A Celebration of Women Writers

"Chapter V" by Maxi'diwiac (Buffalo Bird Woman) of the Hidatsa Indian Tribe (ca.1839-1932)
From: Buffalo Bird Woman's Garden Recounted by Maxi'diwiac (Buffalo Bird Woman) of the Hidatsa Indian Tribe (ca.1839-1932) Originally published as Agriculture of the Hidatsa Indians: An Indian Interpretation by Gilbert Livingstone Wilson (1868-1930). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1917. (Ph. D. Thesis).

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom




Sprouting the Seed

Squash seed was planted early in June; or the latter part of May and the first of June.

In preparation for planting, we first sprouted the seed.

I cut out a piece of tanned buffalo robe about two and a half feet long and eighteen inches wide, and spread it on the floor of the lodge, fur side up.

I took red-grass leaves, wetted them, and spread them out flat, matted together in a thin layer on the fur. Then I opened my bag of squash seeds, and having set a bowl of water beside me, I wet the seeds in the water–not soaking them, just wetting–and put them on the matted grass leaves until I had a little pile heaped up, in quantity about two double-handfuls.

I next took broad leaved sage, the kind we use in a sweat lodge, and buck brush leaves, and mixed them together. At squash planting time, the sage is about four inches high

Into the mass of mixed sage-and-buck-brush leaves, I worked the wetted squash seeds, until they were distributed well through it. The mass I then laid on the grass matting, which I folded over and around it. Finally I folded the buffalo skin over that, making a package about fifteen by eighteen inches. We called this package kaku'i kida'kci, squash-thing-bound, or squash bundle.

This squash bundle I hung on the drying pole near one of the posts. The bundle did not hang directly over the fire, but a little to one side. Sed si femina in domo menstrua erat, she should tell it so that the package of seeds could be removed to the next lodge, or they would spoil.

After two days I took the bundle down and opened it. From a horn spoon I sipped a little tepid water into my mouth and blew it over the seeds. I took care that the water was neither too hot nor too cold, lest it kill the seeds. I rebound the bundle and hung it up again on the drying pole. At the end of another day the seeds were sprouted nearly an inch and were ready to plant.

I took a handful of the grass-and-leaves, and from them separated the sprouted squash seeds. A wooden bowl had been placed beside me with a little moist earth in it. Into this bowl I put the seeds, sprinkling a little earth over them to keep them moist. I was now ready to begin planting.

Planting the Sprouted Seed

Usually two or three women did the family planting, working together.

One woman went ahead and with her hoe loosened up the ground for a space of about fifteen inches in diameter, for the hill. Care was taken that each hill was made in the place where there had been a hill the year before. I am sure that in olden times we raised much better crops, because we were careful to do so; using the same hill thus, each year, made the soil here soft and loose, so that the plants thrived.

One woman, then, as I have said, with her hoe, loosened up the soil where an old hill had stood, and made a new hill, about fifteen inches in diameter at the base. Following her came another woman who planted the sprouted seeds.

Four seeds were planted in each hill, in two pairs. The pairs should be about twelve inches apart, and the two seeds in each pair, a half inch apart. The seeds were planted rather under, or on one side of the hill, and about two inches deep in the soil. A careful woman planted the seeds with the sprouts upright; but even if she did not do this, the sprouts grew in quickly and soon appeared through the soil.

We had a reason for planting the squash seeds in the side of the hill. The squash sprouts were soft, tender. If we planted them in level ground the rains would beat down the soil, and it would pack hard and get somewhat crusted, so that the sprouts could not break through; but if we planted the sprouts on the side of the hill, the water from the rains would flow over them and keep the soil soft. Likewise, we did not plant the sprouted seeds on the top of the hill because here too the rain was apt to beat the soil down hard.

We Indian women helped one another a good deal in squash planting, especially would we do turns with our relatives. If I got behind with my planting, some of my relatives, or friends from another family, would come and help me. When a group of relatives thus labored together, four women commonly went ahead making the hills, and two women followed, planting the sprouted seeds.

