The Food Of Certain American Indians

And Their Methods Of Preparing It

By Lucien Carr

Taken From: Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society, at the Semi-Annual Meeting, April 24, 1895.

  The theory that "a man is what he eats" can hardly be said to account for all the phenomena that attended the progress of the human race from savagery to civilization, and yet there is truth enough in it to justify an examination into the food supply of any people whose position in the scale of development may become a subject of inquiry. Especially is this true of savage and barbarous peoples, or rather it will apply to any people – ourselves for example in the early phases of existence; for within certain limits, there is believed to be no surer indicator of the different culture periods through which the race has progressed, than can be found in the arts of subsistence as they have been successively developed. Between the fruit and nut diet to which primeval man is supposed to have been limited, and the luxurious dinner table of his civilized descendant, there was a long and wearisome journey; and looking back over the record, we find it divided into certain steps or stages, of which the hunter, the herdsman and the farmer may be considered as living embodiments.

  Useful as is this classification, it is arbitrary, and so far as it is based upon only one of the many lines of development along which the race must move, it is incomplete. So, too, there are instances in which, owing to what Morgan' terms "the unequal endowment of the two hemispheres" in the way of animal and plant life, it is inapplicable. On the other hand, it possesses the merit of describing states of society that are not only not imaginary, but are in actual existence; and these states follow each other in such an orderly fashion that civilization may be said to have grown up through them. It is even doubtful whether it could have been developed under any other conditions.

  Upon this point an examination into the methods of subsistence of our North American Indians may throw some light. When first known to us, they were hunters, i. e., they were still in the first or lowest stage of existence; for although they cultivated corn, beans, tobacco and other things, and were thus entitled to rank as farmers, yet they had no domestic animals, unless dogs are to be considered as such, and this made them dependent upon the chase for a large part of their food, and, of course, limited or rather prevented their progress beyond the savage condition in which they were found. Whether, alone and unaided, they could have extricated themselves from this anomalous position, is a matter into which we need not inquire. All that can be said is that they had the buffalo and whilst it was certainly possible for them to utilize this animal in the shambles and in the cultivation of their fields, in such a manner as to give them practical control in the production of their food supply, yet they had not done so; and we may be very sure that without such control, population must necessarily have been limited, and civilization on the lines on which they were moving was impossible.

  But whilst all this is too plain to admit of an argument, it is well to remember that the terms hunter, herdsman and farmer and their analogues, savage, barbarian and civilized man, are general in their character, and like the conditions they describe, are susceptible of division. Indeed, there are occasions when even these minor divisions are so widely divergent that it may become necessary, in determining the culture-status of a people, to lay aside the general classification altogether, and go into a critical examination of the details of their daily life. Such, in fact, seems to be the case with our Indians. For reasons given above, their advance along the lines over which they had to pass in their progress from savagery to civilization, was so unequal that, on comparing them with their fellow savages of the eastern world, they will be found to have lagged behind in certain respects, whilst in others they were far ahead. Obviously, in a case of this kind the term savage, considered as a measure of progress, would have two very different meanings; and naturally enough, pictures taken from two such discordant points of view would have but little in common. To mark these discrepancies, and thus fix the Indian's place in the scale of civilization, as far as a study of the subject will enable us to do so, is the object of this inquiry into the food of certain of our tribes and their different methods of preparing it.

  Speaking in a general way, the old chronicler was not far wrong when he told us that the Indian "lived on what he got by hunting, fishing and cultivating the soil." Unquestionably, he derived the bulk of his food from these sources, though there were times, and unfortunately they were somewhat frequent, when he was glad to fill out his bill of fare with the fruits, nuts and edible roots and grasses with which a bountiful nature supplied him. Dividing all these different articles according to their nature and origin, and beginning with those the production of which is believed to indicate racial progress, we find that corn, beans and pumpkins were cultivated wherever, within the limits of the United States, they could be grown to advantage. Of these, corn was by far the most important; and as it seems to have been the main dependence of all the tribes that lived south of the St. Lawrence and east of the tier of States that lines the west bank of the Mississippi, and as the manner of cultivating it and the different ways of cooking it were practically the same everywhere and at all times, we shall confine our remarks to it and to the Indians living within these limits, merely premising that much of what is said about it will apply to "its sisters," as beans and squashes were lovingly termed by the Iroquois.

  And here, at the outset of our investigation, we are met by the fact that modern research has failed to throw a positive light upon the question of its origin. That it was indigenous to America is generally believed, and so, also, the statement that it was first cultivated at some point between the tropics is accepted. Beyond this we have not been able to go; and without entering into a discussion of the subject, it is probably safe to assume that this is as near the truth as we can hope to get. However, be this as it may, there seems to be no doubt that its domestication took place ages ago, for in no other way is it thought possible to account for the vast extent of country over which its use had spread, and for the number of varieties to which it had given rise. Take our own country, for example, and when the whites first landed here, there were found growing, within certain limited areas, a number of different kinds, distinguished one from another, by the length of time they took to ripen, by the size of the ear, by the shape and hardness of the grain and by the color, though this is said to be accidental.

  In addition to these, which were known to the whites as hominy corn, bread corn and six-weeks corn, there was still another sort, called by the French blé fleuri, and by ourselves pop-corn, of which the Indians were very fond, and which they served up to those of their guests whom they wished to honor. With so many kinds, and planting them at different times during the spring and early summer, they not only had successive crops which they ate green as long as the season lasted, but they also raised enough for winter use and, not infrequently, had some to spare to their needy neighbors, white as well as red. Indeed, their peddlers made long trips for the purpose of exchanging their surplus corn for skins and anything else that they needed; and but for the supplies which the Pilgrim fathers, and we may add the settlers at Jamestown and New Orleans, "obtained from the Indians willingly or through force," it is probable, as a recent writer suggests, "that there would have been but few if any of their descendants left to write their histories and sing their praises."

  As a rule, but by no means an invariable one, the work of planting and the care of the fields were left to the women of the tribe. It seems to have been a part of their share of the labor which the duty of providing for the family imposed upon the sexes; and so far from being either onerous or compulsory, it was carried on much in the manner of the husking, quilting and other frolics of their English neighbors. Thus, we are told that the people of each village worked together in common, though the harvest was gathered separately. When notified by the town crier "that the time had come for planting their corn, and that they who will not work must pay a fine or leave the town," they began at one end of the common field, in a plot or patch of ground chosen by lot, and when this was finished they took up the next adjoining one, and so on until the whole field was planted. "Sometimes one of their orators cheers them with jests and humorous old tales, and sings several of their most agreeable wild tunes, beating also with a stick in his right hand, on the top of an earthen pot covered with a wet and well-stretched deerskin." Having completed their task they were usually feasted by the families for whom they had worked.

  In regard to the size of these several plots or holdings, there does not appear to have been any fixed rule. Each person could reduce as much unoccupied land to cultivation as he pleased, and so long as he continued to use it, his right to it was protected. If, however, he abandoned it, anyone else might come in and take possession, for according to their ideas, the land belonged to the tribe and no person could acquire an absolute title to any portion of it. But whilst we are in the dark as to the size of these individual holdings, it is possible from an examination of the early records and the reports of different military expeditions to get a more or less correct idea of the size of their common fields. For example, we are told that in 1674, the Indians had one thousand acres under corn at Mt. Hope. In 1687, Denonville invaded the Iroquois country, burned four villages, and including the corn in cache and what was standing, is said to have destroyed 400,000 minots or 1,200,000 bushels; and General Sullivan in his campaign against these same tribes in 1779, destroyed 160,000 bushels, and cut down in one orchard 1,500 apple trees. Among the southern tribes we find the same story, for in the Gulf States their old fields were measured by miles and not by acres, and General Wayne in December, 1794, writing from Grand Glaize, Ohio, says: "the margins of the Miamis of the Lake and the Au Glaize," appear like one continued village for a number of miles, both above and below this place; nor have I ever before beheld such immense fields of corn in any part of America from Canada to Florida. "In preparing a field for cultivation, the first thing to be done was to clear it, and this portion of the work belonged to the men. In a wooded region, as was the case with most of the country east of the Mississippi, and with the rude and imperfect implements at their disposal, this was no small task, and yet judging from the size of their fields and the amount of corn, etc., grown, they may be said to have been reasonably successful. With stone axes, they girdled and killed the trees, and then having burned the brush and dead wood, "they handed the field over to the women and their assistants who broke up the ground, using for this purpose hoes made of wood, bone, stone or shell. Having put the ground in order, they planted the corn, which had been previously soaked in water, in rows three or four feet apart, and when it reached a suitable height they hilled it up. Once or twice during the season they went over the field for the purpose of weeding it. After this the crop was left to ripen, though a lookout was stationed on a scaffold, in the field, to guard against damage from birds, animals and thieves. To the same end, "the mother of the family at some suitable time, when the children were asleep and the sky was overcast, divested herself of her garments and made the circuit of the field with her machicota trailing behind."

