January 1, 2013
Aboriginal Farming in New
Condensed by Native Village
New England: Native American agriculture in New England was based on corn, beans, gourds, pumpkins, passionflower, Jerusalem artichoke, tobacco, and squash. When the Pilgrims arrived in 1620, they depended on foods from Indian fields to survive.
Yet those same Pilgrims, along with later settlers, considered the area an untamed wilderness. Because Native agriculture was "unorderly," Europeans disregarded it. They considered New England's native people as nomadic hunter-gatherers. In fact, these tribes were actually settled farmers.
It was the Native women who did the farming. A single Indian woman could raise 25-60 bushels of corn on 1-2 acres -- enough to provide half of her family's caloric needs. Throughout the area, villages had extensive fields ranging from 20-30 acres.
The English, however, assumed that only men should farm. Europeans considered men more important than women and valued only what they perceived as men's work.
people cleared the land for farm
fields by using
slash-and-burn methods. Fires
would be built around standing trees
to kill the tree.
Later, the dead tree would be
cut down, knocking down
other dead trees as it fell.
lose their fertility -- often after 8-10
years -- the people
would increase fertilization
and/or create new fields by
burning the woods. Sometimes they
might abandon these fields and
establish a new village a short
distance away. The move would be done
gradually, often over several years. A few families
would move initially and then
the others would join them.
Indian Nations in New England believed in many different spiritual beings or forces. Unlike Europeans, they did not rely on one god with multiple personalities. Nor did they have a hierarchy of gods and goddesses. Traditional stories tell of forest and river elves, fairies, dwarves, and giants. Among the Narragansett, an entity called Cautantouwit sent the first kernels of corn to the people in the ear of a crow. For this reason, the Narragansett did not harm crows.
Village © Gina Boltz
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