Harvesting the Squashes

The squash harvest began a little before green corn came in. It was our custom to pick squashes every fourth morning; and the fourth picking–twelve days after the first picking–brought us to green corn time.

The first picking was, naturally, not very large–three or four basketfuls, I think, in my father's family; and these we ate ourselves. The basket used for bringing in the squashes was about fifteen inches across the mouth and eleven inches deep.

The second picking was about ten basketfuls, enough for us to eat and spare a little surplus to our neighbors. After this each picking increased until a maximum was reached, and then the pickings decreased in size. The fifth or sixth picking was usually the largest.

The pickings were made before sunrise. In my father's family, one of my mothers and I usually attended to the actual picking. It was her habit to get up early in the morning, go to the field and pluck the squashes from the vines, piling them up in one place in the garden. She returned then to the lodge; and after the morning meal, the rest of us women of the household went out and fetched the squashes home in our baskets.

Squashes grow fast, and unless we picked them every four days, we did not think them so good for food. Moreover, squashes that were four days old we could slice for drying, knowing that the slices would be firm enough to retain their shape unbroken. If the squashes were plucked greener, the slices broke, or crumbled.

We could tell when a squash was four days old. Its diameter then was about three and a quarter inches; some a little more, some a little less; but we chiefly judged by the color of the fruit. A white squash should just have rid itself of green; a green colored squash should have its color a dark green. We could judge quite accurately thus, by the state of the colors.

The hills yielded some three, some two, some only one squash at a picking. I have made as many as six trips to our family garden for the squashes of a single picking; our garden was distant as far as from here to Packs Wolf's cabin–three quarters of a mile.

We picked a good many squashes in a season. One year my mother fetched in seventy baskets from our field. I have known families to bring in as many as eighty, or even a hundred baskets, in a season.

The baskets, as they were brought in, were borne up on the drying stage, and the squashes emptied out on the floor for slicing and drying; squashes not cooked and eaten fresh were sliced and dried for winter, excepting those saved for seed.

Slicing the Squashes

Slicing squashes for drying began about the third picking. Sometimes, in good years, a few squashes might be sliced at the second picking; but at the third picking, slicing and drying began in earnest.

When the squashes, emptied from the baskets, made a great heap on the floor of the drying stage, the women of the family made a feast, cooking much food for the purpose; some old women were then invited to come and cut up the squashes with knives, into slices to dry. We regarded these old women as hired; and I remember that in my father's family we hired sometimes eight, sometimes ten, sometimes only six. I think that at the time I was a young woman, when my mothers made such a feast, about ten old women came.

These old women ascended the drying stage, and sat, five on either side of the pile of squashes. Each of the old women had a squash knife in her hand, made of the thin part of the shoulder bone of a buffalo, if it was an old-fashioned one; butcher knives of steel are now used.

The squashes were cut thus:

An old woman would draw a robe up over her lap, as she sat Indian fashion, with ankles to the right, on the floor of the stage. She took a squash in her left hand, and with her bone knife in her right, she sliced the squash into slices about three eighths of an inch thick.

The squash was sliced from side to side, not from stem to blossom. An old woman slicing squash would take up a squash, cut out the stem pit and the blossom, then turn the squash sidewise and slice, beginning on the side nearest her. The cut was made by pressing the bone blade downward into the squash as the latter lay in her palm.

The first three slices and the last three of a large squash; or the first two and the last two of a smaller squash, the old woman put beside her in a pile, as her earnings for her work; upon this pile also went any squash thought too small to be worth slicing.

These end slices we thought less valuable than those from the middle of the squash; and unlike the latter, they were not spitted on willow sticks, but were taken home by the old woman worker in her blanket, or her robe, or in something else in which she could carry them. About three sacks of these inferior slices would be carried home at one time by an old woman worker.

These less valuable slices being cut close to the rind were of solid flesh. The better slices had each a hollow in the center, caused by the seed cavity. The old women did not spit their solid slices on willows, but dried them on the ground, carefully guarding them against rain; for if wet, the drying slices would spoil.

Squash Spits

All the better slices, the ones to be retained by the family that hired the old women workers, were spitted on willow rods to dry.

