Piedmont bison farmer inspired by food and culture of his Native American roots
by Sherry Kughn
Special to The Star
Mar 06, 2013 | 4541 views |  0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Photo: Bill Wilson/The Anniston Star
Photo: Bill Wilson/The Anniston Star
Recently, man and beast engaged in a stare-down at D.J. White’s bison farm just outside of Piedmont.

White, weighing in at almost 200 pounds and wearing only a long-sleeved shirt in freezing temperatures, faced a 2000-pound beast, whose much warmer hide and hoodie-like neck fur gave him the advantage to outlast his master. Neither made an aggressive move.

Tension grew as onlookers outside the pen watched the two opponents. Man and beast both knew there was something man was waiting on beast to do — walk through a specific gate. Ten minutes later, White shrugged and walked away.

Bison farmers say you can lead a bison anywhere — as long as it’s where the bison wants to go.

White said the only way to get his 15 head of bison to cooperate is to treat them gently, adding that he would try another day to get the bull back into the correct pen. He shut the gate and wired it together so the bull would not get any ideas about going where it should not go.

After the stare-down, White sat inside one of his family member’s farmhouses next to his 40-acre farm, Boundary Line Bison Ranch. He started raising bison 15 years ago, ordering his first four from a relative of Gene Autry, the famous singing cowboy from the 1930-50s.

White’s attraction to raising bison possibly arose from his genetic makeup. As a child, he once lived with his family at his grandmother’s house on Hughes Street in Piedmont. His grandmother was Native American, family members told him, and when he watched cowboy movies at her house, he always pulled for the Native Americans to win, he said.

White, an employee of Anniston Army Depot, has maintained a keen interest in Native American culture. When he was in his 20s, he started attending Native American events around the region, traveling as far away as Oklahoma to attended powwows and festivals. In the late 1990s, he planned the annual Native American festivals in his hometown, and he has recently been asked to lead the effort to resume Piedmont’s annual festival.

His interest, in what he describes as a way of life, is not subsiding. When he retires in the next year, he hopes to develop a marketing plan to sell bison for breeding and slaughtering, at which time he plans to increase his herd.

Another part of White’s Native American heritage is revealed as he talks about food. He loves to cook with bison meat and touts its health benefits. It is mild in flavor but low in fat and cholesterol and has more iron in it than beef, he says.

“It tastes like beef with the benefits of venison,” he said. “Bison liver is very good, as it tastes a lot like chicken liver. Bison heart and tongue are good, too.”

White also loves other Native American foods, such as fry bread and corn soup.

“You can use bison meat just like you use beef,” he said.

Two of his favorite dishes are bison chili and bison pot roast.

White is hoping to find a local slaughterhouse he can work with so that he can make use of every part of the bison.

“The heads can be decorated and sold for use in Indian ceremonies,” he said. “The bones are carved, and the tails are used in sweat lodges.”

The sweat lodges, White explained, are part of a Native American cleansing ceremony in which a sauna is created beneath a rounded, teepee-like tent of hide. They place hot stones in a pit under it and sprinkle water on the stones with a bison tail to create steam.

“It’s one of many important ceremonies,” he said.

Note: The term “bison” is the true name of what is mistakenly referred to as the American buffalo. However, the only true buffalo are the water buffalo of Asia and the Cape buffalo of Africa.

White's Native American Recipes

Bison Pot Roast

Bison roast
Vegetable oil
White wine
Salt and pepper
Assorted vegetables (carrots, potatoes, onions) if desired

Salt and pepper a two-pound buffalo roast. Place roast in ¼ inch of oil heated to 350 F in an electric skillet. Brown on all sides. Lower the temperature to 250 F and cook for 2 ½ hours.

Add in a little white wine and carrots, potatoes and onions, if desired. Cook about 40 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

Corn Soup

½ pound of chopped ham
1 large onion, quartered
3 sliced carrots
4 stalks celery, chopped
5 cups water
1 can cream corn
1 can whole kernel corn
1 can hominy
1 can black beans

Combine first five ingredients in a large pot and boil for 40 minutes on medium heat. Add in canned vegetables. Simmer for 45 more minutes.

Fry Bread

Makes four servings

1 cup unbleached flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ cup water
Vegetable oil for frying
Flour for hands and countertop

Sift dry ingredients together. Pour water into a bowl with the flour mixture and stir. The dough will stick together. Mix the dough with flowered hands, but only until it forms a smooth ball. Flour the outside of the ball and cut into four pieces. Pat the dough on a floured surface and make a disc of about six inches.

Heat the oil to about 1 ¾ inch. Place a disc of bread into the oil and fry for three minutes on each side. Remove and dry on a paper towel.

Fry bread can be used with ground bison meat seasoned with taco spices. Serve each piece of fry bread with shredded lettuce, tomato, cheese and ½ cup of the taco meat.

Fry bread can be used as a dessert by sprinkling powdered sugar on top.
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