Toto reveals that while he is able to talk, he simply chooses not to. 



5. This is the Story of Little Cat

The illustrations in this picture book are all so sweet, it was difficult to choose just one page to display for the exhibit. 



6. Portrait of Ruth and cat from Ruth Suckow Papers, MsC0706

Ruth Suckow’s papers include a whole photo album dedicated to her cats. But it is this painting done by Ruth’s husband Ferner Nuhn that really demands attention. An older Ruth, somehow still exhibiting a youthful aura due to her clothes, holds up a white cat, obscuring much of her face. The relationship of the woman and her cat comes strongly across to viewers. 



7. Smiling dog, Stanley Museum of Art

Honestly, this isn’t even in Special Collections, it’s an image from Stanley Museum of Art. And even though we just have a picture of it for this exhibit (you’ll have to go next door to the Museum to see the real thing), we can’t help but smile ourselves when we see it. 



8. Les Chats

Les Chats by François-Augustin Paradis de Moncrif is considered one of Western Europe’s first books devoted to cats. The book contains several fantastic images of cats from ancient Egypt to “modern day” (18th century) France. 




9. Andy Warhol cat books

We have two books from Andy Warhol about his cats. Warhol is famous for having several cats at once, all named Sam. The exhibit features his 25 Cats named Sam and One Blue Pussy and a book he did with his mother Julia called Holy Cats by Andy Warhol’s Mother.





10. Where the Red Fern Grows

This was put in there purely for sentimental reasons. As a child, this book was read aloud in class, and memories of crying as we reached the end of the story are still vivid in the mind. It is a devastating tale, but that sorrow was because Wilson Rawls painted such a real relationship between a boy and his dogs. Those who have experienced the loss of a beloved pet probably still will cry ugly tears over this book. 



Perhaps the best part of the exhibit, however, is the growing wall of library staff pet photos. This part of the exhibit has already caught the eye of several students and patrons passing our doors. It is a testament to the power of pets when you see strangers smiling at pictures of your own pets. 

Memories of a Memogram

The following is written by graduate student worker Emily Schartz

As we get ready for warmer weather and summer vacation, we look longingly at a group of travelers 90 years ago who were preparing to start a 137 day-long worldwide cruise on their own vacation to much warmer places. 

Bound copy of Memograms

This epic vacation is recorded in a book now found in Special Collections & Archives. This book is a bound collection of colorful memograms, created during the Empress of Britain’s Round the World Cruise. The memograms were created while the ship was at sea and distributed to the travelers on board. A bound copy, like this one, could then be purchased at the end of the trip as a souvenir. Read together these memograms create a “pictorial record” of the crew and travelers’ “journey around the world.”  

The 1932 cruise featured in this particular book was the 10th annual cruise by Canadian Pacific and the second completed by the Empress of Britain liner. Around 300 cruisers left aboard the ship on Saturday, December 3, 1932 at “noon sharp” and would not finish their cruise until April 19, 1933, when they arrived back at Cherbourg and Southampton. Over the course of their journey, the Empress of Britain would cover 30,000 miles, stopping in 81 ports across 23 countries. Truly a world-wide cruise. 

Each memogram is a colorful sheet with information and illustrations for the travelers and they cover a variety of topics. There are maps and itineraries for travelers to use when planning their day-to-day excursions, information about the places they were visiting and their cultures, and posters for ship-wide events, such as a treasure hunt and a Christmas party. The level of detail in the sketches varies from page to page, some are barely more than stick figure cartoons, while others are detailed drawings of specific locations. Many of the memograms within this particular copy show signs of their use. Some are folded as if they were slipped into a pocket or have notes in the margins and sketched out additions to the maps. Some additions are a mystery, such as the bold line added to a map of Palestine helpfully labeled “FISH.”  

The memograms are as diverse as the activities the travelers participated in. Listed on the calendar pages are sightseeing excursions, educational lectures, concerts, and dinners with dancing aboard the boat in the evening. There are also pages that depict anecdotes and “remember when” moments from the cruise.

There is a whole page dedicated to bananas from the ship’s time in Ceylon and another page devoted to the “Tropical Fruits of Java” that mentions fruits that definitely don’t grow in Iowa, such as doekoes and mangoesteens. 

The Empress of Britain continued her annual cruises until 1939 and eventually ended her career when the liner was sunk in an attack by German forces in 1940 while being used for wartime service as a transport vessel. She certainly left behind a legacy, carrying hundreds of travelers on trips around the globe.


