Native American Farming

I was pointed towards a website by a longtime friend just the other day when I was pondering my ability to have a good future as a blog writer on Facebook. I found a multitude of stories that I found very intriguing on the site, one of which was labeled “Coming out as a BiRacial”.

Follow that link to go to the story and read it yourself!

In a nutshell, it discusses the pains of the writer as she goes through life looking mostly like a caucasian-american while her mother is African American. She talks about how, when she was younger, she would collect pictures of beautiful African American woman because she knew it was something that she could never be. Then, in high school, people would refer to her as Mexican, since most of the other kids in the school were, so she adapted her style of talking and dressing so that she could qualify as Latina descent although she wasn’t.

I found this article very relatable to me, not because I was the “Michael Jackson child” of my family but because I always felt like there is something more. I am of mainly German with Irish, Dutch and Native American descent. As a small child I full-heartedly believed my older sister Nicole that I was adopted when she would adamantly tell me that the sad truth was that no one wanted me (it’s okay for me to say this now since we are the best of friends!). Growing up on the farm there was neighborhood kids that I could hang out with but most of them were boys and since when do little boys want to hang out with little girls? I entertained myself with my animals; a black lab named Rosie, a large red and white paint horse named Maddy, and a small dirt-brown colored miniature horse namedDude. Oh the adventures we would have!

dude and maddy

This is Maddy, Dude and, ironically, one of the neighbor boys that I grew up with when we did our Senior pictures. 

In my playing I was convinced that I was a full-blooded Native American. I made crude forts, tree houses (usually vacant deer blinds since building one myself would take to much time), weapons and rode my horses into battle with my faithful “wolf” at my side. Imagination was never something that I was lacking in! I taught myself to walk quietly, to be thankful for all of the living things that I consumed and for the animals that I called my friends. I would like to think that this is where it all began.

This summer is where I realized that I had the transformability to turn into whatever race I wanted too. With just a little bit of summer sun I have the ability to tan into a ridiculously dark skin color which caused just a bit of confusion with my summer internship with a local West Coast League baseball team. The number of times that I got asked if I was Native American (to which I always answer yes although it’s not 100% true, in reality only 13% true), Spanish, or even, and this one cracked me up, part African American. The one that I relate to the most is Native American.

I feel a deep connection with my Native American roots, not because I was raised in that culture but because it has been a unique fascination of mine since I was a small child. Therefore in my agricultural history class I was intrigued to learn more about native american farming. My ancestors were in the northwest and the plains; neither were farmers which is ironic since that is what my family does now.

The northwest Native Americans were lucky; the food grew so plentiful that they never had to organize specific agriculture in order to survive. That was what my teacher said at least which I knew to be incorrect. Growing up at a small country school we actually raised our very own camas garden that we planted at the end of our nature trail. We took our Native American planting serious where we burnt the ends of sticks, scraped off the charcoal, and repeated until we had thin flat spades that we could dig the earth with to plant our bulbs. The beautiful blue flowers that appeared as a result were very rewarding; I can’t help but wonder what happened to that garden after my class left and the school was closed down. I felt that it would be rude to correct my teacher but I knew first hand. Maybe I will do a food blog concerning camas and actually try to cook it (although I think it may be poisonous if prepared incorrectly… yikes!).

The plains Native Americans that I am related too, the Sioux, didn’t bother with agriculture either. Living on the plains that Natives lived off of the buffalo and whatever free range growing grains, legumes, etc. that they needed to fortify their meaty diet. As a result my native ancestors never really depended upon agriculture. You could say that the plains Indians depended on ranching… I raised beef cattle for 6 years, it’s kind of the same thing right? Big connection stretch, I know!

plains buffalo vs. angus cross and

What I would like to educate you about is East Coast Native American agriculture. The Natives didn’t grow food that they necessarily enjoyed; they grew food that would grow. It was as simple as that. The Native people had a very scientific order to how they grew their crops to maximize the efficiency of the land. The first thing that they would plant was corn. Now the corn they planted wasn’t the yellow corn that we know of today but a smaller kerneled corn that we would only consider for decoration now. The next thing planted would be beans or legumes of some sort. These legumes were crawlers meaning that they would climb up the corn stalks. Think of the corn as being the “string” in “string beans” but you wouldn’t have to spend all that time and energy stringing it! Next they would plant squash which would completely cover the ground around the corn stalks. This would keep other animals and weeds from taking the seeds or hindering the growing. Talk about economical right?

indian corn

Pulled off Wikipedia’s Indian Corn page. 

These ideas were adopted by the colonists when they first arrived. The Companies that were sent to the New World by King James were usually rich people who had the time and money to go on an “adventure”. They didn’t know how to take care of themselves and if it wasn’t for the help of the native people they never would have survived. Not just that but of the two colonies that went to the New World, King James would not allow them to be closer than 100 miles apart meaning that they were on their own with no way of receiving help. (As you can see I really like history.)

Thinking about surviving off the land like the Native Americans or the early colonists is an excitingly terrifying thought. You are probably thinking that someone would have to be crazy to do that. Maybe they are but today’s reality TV world has made a killing off of people’s desire to prove that they can do it, that they can survive, in a television show called “Survivor”. Everybody, at some point in their life, has thought of trying to survive if your plane crashed or your car broke down in the middle of nowhere (in the United States, not counting Alaska, you are at most 10 miles away from a road at all times, supposedly, you could realistically walk your way out of any stranding episode. Yes, I have looked it up.).

Tracing myself back to my origin is interesting… although I do like the thought of being 1/4 African American, 1/2 Native American, 1/2 German, 1/8 Native American, and whatever else people have genuinely asked me of being. Think of the diverse food background that I would have?! Just because I am not from all of those different cultures doesn’t mean that I can’t enjoy in a big part of them, that part being food.

Don’t let anyone stop you from doing what you want to do.

Happy Trails!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
This entry was posted in Tall Tales, The Farm & Ranch. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Native American Farming

  1. Grandma says:

    Katie, Katie, Katie, I did not know this about you! So strange about your ancestors as Uncles Mike and Jeff used to torment your mother, telling her that she was adopted…she wasn’t, I was there when she was born! Love

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *