Alfred University News

Celebrating an indigenous heritage, Lio Bonaccio cooks and serves frybread at Powell Campus Center

Lio Bonaccio, a fourth-year Alfred University student with a major in art history and a minor in English, decided this year to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day with an old family recipe.

The result was a pile of frybread that Lio handed out to friends and passersby in the Powell Campus Center Monday evening. A family recipe was used in making the bread, passed down from grandmother Mercedes Martinez to the Bonaccio family on the upper West Side of New York City, where Lio was growing up.

“I grew up eating it,” Lio says. “My grandma used it to serve us Indian tacos.”

Lio thinks the recipe is based on a Blackfoot recipe, although it uses olive oil. When native indigenous people were uprooted from their lands and given food basics such as flour for survival, it’s unlikely olive oil was included in the package.

“Probably they used some kind of lard,” Lio says.

Lio chose Indigenous Peoples Day to serve the frybread as a way of pushing back against the tokenism that many indigenous people see embedded in the standard land acknowledgements that open public assemblies. “We have land acknowledgements that we’re occupying Seneca Nation land here in Alfred,” Lio says. “But no one does anything beyond that.”

Along with studying art history, Lio also paints and does photography. A Fullbright scholarship and possible internship at the National Museum of the American Indian, in New York City, also in the works following graduation in the spring of 2024.

Lio also plans to continue cooking frybread. “I want to teach my children how to make it, so the tradition isn’t lost.”


Lio Bonaccio’s recipe for fry bread, based on an oral tradition

handed down from grandmother Mercedes Martinez


Mix about three cups of flour and maybe 1½ tablespoons of salt with a little baking powder, olive oil, and one cup of hot water. Allow the mixture to relax for 30 minutes, then form in small balls.  Roughly flatten the balls and rough up the edges with your thumbs to give each piece a pie shape. Poke a hole in the center, then fry each piece in a mixture of oil and butter.