A LIVING HISTORY BLOG.
Tuesday, 20 July 2021
Tuesday, 13 July 2021
Friday, 9 July 2021
Wednesday, 7 July 2021
Sunday, 4 July 2021
Tuesday, 15 June 2021
Saturday, 12 June 2021
Thursday, 10 June 2021
Saturday, 5 June 2021
Friday, 28 May 2021
The Corn Of The Eastern Woodlands.
The Origin of Corn
Of teosinte? Most certainly. Created by selective breeding? Definitely. Hybridization? A strong possibility. What it took to create maize was nothing less than science in action - science put into action by some of Central America’s original Peoples. Theories have evolved over the decades, and with the implementation of modern DNA analysis, we are, little by little, getting to know the full story of how corn evolved into the grain we know today. There are still unknowns, and the actual process has yet to be replicated or fully proven by researchers. It’s truly a grain that defies our conventional explanations, yet the history and origin of corn is certainly known and understood among those who cultivated Her first.
Corn’s Native history is one that speaks to its other worldly design, whether introduced to humans by Selu (Corn Mother aka Corn), or to have first sprouted from the grave of Sky Woman’s daughter, or be a gift to us all from benevolent Hare (one of the dueling twins). Make light of Corn’s spirit, offend Her in some manner, or take Her for granted, and you may find all corn to disappear. And while some tribal histories speak of famine in Her absence, imagine if She was to leave us now in a world that relies so much on corn. Still unknowing much of corn’s earthy start with all our “advance technology,” this plant has proven itself to be no less than what the Native histories have already told us… absolutely miraculous.
The First Corn to Come to the Woodlands
Corn made its first real impression as a crop east of the Mississippi at about 200BC, later becoming widely adapted in the Woodlands by 900AD. A very early variety of corn to be found in some Eastern North American archaeological sites is North American Pop. This type appears to come from earlier species like Small Cob (of Mexico) and Chapalote (of the American Southwest). Pop corn has its positives, particularly in its ability to be stored almost unmolested by animals and pests that found the shell to be too hard to mess with, while humans need only grind or of course “pop” the shell with the application of heat, to make the seeds edible. But the Pop corn just wasn’t very convincing for Woodland horticulturalists to fully adopt the new plant. While some Pop corns have been found among a few early sites of the East just before the major adoption of corn, the variety appears to be more of a passing trend that doesn’t calculate into the later widespread corn agricultural complex of the Eastern Woodlands (Important Note: the popcorn we know, both common and many heritage types, were post-historic introductions to North America and not of these early type recovered archaeologically… including the infamous heritage Strawberry Pop which, according to botany researchers Culter and Blake, are part of a Pop variety introduced from Mexico within the last few hundred years). Later a variety called Midwestern 12-Row makes its way to the lower Mississippi Valley until it’s replaced by the dominant Eastern 8-Row of later (which then spreads from east to west, to the Rockies). Another variety of corn to make its way east was Pima-Papago. It spread from the southwest to the western edges of the Eastern Woodlands too. However again, it just doesn’t make the lasting impact on Eastern farmers as their soon-to-be beloved corn species, Eastern 8-Row (including Northern Flint). Eastern 8-Row reaches as far north and east as Ontario, Canada by 800AD, and by 1000-1200AD, it dominated the corn scene from inland Mississippi River settlements to Atlantic coastal Nations.
The Corn of the East
It was the breeding of the new Eastern 8-Row corn, and not earlier corn types introduced from across the Mississippi, that convinced Eastern Woodland farmers (who had been cultivating squash, greens, sunflowers and tobacco for a few thousand years already) to commit in dominating their fields with the grain and embrace a high corn diet from then on. And it was Eastern 8-Row/Northern Flint corn in which Europeans first encountered in the fields and bowls of Native Woodland farmers. It was a popular variety for many reasons: It was hardy and quick to mature, giving Native farmers the ability to cultivate corn in regions with shorter growing seasons such as the northern regions of the Great Lakes, New England and adjacent areas of Canada. It was hard - it’s pericarp or hull was tough and made it a hardy grain for storage. Yet, even with a hard hull, it was edible and tasty with modest processing – it was ground into flour, parched and cracked, or soaked in lye to produce hominy. And it gave great return for the work put into cultivating it... it was an amazing grain uniquely qualified (bred) to grow in the Woodlands.
