THE NATIVE AMERICAN HARVEST GATHERING

By Jamie K Oxendine on November 17, 2011
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THE NATIVE AMERICAN HARVEST GATHERING

By Jamie K. Oxendine, Lumbee/Creek

Editor, PowWows.com

Director, Black Swamp InterTribal Foundation

Long before White Contact to the “New World” the Native Americans had many kinds of celebrations for the four seasons.  One of the most celebrated for the Eastern Woodland Culture was that of Harvest Time.  This festival was mainly indigenous to the Eastern Woodlands because of their strong agricultural base. Of course these celebrations took place in Autumn but their actual time varied from place to place and was mainly dependent on the window of harvest time before the last hard killing frost.
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In the North East and Great Lakes the Harvest Time began in what is now late August and lasted up to October and November.  In the South East the Harvest Time began in August and could last into December.

 This was a glorious time of harvesting and gathering such things as:

Acorns

Beans

Birch Bark

Blackberries

Blueberries

Cattails

Corn Native American Historical Harvest Gathering

Cotton

Cranberries

Fish

Grapes

Honey

Meats

Milkweed

Mints

Pawpaws

Peas

Pecans

Peppers

Persimmons

Pond Grass

Popcorn

Potatoes

Pumpkins

Sassafras

Squash

Sunflowers

Sweet Potatoes

Tomatoes

Walnuts

Wild Rice

AND MORE!

And yes many of the “food stuffs” in this list are actually indigenous to the New World and only grew in the New World.  Many were taken back to Europe, Asia and Africa by the White Man after contact and over time became staples for those Continents.

As much food as possible was sun dried and smoked dried and hung in lodges as well as buried in food stores for the coming long winter.

These times also included work on villages and homes getting them prepared for the coming winter.  This was the perfect time to do any repair work on wigwams and longhouses.  The last bit of warm weather was a good time to collect any samplings still full of tree sap that could be very pliable for repairing sections of lodges and for bending to shape for future use.  Pond grass, cattails and bark was heavily harvested and stored in lodges to be worked on during the cold winter months.  Cattails, plant down, feather down and moss were collected for insulation in both lodges and clothing. 

During the height of harvesting and gathering there would be great celebrations of thanks with music, song, dance, gifting and feasting.  The general celebrations varied but often lasted anywhere from 4 to 7 days and maybe even longer.  The rest of the time was used working hard and long to prepare for the coming winter.

Afterwards, the people of the North East and Great Lakes drew in for a long hard and often bitter winter.  Only the Tribes in the South East had more celebrations that coincided with the warmer climate.  They could count on certain food stuffs and other needed natural materials to still be collectable throughout the winter months with their milder winter.
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TOPICS: Featured, Food, Native American Articles, Native American Culture, Native American History

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12 Responses to “THE NATIVE AMERICAN HARVEST GATHERING”

  1. Carol Ann Allen says:

    Jamie,
    This was wonderful. I look forward to reading more of your writings.
    I always learn so much from you.
    Your Friend
    Carol Ann

  2. Georgia Adams says:

    All right, Jamie! Nice article!
    Niya’weh!
    –Georgia

  3. Deborah Carroll says:

    I enjoyed reading about your culture and hope to read more, attempt to learn the ways of survival of the Great Native American Tribes, that existed with the land as one for hundreds of years. I am not proud of the Caucasians who stole the land from you, enslaved Negroes to work the land for profit, and it is something I will never understand. But this is another time. Regardless, the same destruction of people and their lands and customs are still a fact of life today. I am interested in your people’s way of life. And anything you can do to help me learn will be appreciated. Sincerely, Dee Carroll

  4. Noah York says:

    As a kid, I sang that same some song about picking up Pawpaws, put ‘em in a pocket…etc. I had no idea that a pawpaw was a real thing. In fact, I remember singing “pompom’s” because it was the only thing I knew was a real thing. It seems like a cool fruit, and I would love to try it one day.

  5. Lee Slusher says:

    It is amazing how the Native people had to prepare for winter and how it truly took up a lot of time during the Fall to prepare.

  6. Alvelia Farmer says:

    I think the way the Native Americans prepared for the winter was very responsible. Not only that, but they had fun while they did it! Win-Win situation all the way around. Thanks for sharing this.

  7. Mark Chase says:

    This was yet another insightful and informative posting looking into the lives of Native Americans. The tribes of the Northeast and Southeast certainly knew how to prepare far in advance for such a harsh time of the year. We can still learn a lot from the indigenous peoples of the past.

  8. Douglas Spirit Bear Neely says:

    Its amazing to me how they knew to prepare certain foods certain ways. I guess trial and error explains of a lot it. It seems like Native Americans were always thinking ahead, the original “Boy Scouts” “Be prepared”!

  9. Nate Zona says:

    I love harvest celebrations! My garden is full and it’s time to feast :)
    Thanks for writing about this, it’s cool to see how life once was in these parts.

  10. Gary Jeffrey says:

    So astounding to know that literally almost everything was put to use in some way, shape, or form. There were things listed that I wasn’t sure had a practical use until I continued to read. So interesting to know the practicality of everything!

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