These rods we called kaku'iptsa; from kaku'i, squash; and i'ptsa, spit, stringer. The word may be translated squash spit.

Squash spits were usually made of the small willows that we call mi'da hatsihi'ci, or red willow; from mi'da, wood; and hi'ci, light red. When the outer skin of one's finger, for example, is peeled off, the color of the flesh beneath we call hi'ci. This red willow however is not kinikinik, which white men call red willow.

A squash spit should be about half an inch in diameter; and its length should be measured from the center of my chest to the end of my index finger, as I do now; or about two feet, six, or two feet, seven inches.

A spit was sharpened at one end to a point. At the other end there was left about an inch of the natural bark like a button, to keep the squash slices from slipping off. The rest of the rod was peeled bare.

Small Ankle used to make our drying spits for us. He cut the rods in June or early July when the bark peeled off easily; he peeled off the bark with his teeth.

It was his habit to cut quite a number of rods at a time and after peeling them, he would tie them up in a bundle of about three hundred rods, so that they would dry straight–would not warp, I mean, in drying.

In seasons when they were not in use our squash spits were made into a bundle as big as I could hold in my two arms and bound about with two thongs. The bundle was stored away on the floor of the lodge, under the eaves, or in the atu'ti, as we called the space under the descending roof. The next year, in harvest time, the bundle was unbound and the spits examined to see if any had warped. Such warped ones were thrown away, and new ones were made to take their places.

Spitting the Slices

Each of the old women hired to slice our squashes worked with a pile of these squash spits beside her; and as she sliced a squash she laid aside those slices which she retained as her pay; and taking the others up in her right hand, she spitted them with a single thrust, upon one of the willow spits. The spitted slices were then separated about a half inch apart, so that the first two fingers of the hand could be thrust astraddle the spit between each slice and its neighbor. This was to give the slices air to dry.

One willow spit held the slices of four squashes, and two slices from a fifth squash, if the squashes were of average size.

Sometimes an old woman brought her granddaughter along to help her, the little girl spitting the slices as her grandmother cut them.

Drying rods, which I have already described, were laid across the upper rails of the stage; and each spit as it was loaded was laid with either end resting on a drying rod. The spits were laid with a certain method. Each projecting end bore two squash slices, which acted as a button to stay the spit from being blown down by the wind.

As the drying rods rested transversely on the upper rails, the spits which the rods bore lay parallel with the rails, and therefore lengthwise with the stage. The spits were laid with the heavier, or bark covered end toward the front, or ladder end of the stage, which in our family, was the right, as one came out of the lodge door.

When a pair of drying rods was quite filled with these loaded spits, they made what we called one i'tsạki–one walking stick, or one staff. We counted the quantity of squash we dried as so many staves.

We never laid the loaded spits on the floor of the stage, as the weight of the load caused the drying squash slices to warp, thus making them hard to handle.

Plate 7
Owl Woman putting squash slices on a spit

Plate 8
Squash slices drying
Are on squash spits and on stage built to resemble the top of an old time corn stage.

In Case of Rain

If a sudden rain came up the day we began drying squash, we felt no concern, for the slices having just been cut, were still green and would not be harmed.

But if rain threatened the second day, or thereafter, we women ran up on the stage and drew the loaded spits toward the middle of the drying rods; and over them we spread hides, upon which we laid poles, or unused drying rods to weight the hides against the wind. Sometimes we even lashed the poles down with thongs.

If the drying squash got wet after the first day, the slices swelled up, and the fruit spoiled.

Drying and Storing

When the squash slices had dried for two days, two women of the family went up on the stage; and working, one from the front, the other from the rear end of the stage, they took the spits one by one, and with thumb and fingers of each hand slipped the drying slices into the middle of the spit, thus loosening them from it; and for the same purpose, the spit itself was turned and twisted around as it lay skewered through the slices. When well loosened, the squash slices were again spaced apart as before, and the spit was replaced on the rods, to be left for another day. On the evening of the third day the slices were dry enough to string.

