Native American Snacks: Tanka Bar

Goodlifer: Native American Snacks: Tanka Bar

This is directed toward you, Mr. or Ms. Constantly-On-The-Go. Yes, you, making do with whatever you can find when you need a snack. Too often, you reach for coffee and a doughnut; overly-caloric, excessively sweet granola bars or, even worse, fast food. Why not try something a little more dietarily virtuous for a change? Fresh fruit or veggies would be great, sure, but sometimes you just want a snack with a little more staying power. And that is where meat-based Tanka Bars come in.

If you look at the ingredient list, it’s evident immediately that Tanka Bars are not your “average Joe” meat snack. They’re based on a food called wasna, a Lakota dish dating from ancient times that used fruit and herbs to help preserve buffalo meat. Yes, these bars are made from buffalo meat.

Assortment of Tanka Bar products.

Assortment of Tanka Bar products.

Photo of from 1891, Lakota Sioux Indian camp on River Brule near Pine Ridge, South Dakota. By John C. H. Grabill.

Photo of from 1891, Lakota Sioux Indian camp on River Brule near Pine Ridge, South Dakota. By John C. H. Grabill.

Unlike most jerky, the meat is hormone-free, contains no MSG, and has no added nitrates or nitrites. The buffalo are raised on open grassland and sourced from as many Indigenous American ranchers as possible. In fact, this is an Oglala Lakota business, based on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. These bars (and their associated products) are gluten-free and soy-free, and do not contain any trans fats (most, but not all, are dairy-free, as well). And most are shelf-stable (no refrigeration required) for months, so they’re also perfect for that upcoming camping trip or hike.

Tanka Bars are free of gluten, soy and trans fats.

Tanka Bars are free of gluten, soy and trans fats.

I tasted these bars at a trade show, and I enjoyed them very much. The combination of buffalo, cranberry, and seasonings tastes far better than I thought it might (if you haven’t tasted buffalo, it doesn’t have the strong/intense flavor that some other “alternative” meats do). Best of all, these bars make a satisfying snack. Tanka Bars are offered in Traditional and Spicy Pepper Blend (habanero, jalapeno, red pepper, and black pepper). The same flavors are available in Tanka Bites, bite-sized morsels in a small, resealable package. You’ll also find Tanka Wild (meat sticks and summer sausage, both with buffalo, cranberry, and wild rice) and Tanka Dogs (buffalo hot dogs, and not shelf-stable). These products are sold in some retail stores, but of course you can order online if you prefer.

The buffalo are raised on open grassland, and the meat is hormone-free, contains no MSG, and has no added nitrates or nitrites.

The buffalo are raised on open grassland, and the meat is hormone-free, contains no MSG, and has no added nitrates or nitrites.

Founders Karlene Hunter and Mark Tilsen imagine “a world filled with healthy foods that add to the restoration and preservation of our lands and ecosystem — a world without the pain of starvation or obesity. The world they imagine embraces the lifestyle that Native American people lived just over a century ago.” They were told they needed 16 million dollars to start a successful food company. Hunter and Tilsen didn’t have that kind of money, instead they got creative, using social media strategy (find them on Facebook, Twitter and MySpace) to market their traditionally made products. So far, it’s worked quite well. Tanka Bars have attracted a devoted following and the company shows no signs of slowing down.

Check out the feature above for more about this amazing Native American small business.

About author
Stephanie Zonis was born with a spoon in her mouth — a tasting spoon, that is. She began cooking (especially baking) at a very early age, and for a short time even ran a highly illegal baking business from her long-suffering parents’ house when she was in high school. After acquiring a Master’s Degree in Foods, she eventually discovered the Internet in 1997. She’s been writing about food and developing recipes, especially where chocolate is involved, ever since. During those few moments when she’s not cooking or writing or thinking about food, Stephanie enjoys reading, walking, political discussions, and volunteering at a local no-kill cat sanctuary. She has been a member of a medieval re-creation group for longer than she’ll admit and loves absurdist humor.
2 total comments on this postSubmit yours
  1. How can I get a print of the picture by Mr. John C.H. Grabill? Thanks for your help!

  2. Hi William, I found the photo online, so I have no idea how you could get a print. Sorry. It is a gorgeous photo though!

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