The Ojibwe Native American Tribes of Minnesota
Food of the Ojibwe
Food was an important aspect of Ojibwe life, its traditions passed down through the generations. The Ojibwe had a variety of things that they ate.
Hunting and Fishing
Meat was a big part of the Ojibwe diet, although the kind that was most commonly eaten depended on the environment of the tribe. Both Woodland and Plains Indians did a lot of fishing in the many streams and lakes scattering Minnesota. Women would create nets to pull fish in with. Fishing was important enough in Ojibwe life that they even set up designated conservationists to monitor streams and fishing spots to make sure that the populations didn't get too low. Woodland Indians hunted for small game like raccoons, muskrat, beaver, elk, and deer, while the Plains Indians went more for buffalo meat (Redish). The majority of hunting was done in the fall. Small groups of hunters would move off into isolated areas to make sure that no one was overcrowding a place and so that everyone would get a fair allowance of food (Donn).
Another seasonal activity that involved people moving around was Sugar Bushing. In February, maple trees started the peak of their sap production, and the Ojibwe took full advantage of this. Families skilled in the process moved to areas with large numbers of Maple trees and tapped the bark, letting sap flow into waiting buckets. Maple syrup was an important ingredient in many Ojibwe foods, what with the variety of ways that they were able to process and use it. After the sap was boiled down, they could either leave it in that form and add it to foods, let it harden into candies, or process it enough to where it becomes Maple sugar. The sugar and syrup are then used for cooking dishes (Weyaus).
Fruits and Vegetables
Although the Ojibwe were not excessive agriculturalists, each family did cultivate their own gardens for subsistence farming. They planted pumpkins, corn, squash, and potatoes and harvested in late summer (Donn). The plentiful berries in the forests were also another greatly utilized growth. Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries were just some of the many fruits that the Indians collected. Today there are not as many left, but the Ojibwe have not forgotten their love of berries (Taylor).
The one crop that the Ojibwe harvested in large quantities was wild rice. During harvest time in August, Indians would paddle their canoes into areas with rice and knock it in, using the boat as a type of basket. While beating the stalks of rice, some seeds would fall back into the water, providing an easy planting method for the next crop (Donn). Gathering wild rice has been a tradition passed down from generation to generation, although now unfortunately it is becoming more and more rare due to the nature of its time constraints. After the rice is harvested, it must be dried and roasted slowly over a fire if it is to be done according to tradition. Although there are more convenient methods to preparing wild rice, the practice is done to keep the Ojibwe culture alive and to create a sense of tribal togetherness (Sam). The rice can then be made into flour for bread, or cooked on its own to be put into soups, proving its usefulness in many areas (Donn).
The Ojibwe Native Americans relied much on their environment to provide food for them. From the ground, to the water, to the trees, these people knew a variety of sources to create food from, and knew how to respect and be in harmony with nature.
Donn. “What Did They Eat?”. Mr.Donn.org. 2006. 21, April, 2008.
Redish, Laura. “Ojibwe Indian Fact Sheet.” Native Languages of the Americas. 2007. 21 April, 2008.
Sam, Leonard. “Ricing and Fishing”. Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe. 21 April, 2008.
Taylor, Beatrice. “Summer Gathering”. Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe. 21 April, 2008.
Weyaus, Ken. “Springtime Sugarbushing”. Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe. 21 April, 2008.