“Flint corn is called by the Choctaw Indians Tanchi Hlimimpa. It is the only kind of corn the Choctaw Indians in Mississippi had when the white people found them.” -Peter Hudson
About Eastern 8-Row/Northern Flint Corn
Even if most, or all, were 8-Row Corn type, they were still a diverse grouping of corn types. Sub-varieties came in different colors including red and blue (also described as purple or black historically), however, according to early historical observations, most varieties were yellow or white in color. A few types were speckled too (later speckled varieties often referred to as calico corn), however it appears that corn varieties upon first contacts were not generally as multicolored as modern decorative Indian corn is today (note: the general speckled decorative "Indian corn" is of recent modern breeding, like "sweet corn," and does not reflect all the qualities of Eastern corn from pre-, proto-, or early post-contact times).
“Pagatowr a kinde of graine so called by the inhabitants; the same in the West Indies is called Mayze : English men call it Guinney wheate or Turkie wheate... The graine is about the bignesse of our ordinary English peaze and not much different in forme and shape: but of [different] colours: some white, some red, some yellow, and some blew.” -Thomas Hariot, Explorer, Speaking of the Carolina Native Peoples, 1585-86.
Eastern 8-Row corn came in shorter or longer cobs (sometimes 10 or more inches in length), however the cobs tended to be slim. As its one name "Flint" might indicate, it is considered hard (the pericarp), and often sported 8 rows of kernels, however not always. Some had 10, or less commonly 12 rows. Besides a hard pericarp, the kernels of the Eastern 8-Row/Northern Flint corns present no dents (like modern Field corn) due to the makeup of its starch, and the kernels are generally crescent in shape, not long. Colors could vary (as covered earlier), though most the color was in the hull of the kernel (along with much of its nutritional content). Those of blue had a slight grey hue to their meal when ground, while some of the palest white produced a very light flour, though most produced meal of a pale yellow to golden shade.
And just like the corn sub-varieties varied in characteristics, its intended use did too. Often certain corn types were thought of as better for one product or another… one type preferred for flour use (dried or parched), one type preferred for hominy (hulled corn), one type preferred for whole or cracked parched corn, and one type preferred for green corn (or what we would think of as sweet corn, however, the sweet corn we eat today is of modern breeding). Horticultural communities often grew more than one type of corn, some growing several varieties.
“Corn is their chief produce, and main dependance. Of this they have three [s]orts ; one of which hath been already mentioned. The [s]econd [s]ort is yellow and flinty, which they call "hommony-corn." The third is the large[s]t, of a very white and [s]oft grain, termed "bread-corn." The first kind is mentioned previously: “the [s]maller [s]ort of Indian corn, which u[s]ually ripens in two months, from the time it is planted.” -James Adair, Indian Trader, speaking of the Southern Nations 1735-75.
To keep strains separate (colors, textures, and other characteristics), each sub-variety had to be grown separate of each other, spaced by either distance or sowing time, or both. This will not keep all from cross-pollinating, however Native farmers presumably picked their seeds for next year’s planting season carefully, disregarding those kernels from ears with unfavorable traits (ie consuming them), and keeping those kernels from ears with wanted characteristics for seed. By this method, corn strains could be manipulated to change, or remain true. Selectively breeding corn is as old as corn’s man-made introduction itself.
The corn of the east was bred and spread, whether spread through trade or warfare. Selective breeding and the sharing of seeds only continues after first European contacts, adding to the breadth of corn varieties through the post-contact period. One particular newcomer will forever change the history of corn in North America - Southern Dent. Dent corn gets its name from the concave surface at the top of every kernel. It’s because of this that Dent corn was also known as “tooth corn” among some Eastern Native peoples, as the dent resembled the impression on grinding side of a molar. This variety is native to Central America, and appears to be introduced to Eastern North America by way of Europeans. The first description of Dent corn in North America comes shortly after 1700. And it’s not till the 1800’s that the crossing of introduced Southern Dent with native Northern Flints (Eight-Row Varieties) is widely practiced. A now trendy heirloom variety born of Eastern North America - Bloody Butcher - probably originated in the mid 19th century, the same time crossing Northern Flint and Southern Dent corn types became commonplace. In fact the testimony from the family who the seeds were confined to for generations speak about it’s introduction to West Virginia from Tennessee. Well as it turns out, Tennessee was the center of the “corn belt,” leading in corn production for the nation in 1838. It was probably here (and Kentucky and Virginia) that much of this hybrid corn was created, and where Bloody Butcher likely got its start. Today the “corn belt” may be a little further west, but the field corn that dominates North American commercial farms is still a hybrid of Eastern 8-Row/Northern Flint and Southern Dent varieties.