By PERCIVAL KNAUTH Wireless to THE NEW YORK TIMES. “EMPRESS OF BRITAIN REPORTED BOMBED: FORMER CANADIAN PACIFIC LINER REPORTED SUNK BY BERLIN.” New York Times, Oct 27, 1940, pp. 1. ProQuest, https://www.proquest.com/historical-newspapers/empress-britain-reported-bombed/docview/105285677/se-2?accountid=14663. 

“New Empress of Britain Sails Friday on Maiden Trip.” New York Times, Apr 18, 1956, pp. 62. ProQuest, https://www.proquest.com/historical-newspapers/new-empress-britain-sails-friday-on-maiden-trip/docview/113884909/se-2?accountid=14663. 

Special Cable to THE NEW YORK TIMES. “BRITISH ANNOUNCE EMPRESS SHIP LOSS: ADMIRALTY FIXES DEATH TOLL AT 45 OUT OF 643 ABOARD CANADIAN PACIFIC LINER TORPEDOES FINISH JOB U-BOAT OVERTAKES BURNING SHIP IN TOW AND COMPLETES TASK STARTED BY BOMBER SHIP ATTACKED THREE TIMES WOMEN AND CHILDREN CALM.” New York Times, Oct 29, 1940, pp. 11. ProQuest, https://www.proquest.com/historical-newspapers/british-announce-empress-ship-loss/docview/105415046/se-2?accountid=14663. 

“WORLD CRUISE STARTS WITH NOTABLES TODAY: EARL OF CADOGAN AND PRINCESS DE LIGNE AMONG PASSENGERS WHOM SHAW WILL JOIN LATER.” New York Times, Dec 03, 1932, pp. 14. ProQuest, https://www.proquest.com/historical-newspapers/world-cruise-starts-with-notables-today/docview/99789304/se-2?accountid=14663. 

Image of Sherman in field of high grass

Decolonizing the Kitchen: Sean Sherman

The following is written by Olson Graduate Research Assistant Matrice Young 

Image of Sherman in field of high grass
Sean Sherman foraging. Photo from The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen taken by Nancy Bundt

Sean Sherman, a member of the Oglala Lakota tribe, was born in 1974 and spent the early days of his childhood on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Much of his childhood was spent on his family’s ranch, playing out on the edge of the Badlands. Coyotes, rattlesnakes, jackrabbits, mallards, sandhill cranes, prairie dogs and more were a common populace of the area. At seven, Sherman was hunting animals like grouse and pronghorn antelope, while also helping gather chokeberries, and dug up wild turnips and timpsula.  Along with his cousins he pitched in to help around the family farm, moving cattle, tracking horses, and mending fences. 

Sherman and his cousin Justin on Pine Ridge in 1982, from The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen

However, his childhood wasn’t all work. Much of it was spent immersed in his culture: attending powwows, Sun Dances, holiday parades, and family gatherings. Even in school, the Lakota-language class they had was just as important as their English, math, and social studies classes. While he was close to his culture, Sherman remarks that the land around them wasn’t the best “growing area,” supporting mostly cactus and desert plants.  

In an interview with American food journalist Francis Lam, Sherman states that “We didn’t have a lot of the traditional foods growing up; we definitely had a lot of commodity foods. … But looking backwards as a chef much later in life, I realized there should’ve been a lot more knowledge of the traditional foods of the Lakota. That’s what set me off on the path; I was trying to figure out the food of my own heritage.” 

After his parents separated, Sherman, his sister, and his mother moved to Spearfish, South Dakota so his mother could pursue her college degree. He and his sister put food on the table for the family as their mother was now a single parent working two jobs and busy with school. During this time of his life, chef-hood crept closer into his life, into his future.  

At 13, he bussed tables and prepped food at Sluice, a restaurant nearby. The next summer he worked at the Sylvan Lake resort as the youngest on staff, working on the grill, where the college-age kids experimented with meats, switching from steaks to rattlesnake and beaver. Sherman remarks “I knew then that I loved this work.”  

Sherman’s culture has always been a large part of his life, and as such, so has Indigenous food. When Sherman’s grandfather was a child, he was one of the first Native American children to attend a mission school on their reservation. The forced assimilation that started during the 19th century eliminated a lot of Native American food culture across the country, and that was no exception for Sherman’s family. Despite this experience, Sherman’s grandfather still maintained parts of his tribe’s food culture, becoming one Sherman’s first teacher. He passed when Sherman was 18, leaving the budding chef with a plethora of unanswered questions, both in general and about the culture of their food. 