  Beans were sown in the same hills with the corn; and. sometimes in between the rows they planted pumpkins of different kinds, watermelons and sunflowers, though, generally, these latter were cultivated separately in patches by themselves. This was also true of sweet potatoes and tobacco, which were started in beds specially prepared for the purpose.

  When the corn was ripe the women and their aids and assistants gathered it, each family receiving only what was grown on its own patch. A certain amount, in the discretion of the giver, was set apart for the use of the poor and needy, for the exercise of tribal hospitality, and for defraying what may be justly termed public expenditures. The rest was handed over to the owners, who arranged it in festoons along the sides of their cabins, or stored it in the tops of their houses, in caches, or in cribs and granaries. Among some tribes, the situation of their caches was kept secret, for they knew very well that otherwise "they would have to supply the wants of every needy neighbor, as long as anything was left. This, "we are told," may occasion a famine, for some are so lazy that they will not plant at all, knowing that the more industrious cannot refuse to divide their store with them. This same mistaken generosity or practical communism of food will also account for the fact that when an Indian killed a deer or any other game, he frequently left it at some distance from his cabin and sent his wife to bring it in. She was under no obligation to divide with every person she met; whilst with him it was a case of noblesse oblige.

  Besides these articles which the Indian may be said to have owed to his own exertions, there were certain natural products, as e. g., wild oats, tuckahoe, and koonti, of which extensive use was made, though this was limited to the times and places in which they grew and flourished. In Wisconsin, for example, the wild oats, or as we call it wild rice, furnished, at times, a good substitute for corn and was cooked in much the same way. According to Father Marquette, it grew in marshy places and ripened in September, at which time the Indians gathered it in canoes. To free it from chaff, "they smoked it for several days on a wooden lattice, over a small fire." When dried, " they put it in a bag made of skin, forced it into a hole made on purpose in the ground and then tread it so long and well that it is easily winnowed." It is then pounded into meal, or cooked whole in water seasoned with grease, and in this shape it is almost as palatable as rice would be if prepared in the same way. Although growing most luxuriantly in the region of the upper Mississippi, it seems to have had quite an extensive range, for Flint speaks of seeing it in Louisiana, Hunter tells us that it was gathered and eaten by the Osages of Southwestern Missouri, and Captain Smith describes something very similar as being in use in Virginia. The koonti had a more limited range and does not appear to have been known north of the Gulf States. " Laudonniere, probably, had it in mind when he tells us of a "root" which they call " hassez and of which in times of scarcity they make bread "; and in the fifth Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology there is an account of the "pounding, pressing and cooking" by means of which the Seminole Indians of to-day free this plant from its injurious qualities, and reduce it to the shape in which it is served as broth, or made into cakes and baked. Of the tuckahoe, we first hear through Captain Smith. "It was plentiful in Virginia, and seems to have been known in Texas and elsewhere in the Gulf States. Like the koonti root, it was poisonous if eaten raw; and to prepare it for use as food, the Indians baked it in a pit for twenty-four hours. "It grew like a flagge," we are told, "in the marshes," and when made into bread it had " the taste of potatoes."