The strings, three to six in number, had been prepared from dry grass. Each string was seven Indian fathoms long; we Hidatsas measure a fathom as the distance between a woman's two outstretched hands. Each grass string had a wooden needle about ten inches long, bound to one end.

All the slices on one spit were now slid off and the worker by a single thrust skewered the wooden needle through them and slid them down the long string to the farther end; this end of the string was now looped back and tied just above the first three or four slices of the dried squash that fell down the string; doing thus made these slices act as a button or anchor to prevent the rest of the squash slices from slipping off the string.

In stringing the squash slices, the spit was held in the right hand, the left hand straddling the spit with the index and second fingers. The slices were slid down the spit toward the right hand, the spit being then drawn out and cast away. The squash slices were held firmly in the first two fingers and thumb of the left hand and the needle was run through the hole left by withdrawing the spit. As the spit had a greater diameter than the grass string, the slices easily slid down the string.

When stringing slices of squash myself, I always sat on the floor of the drying stage with a pile of loaded spits at my left side. As I unloaded a spit, I dropped it at my right side. The grass string hung over the edge of the stage floor, on the side nearest the lodge. On the ground below I had spread some scraped hides, so that the squash slices, falling down the string, would not touch the ground and become soiled.

When a string became full, I tossed the end over the edge of the floor, letting it fall down upon the heap on the scraped hides.

The needle used to skewer the slices was bound to the end of the grass string two inches or more from its extremity, as shown in figure 21. When the string was filled, one had but to turn the needle athwart, and it became a button or anchor, preventing the slices from slipping off.

Figure 21

The strings filled with dried squash slices, were now taken into the lodge. Between the right front main post of the lodge and the circle of outer posts and near the puncheon fire screen at the place it bent in toward the wall, a stage had been built. Two forked posts, about as high as my head, supported a pole ten or twelve feet long; and over this pole the strings of squash were looped, care being taken that they hung at a height to let the dogs run under without touching and contaminating the squash. I speak of the right front main post; I use right and left in the Indian sense, which assumes that an earth lodge faces the doorway; the door indeed is the lodge's mouth.

On sunny days these strings were taken outside. Several of the long poles, or drying rods, already described, were brought down from the top of the stage and lashed to the outside of the stage posts on either side. If the harvest was a good one, a row of these rods might extend the whole length of either side of the stage, and even around the ends. On the railing thus made the squash strings were taken out and hung on a fair day; in the morning, on the east side; in the afternoon, on the west side of the stage.

On wet days, the squash strings were left inside the lodge; and if the rain was falling heavily, a tent skin, or scraped rawhides, dried and ready to tan, were thrown over them to protect from dampness. The air in the lodge was damp on a rainy day; and sometimes the roof leaked.

When the strings of squash were thought to be thoroughly dried, they were ready for storing. A portion was packed in parfleche bags, to be taken to the winter lodge, or to be used for food on journeys. The rest was stored away in a cache pit, covered with loose corn.

Several seasons, as I recollect, the women of my father's family were a month harvesting and drying their squashes.

Squash Blossoms

Besides our squashes, we also gathered squash blossoms, three to five basketfuls at a picking; and they were a recognized part of our squash harvest.

On every squash vine are blossoms of two kinds: one kind bears a squash, but the other never bears any fruit, for it grows, as we Indians say, at the wrong place among the leaves. We Indians knew this, and gathered only these barren blossoms; if we did not they dried up anyway and became a dead loss, so we always gathered them.

These blossoms we picked in early morning while they were fresh, but not if rain had fallen in the night, as the rain splashed dirt and sand into the blossoms, making them unfit for food.

The blossoms we took home in baskets. On the prairie there is a kind of grass which we Indians call "antelope hair." We chose a place where this grass grew thick and was two or three inches high, to dry the blossoms on. They were taken out of the basket one by one; the green calyx leaves were stripped off and the blossom was pinched flat, opened, and spread on the grass, with the inside of the blossom upward, thus exposing it to the sun and air. A second blossom was split on one side, opened, and laid upon the first, upon the petal end, so that the thicker, bulbous part of the first–the part indeed that had been pinched flat–remained exposed to dry. This was continued until quite a space on the grass was covered with the blossoms.

