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Ojibwa Food

Traditional First Nations Food

Hunters returning with meat for the camp.Traditionally Ojibwa food has been hunted down, hauled from the water or gathered from the forests and along the waterways.

When people live in an environment that has no modern conveniences like electricity or refridgeration, the collection and production of food becomes a daily activity that takes up many, many hours. People the world over have used primitive tools...bows and arrows, spears, clubs...to hunt down and kill animals that have often been many times stronger, faster and more powerful than themselves. When Hollywood referred to native American men as 'braves', they weren't off the mark.

Hunting Methods

Hunting with primitive tools took great skill and knowledge. The hunter had to know the animal - its habits, its ability to defend itself, the most likely way of making a kill - and he had to be silent, very fast and very powerful.

With luck a single man could bring down a large animal, but it was more effective for small bands of men to track down, surround an animal and move in for the kill all at once.

OJibwa Food from the Waterways

In shallow waters it was possible to spear fish but in narrow streams a net could gather in more than one fish at a time. Elongated woven baskets attached to a pole were also used to scoop fish out of the water.

It wasn't just fish that were caught. Ojibwa food also included mussels, turtles, crayfish and frogs.

Farming Methods

In areas of reasonably temperate climate, some Ojibwa food was grown in small garden plots. Southern tribes learned to grow squash (curcubita), gourds and corn and the practise made its way at least as far north as the Illinois area.

Indian Corn

Corn was originally domesticated in Mexico but becaome an important part of the Eastern Woodlands Indian diet about 1300 years ago. the northern Ojibwa, of course, couldn't grow corn.

At the time the continent was very heavily forested and if a suitable garden plot wasn't available it had to be created. It was possible to use a controlled fire to fell a single tree, but another method was to strip bark from several neighbouring trees so that when they died sunlight could filter through to the forest floor.

Other plants were domesticated...many of which are considered weeds today. Goosefoot (chenopodium bushianum), marsh elder (iva annua), little barley (hordeum pusillum), and maygrass (phalaris caroliniana).

Although it was used for ceremonial purposes, not food, it's interesting to note that native people domesticated tobacco more than 2000 years ago.

Natural Harvests

Other Ojibwa food was just there for the taking. Fruits such as grape (vitis), sumac berries (rhus), blackberries (sanbuccus canadiensis), plums, (prunus) could ususally be found from one end of the territory to the other.

Persimmons (diospyros virginiana), groundnuts, (apios americana), hazelnuts (corylus americana) and other ediblets were only found in the warmer parts of the territory.

Some foods were only available in the cooler climate - wild rice and maple syrup for example.


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