Land, Water, and Forest

Throughout the Midwest region is a network of rivers and lakes that provided Native people with rich and varied sources for food, clothing, housing, and tools before and after Europeans arrived. Native people obtained many species of seasonally available fish, as well as an aquatic plant known as wild rice. The waters attracted game and water fowl that provided meat, and the forests of birch, maple, cedar and other trees offered berries, medicinal plants, and bark for building wigwams and canoes and fiber for making textiles and twine. In the winter they hunted animals and speared fish. In the spring families fished and went into the forest to tap maple trees for sugar. Summertime was for planting corn, trapping animals, and fishing. In mid-summer, families gathered bark and berries and other plants in the forest. Late summer brought families to the rice camps where they gathered and prepared wild rice for storage, and fished and hunted. All these technologies provided the peoples of the region with the necessities of life. Subsistence activities interconnected with religion and the social order. Fishing, ricing, collecting plants, hunting, and farming were in effect religious acts, requiring rituals and prayer, as well as economic ones. When Native peoples signed treaties with the United States, they ceded land in return for guaranteed access to the regions where they had fished, hunted and gathered. Today, Native people in the region continue these activities, while integrating modern technology into their work. Fishing, hunting, and gathering also have taken on new meanings as expressions of a contemporary Native identity.

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