They remained all day drying. In the evening I would go out and gather them, pulling them up in whole sheets. Splitting them open and laying them down one upon another, caused them to adhere as they dried, so that they lay on the grass in a kind of thin matting. I always began pulling up the blossoms from one side of this matting, and as I say, they came away in whole sheets.

We put away the dried blossoms in bags, like those used for corn. These bags were made with round bottom and soft-skin mouth that tied easily. Bags were usually made of calf skin.

In my father's family we always put away one sack full of dried squash blossoms for winter.


The First Squashes

The first squashes of the season that we plucked were about three inches in diameter; that is, they were gathered as soon as we thought they were fit for cooking; and that same day we picked blossoms also.

There might be three or four basketfuls of squashes at this first picking. These squashes we did not dry, but ate fresh; as they were the first vegetables of the season, we were eager to eat them. We cooked fresh squashes as follows:

Boiling Fresh Squash in a Pot. I took a clay pot of our native manufacture, partly filled it with fresh squashes and added water. The smaller squashes I put in whole; larger ones I cut in two. I did not remove the seeds; left in the squash they made it taste sweeter.

I now took big leaves of the sunflower and thrust them, stem upward, between the squashes and the sides of the pot; the leaves then stood in a circle around the inside of the pot, with the upper surface of each leaf inward. I added more squashes until the pot was quite full, even heaping. The sunflower leaves I then bent inward, folding them naturally over the squashes. I now set the pot on the fire.

Under my direction Goodbird has made a sketch of a pot of fresh squashes (figure 22); the sunflower leaves are placed and ready to be folded down.

Figure 22

Squashes thus prepared were boiled a little longer than beef is boiled. The sunflower leaves were put over the pot merely as a lid or covering. It is hard to cook squashes without a cover, and this was our way of providing one. Blossoms were not added when squashes were thus prepared.

When the cooking was done, the green sunflower leaves, used as a cover, were removed with a stick, and thrown away.

I had a bowl of cold water near by. I dipped my hand into the water and lifted out the squash pieces one by one, and laid them on a bowl or dish. The cold water protected my hand; for the squashes were quite hot.

Most of the water in the pot had boiled out, only a little being left in the bottom of the pot. The pieces of squash immersed in this hot water I lifted out with a horn spoon. Not much water was ever put in the pot anyhow, for it was the steam mostly that cooked the squashes. The pot was quite heaped with squashes at the first, but the cooking reduced the bulk, making the heap go down.

The squash pieces in the bottom of the pot were apt to be a little burned or browned; and so were made sweeter, and were very good to eat.

This was the way we cooked fresh squashes in my father's family until I was eighteen years old; at that time we got an iron dinner pot, and began to boil our food in it instead of the old fashioned clay pot.

Fresh squashes, to be at their best, should be cooked on the day they are picked; left over to the next day they never taste so good.

Squashes Boiled with Blossoms. Fresh squashes were sometimes boiled with fresh blossoms and fats. Sunflower leaves were not then used as a covering. Squashes so cooked were usually small; and when done, they were lifted out of the pot with a horn spoon. Cooking this mess was really by boiling, not steaming, as in the mess above described.

Other Blossom Messes

When I wanted to cook fresh squash blossoms, I plucked them early in the morning, stripping them of the little points, or spicules shown as a, a', and a" in figure 23. These spicules I stripped backward, or downward. I do not know why we did this; it was our custom. Then I broke the blossom off the stem at the place in the figure marked with a dotted line. The green bulbous part of the blossom I crushed or pinched between my thumb and finger, to make it soft and hasten cooking; for the yellow, blossom part soon cooked. I will now give you recipes for some messes made with these fresh, crushed, spicule-stripped blossoms; however, dried blossoms were often used in these messes instead, and were just as good.

Figure 23

Boiled Blossoms. A little water was brought to boil in a clay pot. A handful of blossoms, either fresh or dried, was tossed into the pot and stirred with a stick. They shrunk up quite small, and another handful of blossoms was tossed in. This was continued until a small basketful of the blossoms had been stirred into the pot.

