Farming

Native peoples grew domesticated plants long before the arrival of Europeans. Corn was introduced as a field crop into the Midwest about 1,200 years ago. Farming also was part of the seasonal round of subsistence activity in the 18th and early 19th centuries. This was largely the work of women, who farmed together as family groups, but men helped take down trees so that sun would reach the gardens. The women planted in the spring. Dakota women selected a place where wild artichokes were growing because the presence of artichokes indicated a rich soil. Everywhere, planting was associated with close observation of local flora, and religious ceremonies were held at the time of planting. Women used a hoe to dig small conical mounds or “hills” in rows. They soaked the seeds of corn until they sprouted and then planted the seeds by hand deep in the mounds. When the corn showed three or four leaves women loosened the earth around the mound with their fingers and, when it was large enough, hilled it up with their hoes. They grew several species of corn, beans and squash. Ho-Chunks had three kinds of corn, and two varieties of squash. Much of the crop was stored in bark barrels underground for use when other food was scarce. Many groups grew tobacco for use in rituals. After the harvest, the villages held ceremonies to give thanks. Gardening still is important today.

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