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Food - Indians ate many varieties of vegetables and meat or fish.  Food was very scarce at times, but because of their religious teachings and habits, Indians would not touch certain foods.  The Navajo and Apache would not eat fish or the flesh of a bear or beaver.  Some Indians would not eat turkey because they believed it was a cowardly bird and by eating its flesh they would become cowardly, also.  In almost every tribe totem or clan animals could not be killed or eaten.

The most important cultivated vegetable food was maize or Indian corn.  next in importance were beans, peas, squashes, pumpkins, and melons.  Wild foods, such as seeds, nuts, roots, wild rice, flowers of grasses, and leaves and parts of plants used for greens or flavorings, were gathered and eaten.  In the Southwest, cactus and yucca fruits, mesquite beans, and the agave were relished.  Some California Indians practically lived on acorns.

Buffalo, bear, antelope, elk, deer and fish were most used for food.  Rabbits and birds also were eaten, while the porcupine was an important food of the Montagnais.  The Paiute, in season, ate grasshoppers and lizards.

In the summer the Eskimo ate caribou, musk oxen, and birds.  In winter they lived principally on sea mammals, particularly seal.  The Eskimo often ate his food raw, because of a lack of fuel, but other Indians, as a rule, preferred cooked food.  They liked their food seasoned, also, sometimes using herbs.  Some Indians used salt, but it was tabooed by the Onondaga.  Salt was obtained from the evaporation of water of salt springs or the ocean, and in crystal form from salt lake beds, and by trade.  Lye, as a salt substitute, was used by some southern Indians.  meat and fish were preserved by smoking, sun drying, salting, and, in winter, by freezing.  Some meats were preserved by a method of prolonged boiling in seasoned water.  Many vegetables and fruits were dried and stored for later use.

Related Information within this Site
[Acorn ][ Bear ][ Buffalo ][ Deer ] [ Diggers ][ Feasts ][ Fire Making ]
[ Fishing ][ Hominy ][ Jerked Meat ][ Maize ][ Mescal ][ Paper Bread ]
[ Pemmican ][ (Wild) Rice ][ Roots and Rootcraft ][ Stone Boiling ][ Totem ]