Diemer-Eaton, Jessica. (2018, November). The Corn of the Eastern Woodlands. Retrieved from http://www.woodlandindianedu.com/cornofeasternwoodlands.html
Tuesday, 25 May 2021
Annotated Bibliography on French Colonial Archaeology in North America.
Friday, 21 May 2021
Wednesday, 19 May 2021
Friday, 30 April 2021
Monday, 19 April 2021
A Diet Of Mostly Meat Written by Stefan Pociask
My sincere thanks to Stefan for allowing me to publish this article, very much appreciated.
… Inuit people, and others of the far, far North. Their diet has very little vegetable matter of any kind, in many areas. Whale and seal meat and blubber is their mainstay, along with fish, birds and polar bear. The cuisine consists of recipes like stinkfish, fish buried in seal bags or cans in the tundra and left to ferment. And fermented seal flipper; they like that too. Items made from flour are also occasionally eaten, as this is something they may trade for.
It would be reasonable to wonder where these people and others, like the Eskimo (not all native northern people are Eskimo, and some Inuit take offence to this word), get their vitamins on such a high fat, high protein diet, when they have access to so few vegetables or plants of any kind. This question is actually called The Inuit Paradox.
The answer comes from a few sources. Much of the meat eaten, is raw; certainly blubber, fish and organs. Meat, prior to cooking, does contain quite a number of vitamins that societies who cook their meat, do not have access to. Vitamin C, for instance, exists in raw meat and organs, to the extent that raw meat every day supplies enough Vitamin C to prevent scurvy. Seal brain and whale skin also contains Vitamin C.
Also, there is another source… although there is some greenery far up north, it may be limited to only lichen for most of the year.
Lichen is too tough for humans, and in fact most animals, to break down and properly digest… cooked or not. The “Far North” people have found a wonderful solution to this. Whenever a lichen-eating animal such as a reindeer or caribou is hunted, the stomach contents are highly prized! The farther along the digestive system that the contents are found… the closer it gets to poop… obviously. But in the first half of the system, the lichen and other plants are “cooked” by stomach acids and enzymes, breaking them down to a consistency that is edible, digestible and jammed packed with vitamins. It’s like Inuit vegetarian ceviche`! Instead of lemon juice, they use stomach acid! Yum!
So… no onions in “Far Northern People’s” cuisine. Barely any plant matter at all. Yet still they manage.
Gotta love it! Life always finds a way.Akutaq Check out the recipe in that video link. It’s interesting!
Saturday, 17 April 2021
Some Woodslore I have learnt over the years:
· If you want to learn what nature has to teach, you must first understand that you are just another animal and have a natural place in this environment.
· Never rush through the woods unless you have to, you can miss a lot along the trail by rushing. Take the time to stop frequently and to look and listen.
· Always remember to look up when in the woods & look out for “widow makers”. Widow Makers are branches which have broken off and are just hanging there waiting for the wind to bring them down.
· Always check the safety of the trees around you when choosing a camp site. Especially look out for widow makers.
· Never step onto a log which may not hold your weight. You never know what may be inside it.
· Never step over a log without knowing what is on the other side.
· On very windy days, it is best not to wander in the woods. Even a small stick from high in a tree can be driven into the ground.
· Never use your axe for cutting firewood if there is no real need. Plenty of firewood can be collected from the forest floor, and wood can be broken over a rock or on another piece of wood.
· Pay attention to the sounds around you, any and all sounds should be watched for. A falling branch, a falling tree, animal noises, breaking sticks, rolling rocks etc. Always trust your instincts even though it may seem not to have come to anything. If it does not feel right, pay attention.
· Always clear a debris free area around your camp fire area and your shelter so that fire can not spread in the night.
· Never make a fire in very hot weather.
· If you do not want to attract attention, do not make a fire.
· Always carry enough food supplies in case game is scarce.
· Always carry some foods that do not require cooking.
· Always carry your gun loaded when there may be potential danger.
· Always use a hammer boot/cap on your flintlock as a safety precaution.
· A gun shot can be heard for miles in the woods.
· There are very little edible plants available in winter time.
