Page:The American Indian.djvu/42

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.

sents considerable climatic variety which is reflected in the aboriginal crop lists, for though maize was grown throughout, it seems to have been more exclusively toward the north. Roughly considered, in the northern half of the area, the crops were squash, beans, and maize, all planted in the same field, while in the southern half, maize was supplemented by a kind of millet, and squashes gave way to melons, sweet potatoes, and gourds.

Tobacco, though not strictly a food, may be noted here. It was extensively grown in the South, and its cultivation carried as far north as the climate permitted.

Wild plants were also abundant and many species were used. Parker's[1] exhaustive study of Iroquois foods shows how completely that people drew upon the contiguous flora. From the data at hand, we have reason to believe that in the South a still greater number of species were eaten. In the far North wild rice became almost a staple; but while, as Jenks[2] has shown in his laudable investigation of this food, it was sometimes planted by the natives, it was not truly domesticated as was rice in the Old World.

Of manufactured foods, other than those made of maize, maple sugar takes first place. Practically every essential detail of the process now in use was developed by the Indians of this area before 1492. The sugar maple being a northern tree, the trait is almost peculiar to the northern half of the area, though the box elder and a few other trees have, in later times at least, permitted a makeshift extension of the art. That any kind of sugar was made in the South is doubtful.

Another food deserving mention is oil derived from hickory and walnuts. This oil was highly characteristic of the south and added a valuable element to the otherwise starchy diet. In early days the natives did a good business in supplying this oil to the colonists. In some parts of the Atlantic coast plain tukahoe (a fungus) bread was made, and in the south, persimmon bread.

Of foods and dishes made with maize there is a long list, which is in the main the same as we ourselves use. Two noteworthy studies of this aspect of maize culture by Carr[3] and

  1. Parker, 1910. I.
  2. Jenks, 1900. I.
  3. Carr, 1896. I.