Native American Food

Native Americans lived close to nature. So they gathered their food from natural resources such as plants and animals. Hunting and farming were the two main methods of getting food.

Some tribes hunted bison and other animals. Such tribes moved around a lot in order to keep up with the moving herds of animals. Others practiced agriculture and stayed in one place to tend to their crops.

Native American Bison Hunting

Bison, or the American buffalo, lived in large herds in the Great Plains area. So the Native Americans in the Plains area hunted bison as their main food source.

When the Europeans arrived, they introduced horses to the Native Indians. From then onwards, the Native Americans started using horses to follow and hunt the bison. Once hunted, they used all parts of a bison’s body such as the meat, bones, hide, hair and tendons.

Towards the 19th century, excessive bison hunting led to a drastic decline in the population of the bison. This greatly affected the Native American tribes in the Plains area who had to face starvation and food shortages because of this.

Native American Farming

Farming was the main source of food for a number of Native American tribes, especially those living in the southern regions. The south had plenty of sunshine which was required for good crops.

Native Americans grew many crops including maize or corn, cotton, pumpkins, beans, potatoes and squash. However, corn was the main crop. They grew corn in large quantities and ate it throughout the year.

They would store the surplus corn during summers and then consume it during winters. They also used advanced agricultural techniques such as rotational farming and agriculture.

Native American Fishing

Native Americans tribes living along the coast, in areas with numerous rivers, near big lakes, or in the northern areas frequently relied on fishing. Fish was one of the main sources of their food.

The tribes living along the coastal areas also hunted seal and other marine animals, so they had plenty of meat. The tribes living in deep north often dug holes in the ice to access the water beneath.

They would then use spear to hunt the fish which came to the hole to breathe. The Native Americans ate fresh fish and also dried or smoked it for storage. They would then use this preserved fish during the winters.

Food Gathering and Foraging

Foraging was an important source of food for many Native American tribes. Although it was not the main source, it provided them with valuable foods that contained important nutrients. Through foraging, they gathered foods such as berries, nuts, avocadoes and various other fruits.

Native American Cooking

Native American tribes didn’t use a lot of seasoning when cooking their food. They ate it fresh and cooked it in a simple way.

The Native tribes living in Central America, such as the Aztecs and the Mayans, used a lot of spices. They would even add spices to a drink of cocoa beans and called this chocolatl, which eventually evolved into the term ‘chocolate’ that we know today.