Into this a handful of fat was thrown, or a little bone grease was poured in; and the mess was let boil a little longer than meat is boiled, and a little less than fresh squash is boiled. The mess was then ready to eat.

Blossoms Boiled with Mạdạpo'zi I'ti'a. Mạdạpo'zi i'ti'a was made, the pot being put on the fire in the early afternoon and boiled for the rest of the day. In the night following the fire would go out and the mess would get cold.

In the morning the pot was set on the fire again, and if I was going to use fresh blossoms I went out to the field to gather them, expecting to return and find the pot heated and ready. The newly gathered blossoms crushed as described, I dropped in the rewarmed mess, and boiled for half an hour, when the pot was taken off, and the mess was served.

Sometimes this mess was further varied by adding beans.

Blossoms Boiled with Mäpi' Nakapa'. The blossoms were first boiled. Meal of pounded parched corn and fats were then added and the whole was boiled for half an hour.

Like the previous mess, this was sometimes varied by adding beans.


Selecting for Seed

Seed squashes were chosen at the first or second picking of the season. At these pickings, as we went from hill to hill plucking the four-days-old squashes, we observed what ones appeared the plumpest and finest; and these we left on the vine to be saved for seed. We never chose more than one squash in a single hill; and to mark where it lay, and even more, to protect it from frost, we were careful to pull up a weed or two, or break off a few squash leaves and lay them over the squash; and thus protected, it was left on the vine.

There was a good deal of variety in our squashes. Some were round, some rather elongated, some had a flattened end; some were dark, some nearly white, some spotted; some had a purple, or yellow top. We did not recognize these as different strains, as we did the varieties of corn; and when I selected squashes for seed, I did not choose for color, but for size and general appearance. Squashes of different colors grew in the same hill; and all varieties tasted exactly alike.

In later pickings, while we continued to gather the four-days-old squashes we did not disturb the seed squashes. They were easily avoided, for if not plainly marked by the leaves I have said we laid over them, they could be recognized by their greater size, and their rough rind. A four-days-old squash is smaller and has a smoother rind than a mature squash.

Gathering the Seed Squashes

The time for plucking the seed squashes was after we had gathered the first ripe corn, but had not yet gathered our seed corn. It was our custom to pluck our corn until the first frost fell; then to gather our seed squashes; and afterwards our seed corn. Some years the first frost fell very early, before we had plucked our first corn; in such seasons we gathered our seed squashes first, for we never let them lie in the field after the first frost had set in.

On this reservation the first frost falls at the end of the moon following this present moon. We Indians call the present moon the wild cherry moon, because June berries ripen in the first half, and choke-cherries in the second half of the moon; and we reckon June berries as a kind of cherry. Our next moon we call the harvest moon; and in it wild plums ripen and the first frost falls.

The seed squashes when plucked, were all taken into the earth lodge and laid in a pile, on a bench. The bench was made of planks split from cottonwood trunks, laid lengthwise with the lodge wall. The squashes were piled in a heap on this bench; they were bigger than four-days-old squashes and their rinds were rougher and hard, like a shell.

Cooking the Ripe Squashes

When now we wanted to have squash for a meal, I went over to this heap of ripe seed squashes and brought a number over near the fire. There I broke them open, carefully saving the seeds. I would lay a squash on the floor of the lodge; with an elk horn scraper I would strike the squash smart blows on the side, splitting it open.

The broken half rinds I piled up one above another, concave side down, until ready to put them in the pot. Ripe squashes were less delicate than green four-days-old squashes, and did not spoil so quickly.

I was able to boil about ten ripe squashes in our family pot; but it took three such cookings of ten squashes each to make a mess for our family, which I have said was a large one. We boiled these ripe squashes like the four-days-old, in a very little water.

Saving the Seed

Always near the fireplace in our lodge there lay a piece of scraped hide about two feet square. It had many uses. When boiling meat we would lift the steaming meat from the pot and lay it on the hide before serving. We also used the hide for a drying cloth.