  These were some of the more substantial, as they certainly were among the more desirable, of the natural products to which, in their times and places, the Indian had recourse. The list, however, is by no means complete, for he was acquainted with a number of plants of which the white man knew nothing; and there were others, like the so-called tripe-de-roche, ground nuts, the bark of certain trees, etc., which have never been recognized in our cuisine, though there were times when the Indian was obliged to resort to them, and to even more unsavory materials, in order to give character to his otherwise taste-less broth. They also had a great variety of fruits; such as plums, persimmons, grapes and berries of different kinds of which they made liberal provision. Some of all these they ate fresh as we do, whilst others were dried, and used in winter, either as a kind of desert or as a seasoning in their bread and broth. In this same category must be included maple sugar and, if we may credit the Knight of Elvas, wild honey, though the common honey- bee is said to have been introduced into this country by the whites. As to the maple sugar, however, there can be no doubt. It was made wherever the tree grew, and it found especial favor as an ingredient in their preparation of parched corn-meal, or as we call it, nocake or rocka-hominy. They also cooked corn in the syrup " after the fashion of pralines," which was a favorite dish with them, as a similar preparation is today with us; and in more recent times they also made a preserve of plums which is said to have been good. Among some tribes, and in recent times, this sugar may be said to have taken the place of salt, though this latter article was known to them from the earliest times. Of nuts they had "a great variety and an infinite store," and besides using them as we do, they pounded them in a mortar and made them into bread or broth, or used them to mix with their hominy. Of some of these preparations they were extravagantly fond, as for example of their hickory milk, which Bartram'' tells us was "as sweet and rich as fresh cream." To make it, they first pound the nuts to pieces upon a stone thick and hollowed for the purpose," and then " cast them into boiling water, which, after passing through fine strainers preserves the most oily part of the liquid. It is used as an ingredient in most of their cooking especially hominy and corn cakes," and it also furnished an agreeable drink. Sometimes they skimmed off the oil, which floated on the water in which the nuts were boiled, and kept it in gourds or earthen pots, etc., using it as we do butter, on their bread or to give body and flavor to their broth when meat was scarce. Sunflower seed was treated in the same way, though among the northern tribes the oil made from it was not eaten but was used on the hair. Of acorns, too, they had a great abundance, which they were in the habit of making into bread or broth, having first soaked them in lye, or in successive rinsing?s of water in order to remove the bitter taste." They were also boiled, and the oil that rose to the top was skimmed off and preserved in jars, gourds, skins, etc., as was the case with the oil of walnuts and the fat of bears, buffaloes, seals and other animals.

  In preparing and serving these different articles the Indian had need of certain utensils which may be roughly classed as kitchen and table ware. Of these, the pot or kettle, to boil his hominy or stew his meat, was first in point of general utility by virtue of the fact that most of his cooking was done in this way. As a rule, these pots were made of clay (though soapstone was occasionally used), mixed with powdered shells or some other material, and were so thoroughly baked that they could withstand the action of fire. They were of different sizes, ranging from two to ten or even twenty gallons, and were generally distributed from Canada to Florida. When in use, as they were most of the time in every Indian cabin, they were either hung up over the fire, or "set upon an heap of earth to stay them from falling." Wood was then put under and kyndled," great care being taken that the " fire burn equallye Rounde about. They or their women fill the vessel with water, and then put in fruit, flesh and fish and let all boil together like a galliemaufrye, which the Spaniards call olla podrida. Then they put it out into dishes, and set before the company, and then they make good cheer together."

  We were told that they were moderate in their eating, whereby they avoid sickness, and the old chronicler, in a fit of righteous indignation at what may have been the excesses of his English neighbors, adds "I wish to God we would follow their example. For we should be free from many kinds of diseases which we fall into by sumptions and unseasonable banquets, continually devising new sauces, and provocations of gluttony to satisfy our unsatiable appetite."

  Another kind of kettle, made of wood, was in use among the "wandering tribes" as it was not so easily broken, and in Texas they managed to cook their broth in a calabash. This was such a novel process that Cabeca de Vaca, by way of showing "how curious and diversified are the contrivances of the human family," tells us that "not having discovered the use of pipkins to boil what they would eat, they fill the half of a large calabash with water, and throw on the fire many stones of such as are most convenient and readily take the heat. When hot, they are taken up with tongs of sticks and dropped into the calabash, until the water in it boils from the fervor of the stones. Then whatever is to be cooked is put in, and until it is done they continue taking out cooled stones and throwing in hot ones." Thus, we are told "they boil their food."

