THE NATIVE AMERICAN HARVEST GATHERING

THE NATIVE AMERICAN HARVEST GATHERING

Posted By Jamie K Oxendine November 17th, 2011 Featured

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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About Jamie K Oxendine

Jamie K. Oxendine, of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina, is the Native American Liaison and Education Consultant for Ohio University in Athens. Ohio. He is also an adjunct professor at the University of Toledo teaching “Indians of North America” and at Lourdes University teaching “Native American Culture” for the Lifelong Learning Center. A frequent speaker on Native American topics, he serves as the director of the Black Swamp InterTribal Foundation in Ohio. As a recording artist, he was three times been nominated for a NAMMY (Native American Music Award).

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17 thoughts on “THE NATIVE AMERICAN HARVEST GATHERING

  1. Julie M. Finch says:

    I watched a video interview with Oren Lyons, Turtle Clan, Onondaga, Haudenosaunee (sp?) It took place at the Prairie Knights Lodge on Standing Rock, N.D. It is on the website of Indian Country… I was very moved by many things he sad. One thing he mentioned was gratefulness, their harvest ceremonies. I suddenly realized it was the First Nations of Massachusetts who invited the Caucasian new arrivals at Plymouth to a harvest meal. The gratitude for all things, animal, vegetable, etc. seems to me such a spiritual and traditional part of Native life and culture and prayer.
    Am I right? Thank you for this interesting article.
    ps I spent four days in October at Sacred Stone Camp and part of it at Oceti Sakowin, where I was so moved by the prayer ceremonies at sunrise.

  2. Adam Klein says:

    Glad for this page on the day of White American Thanksgiving as I was looking for some First Nations history about harvest gatherings. I would like to suggest that another of the foods that would have been collected for these feasts would have been American Chestnut, Castanea dentata, which would have been more abundant than acorns until the outbreak of an Asian fungus around 1910 all but wiped out these trees across the eastern USA, has been absent from anyone’s menu. Happily, a group of humans has been long working on breeding a resistant variety of this great tree and it may soon retake its dominant place in the forests of eastern North America. Cheers

  3. Molly LaBadie says:

    I am intrigued by the Native American’s collecting and harvesting enough food for their entire nation, or tribe, or family to last the entire winter months. If the winters were as harsh as they are now in the great lakes region that must have been a very difficult task to undertake. The Native American’s must have been phenomenal at collecting the right amount and distributing it accordingly.

  4. Alyssandra Schwind says:

    This was a very good read! It is interesting to learn about how the Native Americans prepared for the winter and how the fall was the major aspect of preparing for what was lying ahead.

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