After spending his early 20s in Minneapolis as a sous chef and becoming an executive chef at La Bodega in 2000, Sherman decided he wanted to create a Lakota cookbook. Finding the research on plants and game native to the Great Plains severely lacking, Sherman devised his own research plan to study ethnobotany. He spent time talking to elders and looking at how Native Americans in other parts of the country had their own food systems and pieced together what commonality they shared. 

At 29 he moved to San Francisco, Nayarit in Mexico. This region was colonized by Europeans later than other areas, leaving much of the native plants and foods intact. He found the culture there very similar to his own back home in the Midwest.

Sherman states in his introduction to his book  The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen, “In an Epiphany, I tasted how food weaves people together, connects families through generations, is a life force of identity and social structure. After seeing how the Huicholes [the native individuals in the area] held on to so much of their pre-European culture through artwork and food, I recognized that I wanted to know my own food heritage. What did my ancestors eat before the Europeans arrived on our lands?”  

Sherman spent a lot of time reading cookbooks, magazines, research publications, along with traveling across the US to visit other Indigenous Americans to learn more about their food cultures. He states that one of the biggest parts of Native American cuisine was the method of preserving their food, as during the summer they were preparing for the next winter. He relied on a food dehydrator and experimented with drying by wood fires or using the sun. His research is continuous, but in 2014 he was able to  put his work into fruition by creating the organization The Sioux Chef. He describes The Sioux Chef as “a mission-driven enterprise of Indigenous team members.” It includes the Tatanka Food Truck which is a full-service catering company, Indigenous Food Labs,  an Indigenous kitchen and training center, and Sherman’s restaurant: Owamni.   

Bison steak with carrots
Owamni Bison Entrée, image by John Yuccas Photography

Owamni was started by Sherman and his wife Dana Thompson in Minneapolis, MN in July of 2021. Thee restaurant is run by an over 80% Indigenous staff. Many individuals on the Owamni team and in the community find the restaurant to be more like a community service than a regular restaurant, according to Thompson. Even the name of the restaurant is integral to the communal history and the mission of the restaurant.  

Owamni was named after a map of the Eastern Sioux that Thompson’s grandfather and his best friend made.  Without this map, many of the original names of the natural landmarks before colonization would’ve been lost. Owamni sits on an area which used to be full of waterfalls with sacred islands to the Dakota and Anishinaabe people. 

Owamni, like the organization The Sioux Chef, is dedicated to de-colonizing food. Thompson, who is of Dakota ancestry has stated that “These foods were systematically removed by forced assimilation and genocide and the culture was almost erased. The fact that we have these foods here is an act of resistance itself.” 

The name origin of Owamni, the food that they serve, and The Sioux Chef entirely are part of Sherman’s mission to engage the community in conversations about race, equity, sustainability, and the history of Indigenous Americans. To teach a history that has often been left out and erased.  

Sherman states “I’ll never learn everything about Indigenous foods, but we’re setting up structures and systems to be able to preserve it and maintain it for the following generations … We envision eventually being able to drive across the U.S. or anywhere in North America and having the option of Indigenous food businesses: to be able to stop there and to experience the immense diversity and culture and language and stories and food.” 

In our library here at University of Iowa, we have Sean Sherman’s book, The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen, so, if you’d like to learn more about Sherman, his journey, different Indigenous foods and their importance, and want to learn to cook some of his recipes yourself, this book is worth a read!  




Meet the Sioux Chef 

The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen 

The ‘Sioux Chef’ Is Putting Pre-Colonization Food Back On The Menu 

One of Minneapolis’ Newest, Hottest Restaurants Is Also One of the Country’s Most Important 

‘Our whole mission is Indigenous education and Indigenous food access’: A Q&A with owners of Owamni by The Sioux Chef 

How this Minneapolis chef is reintroducing Native American cuisine to the world 


Further interviews/talks with Sean Sherman:

Sean Sherman: What Can We Learn From Indigenous Culinary Traditions? 

Exploring indigenous kitchens of North America with Sean Sherman 

 Sean Sherman – Author of The Souix Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen LIVE Q&A at R-Future 2021 

Native Minnesota podcast: Revitalizing Indigenous food with Sean Sherman 

The (R)Evolution of Indigenous Foods | Sean Sherman | TEDxSiouxFalls