  To remove the husks and fit their corn, etc., for the kettle, they boiled it in lye or pounded it in mortars made of wood or stone, which were either portable or stationary. Although these mortars were in universal use among our Indians, they were not indispensable, for upon occasion, as when travelling or hunting, the Indian simply picked up two flat stones and with them crushed his corn or any other kind of food that he happened to have, and that had to be submitted to this process. In making their wooden mortars, the Indians "cautiously burned a large log to a proper level and length, placed fire a-top, and with mortar around it, in order to give the utensil a proper form, and when the fire was extinguished, or occasion required, they chopped the inside with their stone instruments, patiently continuing the slow process, till they finished the machine to the intended purpose." Stone mortars are said to have been in use among the Osage Indians and seem to have been public property, each family using them in rotation. They were simply stones selected at random, but of suitable size, in which the cavity was made or worn by use. To this same category must be added those stationary mortars that were worn in the face of some outcropping ledge of rock, such as were more or less common at or near the village sites of the Indians that lived south of the Ohio. The pestles used in these deeper mortars were of stone or wood, some of them rudely ornamented with carvings. West of the Alleghanys, a short pestle or pounder with a flat rounded base, known locally and to collectors as a muller, is frequently found. Having pounded his corn to the requisite degree of fineness, it was sifted through sieves or sifters of cane splinters, or through baskets made for the purpose, of rushes or splits, and was then ready to be boiled into hominy or baked into bread.

  Coming now to their table furniture, we find that they had a variety of spoons, cups, plates and dishes of different materials, though they were somewhat unequally distributed among the different tribes. Thus, for example, among the Hurons of early times there was such a scarcity of plates and cups, or for some other equally good reason, that upon the occasion of a festival, each guest was expected to bring with him his bowl of bark with a spoon inside, both of which are said to have been very handsome. The Indians of New England were better off; and except that articles of earthenware were relatively rare, owing to "the scarcity of clay," they had an abundance of baskets, bottles, dishes, spoons, etc., of wood or bark; and what is more to the point they had made great progress in ornamenting them. This is especially noticeable in their "delicate sweet dishes" of birch bark, " from the size of a dram cup to one holding a pottle, furnished on the outside with flourisht works, and on the brim with glistening quills taken from the Porcupine and dyed some black and others red, the white being natural." So, too, the baskets in which they put their provisions, made of rushes, bents, maize-husks, bark of trees, or a kind of wild hemp, etc., are said to have been " very neat and artificial, with the portraitures of birds, beasts, fishes and flowers upon them in colors." They were of different sizes and would hold from a pint up to four bushels or more. Their dishes, spoons and ladles "were very neat and of a sort of wood not subject to split," and the mats upon which they slept and sat were of several sorts and " were dyed some black, blue, red and yellow."

  Creditable as is this display, it was surpassed both in variety and number by the different articles that made up the table furniture of the southern tribes. Especially is this the case with their earthenware, which, even as early as in the time of De Soto, is said to have differed but little from that of Estremoz and Montemor, towns in Spain. Du Pratz, who wrote some two hundred years later, tells us that this pottery was made by the women, who not only form the vessel, but dig up and mix the clay. In this they were quite expert, for they are said to make " pots of an extraordinary size, pitchers with a small opening, bowls, quart bottles with long necks, pots or pitchers for their bear oil which will hold forty pints, and lastly plates and dishes in the French fashion." He had some made in imitation of his imported ware, which was "of a very pretty red." Adair, whose account of these tribes, aside from his notion as to their identity with the lost tribes of Israel, is one of the best that we have, confirms this statement, and adds certain particulars as to other articles that are of interest. They make, so he tells us, " earthen pots to contain from two to ten gallons, large pitchers to carry water, bowls, dishes, platters, basons and a prodigious number of other vessels of such antiquated forms as would be tedious to describe and impossible to name. Their method of glazing them is, they place them over a large fire of smoky pitch-pine, which makes them smooth, black and firm."- In addition to this liberal supply of table ware, they had cups and spoons of shells and gourds; and their wooden dishes, and spoons and ladles of wood and buffalo horn, "show something of a newer invention and date, being of a nicer workmanship, for the sculpture of the last is plain, and represents things that are within reach of their own ideas." Their sifters and strainers were of canes and of different sizes, and ?their carpets of a wild hemp were painted on each side with such figures, of various colors, as their fruitful imaginations desire; particularly the images of those birds and beasts they are acquainted with; and likewise of themselves acting in their social and martial stations." These carpets, so it is said, "show that due proportion and so much wild variety in the design that would really strike a curious eye with pleasure and admiration."

  Of their methods of preparing their food our accounts are full and explicit, and when we reflect that their only way of cooking was at an open fire, and that their only utensil was the kettle, we can understand the old chronicler's surprise at the variety of dishes they were able to concoct out of "their wild flesh, corn, beans, peas, potatoes, pompions, dried fruits, herbs and roots." On this point, too, Dumont must have been an authority, for speaking of corn, he tells us that "there were forty-two different ways of preparing it each one of which had its proper name." He does not, it is true, describe them, but other writers are not so reticent, and upon comparing their accounts and receipts it is possible to get a good idea of some of their favorite dishes. Beginning with corn – the foundation of all their cooking – we find that when in the roasting ear stage its use was prefaced by a solemn feast which seems to have been in the nature of a thank-offering; of first fruits. Among the Southern tribes this festival was known as the Boosketau,-' and it was attended with certain rites and privileges, among which was a general amnesty for all crimes except murder. There was no prescribed time for its beginning or duration, but it usually lasted several days, and there is reason to believe that formerly it was not until it was over that each family was privileged to make what use it pleased of its own field of corn.'' When, however, the feast was over, and the old hearths had been swept out and the new fire kindled, the restriction was removed, and the Indian woman as head of the cabin, cook and mistress of the household generally, was given an opportunity for the display of those house-wifely qualities upon which her position in the family and village chiefly depended. That she showed herself equal to the task imposed upon her, is the evidence of almost all the old chroniclers who enjoyed her hospitality, and it will not be gainsaid by those of us who have a practical acquaintance with the succulent dishes we owe to her skill and ingenuity. Among them, there was one that was in such general demand that it may be said to be typical. To the French it was known as sagamite, whilst among the English it was variously termed samp or hominy. It was made of ripe corn, either whole, or pounded in a mortar or between two stones, and boiled with any kind of meat or fish, dried or fresh, that they happened to have. If, as often occurred, they had no meat, and did have an oil or a fat of any kind, they used it to give body and flavor to their sagamite. In fact, fat is said to have been their "sugar" or sauce, and among the northern tribes it was eaten by itself "as we do an apple." When they were in season they mixed pumpkins, fresh or dried, chopped up fine, and beans, peas and other vegetables with the corn. If, perchance, their corn gave out altogether, they substituted for it pounded chestnuts, acorns, wild rice or, in fact, anything that would give substance and character to the dish. Sometimes in the spring and early summer, they used green corn and beans instead of dried; and under the name of succotash this is a favorite summer delicacy with us. We, however, cook the vegetables by themselves, though formerly this was not the case, for, according to an old writer, when made with bear oil, " the fat moistens the pulse and renders it beyond comparison delicious." Another way of preparing the green corn was to slice off the grains from the cob on which they grew, and knead them into a paste. This, we are told, can be done " without the addition of any liquid, by the milk that flows from them ; and when it is effected, they parcel it out into cakes, and inclosing them in leaves place them in hot embers where they are soon baked," or else they boil them. In a burst of justifiable enthusiasm the writer from whom much of the above account is taken adds : " and better flavored bread I never ate in any country," a sentiment which those of us who know the dish will cheerfully endorse. Their Leindohy or bled-puant although in great request, was not, for obvious reasons, held in high esteem by the whites. To prepare it, they took the corn before it was fully ripe, and buried the ear in stagnant water, for two or three months, and until it was rotten. Then they took it out and boiled it with meat or fish, or ate it roasted in the ashes. There is nothing, we are told, that smells worse than this corn, though they suck it as if it was sugar-cane. So strong and offensive was the odor, that the old writer confessed that he not only could not eat it, but did not like to touch it as the infection clung to his hands for several days. Nocake or rockahominy was another favorite preparation, especially when away from home travelling or hunting. To make it the ripened corn was first parched and then pounded into meal. In this shape it would keep indefinitely, and it was so nutritious that two or three spoonfuls of it mixed with water would furnish a man with food for a day. When they had maple sugar, they mixed it with the meal, as it was considered a great improvement. They also took the corn before it was fully ripe, and slicing the grains from the cob, they dried them in the sun or on a frame over the fire. This was the blé-grolee of the French, and to use it, they cooked it in the same way as their sagamte.

  In addition to these dishes, which are in the nature of broths, stews or porridges, the Indians made several kinds of bread of their corn, or failing this, of chestnuts, beans, acorns, sweet potatoes or any other suitable material that they could get. This involved an entirely different process of cooking, and the fact that some of this bread, as for instance the ash-cake, johnny-cake and the pone, still finds favor with us, is proof of the success that attended their efforts. In preparing these dishes, the ripe corn was pounded to a fine meal, which was duly sifted, and having been made into dough with water or, as Adair suggests, with bear oil, it was covered with leaves and baked in the ashes, or on broad stones or " broad earthen bottoms " placed over a fire. In baking loaves, and the same account will apply to pones, "they make a strong fire and when it is burned down to coals, they carefully rake them off to each side, and sweep away the remaining ashes; then they put their well kneaded bread loaf, first steeped in hot water, over the hearth and an earthen bason above it, with the embers and coals a-top." This method of baking is as clean and efficacious as if done in any oven, and the loaf cooked in this manner is said to be firm and very white. It is, moreover, so we are told, " very wholesome and well tasted to any except the vitiated palate of an epicure," and was served with "bear's fat purified into a perfect chrystalline oil, and honey with which the country abounds. Sometimes the dough is mixed with fruit, fresh or dried as the case may be, and this makes a sort of cake of which they are fond."

  Of their drinks not much can be said, for the reason that, generally speaking, they had nothing but water, and, curiously enough, they preferred it warm and stagnant. Occasionally, as we have seen, they made a milk of hickory nuts, and they diluted and drank the broth in which their hominy was boiled. They, also, drank the bouillon in which their meat, or the crushed bones of such animals as they ate, were cooked. The sap of the sugar maple, according to La Hontan,'' was also drunk, and it was not unusual for them when cooking "a fat bear or three or four beavers" to skim off the grease that rose to the top of the kettle, and drink it as if it were the sweetest "parochimel," whatever that may have been. That the Indians of Virginia and elsewhere flavored their drinking water with " ginger, saxifras and other wholesome herbs, including honey and dried fruits, is probable enough ; but that " they drank wine whilst the grape lasteth," we doubt, though Gookin tells us that in Massachusetts they planted orchards of apples and made cider; which some of the worst of them are too prone to abuse into drunkenness. Evidently, with the culture of the apple, they had also learned from the whites how to manufacture and drink hard cider.

  Thus far our investigations have been almost entirely confined to the produce of their fields, and, satisfactory as this seems to have been, it is confessedly but a part of the picture. To complete it, the canvas must be shifted, and then we shall see them in the first or lowest stage of development, depending upon the chase for their supply of animal food. And yet, even in hunting and fishing, they had made considerable advance, for although, as we have seen, no one could acquire an absolute title to a foot of land, yet the idea of personal property had been so far developed that, as was the case with the fields and corn patches, each person could obtain a well defined tract or game preserve, "two, three or four miles in extent," within which he alone could hunt and fish. They had also learned that, whilst it was possible by their individual efforts to add materially to their stores of animal food, yet, for the chief supply, they must trust to the regular hunting and fishing excursions of the entire village, and to the united exertions of their neighbors. In other words, the surround and the game drive had virtually taken the place of the still-hunt and the dead-fall, and the seine, the weir and the dam had, to a great extent, superseded the hook, the dart and the hand-net.

  To describe even a tithe of their different methods of hunting and fishing with the attendant ceremonies, would lead us beyond our prescribed limits, and we content ourselves with calling attention to the prodigious quantity of game that was sometimes taken in the course of these expeditions. Captain Smith, for instance, tells us that " they kill 6, 8, 10, or 15 deer at a hunting." According to Cabeca de Vaca a few Indians in Texas sometimes kill from two to three hundred deer, and on one occasion in Wisconsin the Potlawotomies " having declared war against the bears," killed in a short time upwards of five hundred of them. South Carolina, we are told, circa 1750, exported 25 @ 30,000 £ worth of deer skins per annum and as late as 1819-1820 the Sacs and Foxes, who then lived in Northwestern Illinois and Northeastern Missouri, brought in, among other things, as the result of their winter hunt, 650 bear and 28,680 deer skins. These figures will give some idea of the quantities of game that must have existed in early times, and they will enable us to understand how it was possible for the Indians to serve up, at one village feast, twenty deer and four bears, and at another, a hundred and seventy fish, " a hundred and twenty of which were as large as salmon. ?Successful as these hunts and fisheries are believed to have generally been, they were carried on at set times and had reference to the game or fishes that were then in season. Consequently they did not include the hundreds of other birds, beasts and fishes that were not hunted at stated times, but were made to contribute to the Indian's larder. Of these it is unnecessary to speak at length, and the subject may be dismissed with the simple remark that there seems to have been nothing in the way of fish, flesh or fowl that some Indians did not at some time eat. Bear, buffalo and beaver; moose, elk and deer; geese, turkeys and pigeons ; fish of all kinds, including whales, seals, eels, oysters and shell fish generally, to say nothing of snakes, crocodiles, locusts, muskrats, etc., etc., were all eaten with apparent relish and seemingly without preference for any one kind. Even human beings were unhesitatingly ' thrown into the kettle" and devoured, though the flesh of Europeans is said to have been too salty to suit their taste.