This piece of hide I drew near me when I was breaking ripe squashes; and as I removed the seeds I laid them in a pile on the hide. Squash seeds, freshly removed from the squash, are moist and mixed with more or less pulpy matter. To remove this pulp I took up a small handful of the fresh seeds, laid a dry corn cob in my palm and alternately squeezed and opened my hand over the mess. The porous surface of the cob absorbed the moisture and sucked up the pulpy matter, thus cleansing the seeds. As the cleansed seeds fell back upon the hide I took up another handful and repeated the process.

If there was a warm autumn sun, I often carried the hide with the cleansed seeds upon it, and laid it on the floor of the drying stage outside for the seeds to dry; but if the day was chill or winter had set in, I dried the seeds by the fire.

When quite dried, the seeds were put in a skin sack to be stored in a cache pit. The storing bag was often the whole skin of a buffalo calf with only the neck left open for a mouth; or it might be made of a small fawn skin; or it might be made of a piece of old tent cover and shaped like a cylinder.

Eating the Seeds

Sometimes we boiled ripe squashes whole, seeds and all; and we then ate the seeds. They tasted something like peanuts.

These seeds of boiled squashes were eaten just as they came from the squash. I would take up two or three seeds in my mouth, crushing them with my teeth; and with my tongue I would separate the kernels from the shells which I spat out. I was rather fond of squash seeds.

I have also heard of families who prepared squash seeds by parching or roasting; but I never did this myself.

Roasting Ripe Squashes

I have heard that in old days my tribe used to roast fall-kept ripe squashes. They were buried in the ashes and roasted whole. I never did this myself, however.

There is a story that an old man who was blind, was handed a squash thus roasted. He found the squash to his liking, but did not know how it had been cooked.

"Girl," he cried, "let me have the broth this was boiled in!"

"The squash was roasted in the ashes; it has no broth," answered the girl who had handed it to him.

The blind man laughed. "I thought it was boiled in a pot," he said.

I judge from this story that several squashes had been roasted, and that the blind man got one as his share.

Storing the Unused Seed Squashes

It was our custom to remove to our winter village in the mida'-pạxi'di widi'c, or leaf-turn-yellow moon; it corresponds about to October. I remember the leaves used to be falling from the trees while we were working about our winter lodges, getting ready for cold weather.

When moving time came in the fall, any squashes left over in the lodge, uneaten, were stored in a cache pit until spring. But it was a difficult thing to store these squashes so that they would keep sound; and when spring came many of them would be found to have rotted. Some families were more careful in making ready and storing their cache pits than were others. Squashes kept best when stored in carefully prepared pits.

On the family's return the next spring the cache pit was opened; and the squashes that had kept sound could be used for cooking, and their seeds could be planted. The number thus stored over winter was not large.

The seeds of rotted squashes were just as good to plant as were the seeds of the sound squashes.

We carried no squash seeds with us to our winter village. For our spring planting we depended on the seed we had left stored in the cache in our summer lodge, in my father's family.

The seeds of a ripe squash are swelled and plump in the center; those of a four-days-old squash are flat. We could tell in this way if squash seeds were ripe.

Squashes, Present Seed

I grew our native squashes in my son Goodbird's garden until four years ago. I stopped cultivating them because my son's family did not seem to care to eat them. Last year a squash vine came up wild in my son's garden. The squashes that grew on it were of two colors. I saved some of the seed and planted them this year. It is from their yield that I have given you seed.

As I have said, squashes were of different colors and varied a good deal in shape; yet we recognized but one strain of seed. "We plant but one kind of seed," we said, "and all colors and shapes grow from it, dark, white, purple, round, elongated."

Squash Dolls

There is one other thing I will tell before we forsake the subject of squashes. Little girls of ten or eleven years of age used to make dolls of squashes.

When the squashes were brought in from the field, the little girls would go to the pile and pick out squashes that were proper for dolls. I have done so, myself. We used to pick out the long ones that were parti-colored; squashes whose tops were white or yellow and the bottoms of some other color. We put no decorations on these squashes that we had for dolls. Each little girl carried her squash about in her arms and sang for it as for a babe. Often she carried it on her back, in her calf skin robe.


Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom