Author Message
Terri Matthews
Post     Subject: Re: Northern Native American Agriculture

Brother crow, sister corn speaks of native american agriculture in the central USA. They would garden in the low lands near the big rivers.

The corn and other vegetables would be planted in the spring, and cultivated three times.  By then the vegetables would hopefully be ready to fend for themselves, and everybody packed up and followed the buffalo.

Late summer they would return to the gardens with a load of dry meat to last all winter long, and then they would have "The Feast of the Green Corn", which was a feast centered around roasting ears of fresh corn.

The seed corn was carefully wrapped to protect it from damp,, and it was buried in holes in the bluffs. The area was carefully hidden, as it would be a disaster if an enemy were to find the corn seeds. The craops to be eaten would be harvested and stored for the winter.

Sunflowers were raised as well as the three sisters: The seeds would be harvested and, as they were needed, they would be crushed. The crushed seeds would be put in water and the shells would float whle the nut meats would sink. The water with the nuts would then be used as the base of soup or stew.
Suzy Bean
Post     Subject: Re: Northern Native American Agriculture

Paul and Dave Bennett talk about the "Horticulture of the United States of Pocahontas" in this podcast:
Paul Cereghino
Post     Subject: Re: Northern Native American Agriculture

The diseases, followed by cultural genocide likely took lots of detailed knowledge.  I am unclear of how much of the knowledge that remains is shared.  Work by folks like Heidi is invaluable. 

Again for NW this is a classic:
Gunther, Erna.  1945.  Ethnobotany of Western Washington.

Also, Linda Storm has been doing some scholorship on tribal prairie management

I believe the ecosystems these people lived in were so abundant it is hard for us to imagine.  We are scratching a living from a very degraded version.
Chris Klatt
Post     Subject: Re: Northern Native American Agriculture

I recently met Professor Lawrence Gross here at Montana State University in Bozeman Montana, and he teaches a course called "Native Food Systems."  He used to teach at Iowa State, and he developed the curriculum based on the interest he received from many students there.  He is Anishinaabe and from the White Earth Nation in Northern Minnesota, and he has an extensive knowledge of many of the horticultural practices of midwest tribes.

He has a very busy teaching schedule right now, but maybe he could recommend some good literature if you wrote him a nice email?  He might share the titles of the books he uses for this class.  You can find his email from this page:

Good luck!  This is something I'm interested in as well.  Here in Bozeman, it's hard enough to imagine the buffalo coming back here to the Gallatin Valley, when they can't even leave Yellowstone Park without being slaughtered by the government!  And I only live ~60 miles north of the Park, as the crow flies.
Matt Ferrall
Post     Subject: Re: Northern Native American Agriculture

I have 3 books on the subject:Native American Gardening,Buffalo Bird Womans Garden,and Brother Crow,Sister Corn.The knowhow is only part of it though as the low input genetics are no longer easily accesable.Most modern Corn,beans,and squash are bred for higher ferility and require high outside inputs.
Rosie Hatfield
Post     Subject: Re: Northern Native American Agriculture

This is something I'm really interested in too.  On the west coast/Cascadia and north region, any of Nancy J. Turner's books are invaluable:

but the OP I think was interested in the midwest?

What you're looking for is what ethno botanists do (and sometimes anthropologists), and is a big topic for academics.  Maybe try your local university library?

Good luck!
Dave Miller
Post     Subject: Re: Northern Native American Agriculture

Camas fields were tended by natives:

Camas was an important staple for Coast Salish peoples. Blue camas (Great Camas and Common Camas) beds were individually owned and passed down from generation to generation. Camas crop maintenance and harvesting can be termed semi-agricultural. Each season, families cleared their plots of stones, brush and weeds, often using fire in controlled burning. Harvesting the bulbs involved lifting small units of sod, removing the bulbs and replacing the sod layer. Camas bulbs were steamed in pits. The cooked bulbs were soft and sweet and frequently used to sweeten other foods such as soapberries. Care was taken not to harvest the similar looking, toxic Death Camas which usually grows in proximity to the Blue Camas -

I am pretty sure that huckleberry patches at higher elevations were also "owned" by family groups, though I don't think they were intensively managed.

And of course around here (PNW) the natives used fire to maintain savanna-like conditions (dominated by Quercus garryana).  This resulted in more game, more edible bulbs, etc.  I have been meaning to try that myself.  The neighbors might not like it though 

This might be a good article on Camas "farming":
Matt Ferrall
Post     Subject: Re: Northern Native American Agriculture

The area you are interested in is well suited to annual production.I think St.Lous is near the center of a giant agriculturaly based Native American empire/civilization that was spreading and had reached where the pilgims when they arived.I believe the Native agrarian cultures were fighting with the woodland/forest gardening cultures.Here on the west coast we dont get summer rain making sustainable annual agriculture next to impossible so native cultures here were horticulturists,using perennials and tree crops for edible plants/vegetation. 
paul wheaton
Post     Subject: Re: Northern Native American Agriculture

I've been reading a great deal out of this book:

Some of it is available at the link.  Is that what you have in mind?

Brenda Groth
Post     Subject: Re: Northern Native American Agriculture

well in the midwest we have bear, there area a  FEW moose and Elk in the northern parts and the only real bison is farmed in Traverse City area..around here..

I actually have seen ONE Elk on our property but that was many years ago and only one..but just a hair farther north they actually hunt them.

no moose around here though but i think the UP has some.

interesting, I'd like to learn more too..

the area that we live in was heavy native american populated and the trails are very evident as we use many of them yet as roads, some roads have native american names as well as bridges, towns, etc..
ronie dean
Post     Subject: Re: Northern Native American Agriculture

Well I found this, it isn't exactly mid-west, but i think a little adjustment can make it work:

I'm going to try to attach the chart from the site and the only difference for mid-west might be the deletion of bear and moose and add bison and smaller game.

It seems that in addition to corn, they also planted beans and squash. Used fire for forest and field management.
Berries , nuts and wild plants were utilized also.

rookie Hatfield
Post     Subject: Northern Native American Agriculture

So! I caught an interesting reference about Native American agricultural practices that really got my brain gears turning, and I realized how little I knew about it. 

I tried to recall what I was taught in school and all I could come up was memories of bison, corn and beans. A real tragedy! I got the idea somewhere that they were mostly hunter-gatherers, but logically, it doesn't sit right. I just pray the agricultural knowledge of hundreds of civilizations hasn't gone completely down the drain.

So my Google search has been unfruitful, I was hoping to find information focusing on the methods and practices of North American indians.  Preferably from tribes that lived in similar climates that I do now. (Missouri) Missouri, Osage, Fox, Sauk, Iowa, Kansas etc...But i'll take what I can get.

my speal:
I know farming does not equal permaculture, but I hope to find methods and strategies that have worked well in my area for thousands of years. I know I won't be able to grow conventional crops with these methods, but so what?