  Of course when off on these hunting and fishing expeditions, a portion of their daily take was used by the hunters and their assistants. What was left, both of fish and of game, was dried, either in the sun or on a hurdle over a fire, and set aside for future use. Among other things, eels and even oysters were so prepared.'' It was also at these times that they tried out the fat of such bears, buffaloes, seals, pigeons, fishes, etc., as they took, and preserved it in skins, jars, gourds, etc., which were buried. Sometimes, according to Adair, the southern Indians mixed sassafras and wild cinnamon with the bear's oil, and in this shape it is said to be not only " good for the hair but preferable to any oil for any purpose." Smooth Florence, he adds, "is not to be compared in this respect with rough America.''

  In regard to their cooking, there is not much to be added to what has already been said. The kettle they had, of course; and it was kept on the fire almost all the time, for although there was but one regular meal cooked in the wigwam each day, yet the Indian was accustomed to eat whenever he felt like it. Moreover, according to their ideas of hospitality, " if a man entered an Indian house, whether a villager, a tribesman, or a stranger, and at any hour of the day " or night, " it was the duty of the women to set food before him," and this could not have been done unless a supply was always kept on hand, or was in course of preparation. In addition to the boiled dishes of which we have spoken, and the stews which the kettle enabled him to cook, the Indian was in the habit of broiling his meat upon coals, or roasting it on wooden spits, placed before the fire and turned as the cooking progressed, just as we do, today, when camping out. Some of the dishes prepared in this way are spoken of in high terms, roasted turkey with bear oil being an especial favorite, as was also the case with dried venison pounded in a mortar and served with the same sauce.

  Other dishes and food preparations they had, as for instance the dog, the intestines of a deer, etc., which might have been mentioned, just as it would have been interesting to note the Indians' method of saying grace, of marrying their nets, of propitiating the manes of the bear," and other ceremonies and observances belonging to this phase of life, but it is believed to be unnecessary. Enough has been given to enable us to measure the advance of the Indian along this particular line of development; and judging from the quantity and quality of the products of his fields, from the many ways of cooking his food, and from the relatively elaborate character of the table ware used in serving it, we may safely say that he had reached a degree of progress tar in advance of what we understand by the term savage. Indeed, in each and every one of these particulars, he had nothing to fear from a comparison with his white neighbor. So, too, in his system of providing for the poor and needy, for certain tribal expenses, and for punishing laziness, he displayed a knowledge of social science fur beyond his condition; and he certainly showed commendable foresight in his efforts to guard against the proverbial rainy day, by curing and preserving his surplus stores of game, fish and other kinds of food. That these supplies sometimes fell short is, of course, well known. The presence of an enemy, or the failure of his crop or of his hunt might, at any time, precipitate a condition of scarcity, such as occasionally occurs in the frontier life of to-day. His ideas, too, of hospitality and good breeding, or it may be a desire for popularity, or possibly some medicinal, social, or religious function may have led to a certain rude magnificence in his way of living that does not comport with our ideas of prudence, though something not unlike it is common enough amongst those who are supposed to act, if not from higher motives, at least from a better knowledge. Moreover, to the credit of the Indian be it said, his prodigality injured no one but himself; and when we consider that his position in the village and tribe depended, in good part, upon this very prodigality – that according to his ideas, riches consisted not in what he had, but in what he gave away, – it will be seen that even in what is sometimes termed a brutal and wasteful indulgence, he may have been actuated by motives that are recognized as worthy and proper by civilized gentlemen.

  That he was a hunter, and as such occupied a place in the first or lowest stage of development as we have marked it out, is most true. It is, also, true that he was something more, for he was, in a small way, a farmer just like his white neighbor. Indeed, so far as the comforts and conveniences that belong to this condition of life are to be regarded as a measure of progress, he did not materially differ from the advance guard of the band of pioneers that crossed the Alleghany s and won the west to civilization.


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