· Traps will save ammunition and they will be working for you while you sleep or are busy with other chores.
· Keep an eye out for natural shelters on your travels, you never know when you may pass that way again and be in need of a quick shelter.
· Always look after your equipment and keep it in good order and your blades sharp. Your tools have specific functions; don’t use them for any other purpose if you don’t have to.
· If you are going to make a shelter, do it before you make fire. If it starts to rain or snow, you can make fire under shelter.
· Always store spare kindling at the back of your shelter in case your fire goes out in the night.
· Stack firewood close so you can stoke the fire without leaving your blanket.
· Use rocks at the back of your fire to reflect some warmth into your shelter. Never use rocks from a creek or river.
· If you dig a fire pit, use the earth to surround the pit to stop rain water flowing in and extinguishing your fire.
· Make your bed on a pile of sticks to keep you up off the cold ground and to let water flow under you should it run through your shelter.
· Collect water for you water bottle at every opportunity. You never know where the next water source may be.
· Water is a source of food; always follow a water course if you can.
· Other animals can teach you much, pay attention to them. Animals do not naturally rush through the woods without reason, pay attention. Other animals may have better hearing and scent than you do, and this can save your life. Pay attention!
· Always carry spare tinder in your pack.
· Look for tinders along the trail if you are getting low.
· Make sure to top up your tinderbox at every fire making if it needs it.
· Always have your fire steel securely tied to your person so that it can not be lost.
· Before making fire, remove your powder horn and place it at the back of your shelter and cover it with your blanket.
· Always try and set up camp in daylight, and check the camp site for ant and spider nests.
· Layer your clothing on a trek so you can remove or add to suit the temperature. Don’t push too hard and perspire, if your clothes do get wet in winter, take them off in front of the fire and dry them out before bedding down, or you will get cold in the night.
· Always carry a candle with you in your fire bag, it will help to make fire if the kindling is damp.
· When your gunpowder wallet is empty, it is a good place to store spare tinder.
· When looking for dry kindling in wet weather, look under rocks and fallen trees, look in hollow trees, cut wood from dead trees; under the surface it will be dry.
· Prepare several sizes of kindling before making fire.
· Trees will usually fall down hill, but not always!
· The bark will come off a living tree easier in the summer than in the winter.
· Any large animal is dangerous if wounded.
· Snakes can be slow to move and aggressive in spring, take care where you tread.
· When drying your moccasins in front of the fire, do it slowly! Do not overheat the leather.
· Always plug the vent hole before making fire with the lock of your gun.
· Always make sure your gun can’t fall when not in your hands!
· If you should lose the trail when tracking wounded game, mark the last sign with your handkerchief or neckerchief or patch cloth and move in ever increasing circles around your marker until you pick up the sign again. Always take care the game is not waiting in ambush!
· Be sure to clearly sight your game before you shoot.
· Be sure of the area beyond your target.
· A ball or bullet can ricochet off water.
· When using an axe or hatchet/tomahawk, make sure you are clear should the tool glance off the wood.
· Always carry a bandage for injury or snake bite.
· Some people have survived 3 weeks without food, but depending on exertion and weather conditions you will need water within 3 days. Always carry water with you.
· On long treks, carry a ball mould and a lead ladle. You can remould the spent lead you retrieve from game.
· Do not use dried grass or bark as wadding if there is a danger of starting a fire!
· Char your tinder in the fire and extinguish it by placing it in your tinderbox and closing the lid.
· Keep some uncharred tinder in your tinderbox.
· Carry your fireworks in a greased leather fire bag to keep them dry.
· Always wrap the head of your hatchet or use a sheath when carrying.
· A button closure on the flap of your shot pouch will keep all inside safe if you should take a fall.
· Wear your powder horn toward your back when hunting so as to stop sparks landing on the horn.
· Seal inside your lock mortise and barrel channel with beeswax.
· A smokeless fire is made with small dry kindling.
· To keep a straight line in the woods without a compass in daylight, place your back to a tree and focus on another two successive trees in front of you. When you reach the first tree, put your back to that tree and repeat.
· Marking trees to mark a trail is a good idea to maintain direction, and to aid you should you wish to return. But remember, other people can follow your trail.
· To keep you warmer at night with only one blanket, carry extra clothing in your blanket roll.
· When packing for the trail, there must be a compromise between two principles: maximum self-reliance, and minimum weight.