Thursday, September 01, 2016

Historical Nez Perce Providers by Paty Jager

Root diggers on the Colville Reservation
The Native Americans (Indians) thought highly of the earth and believed all its creatures were gifts. The Nez Perce were especially grateful to the bountiful fish and wildlife in their territories as well as the plants which they harvested to round out their diets.

The men of the Nez Perce built weirs and fished, but the women maintain the weirs and processed the fish. Drying the salmon and trout over fires on racks made of limbs or on sticks stuck in the ground and bent over the fire. In the heat of the summer the fish would also be dried on racks in the hot summer sun and soup was made from the heads.

The men hunted large game animals and could be gone for up to a year or more when they traveled into the plains for buffalo, returning with huge amounts of dried buffalo and hides. The women traveled with them on theses hunts to prepared the meat for transporting back to their villages.

Nothing was wasted of an animal, the meat was cooked, smoked, and dried. The tongue and liver were eaten raw and ears were used as seasoning in soups. The fat was used to cook fry bread and bear meat was barbecued. Pemmican was made from the dried meat. It was broke into pieces that would fit in a mortar and pounded adding intestines and meat fat. This was a staple when traveling. They also made a pemmican of dried salmon and berries which the Nez Perce men carried wrapped in leaves in the bottom of their quivers. This was a nutritious easy-to-carry food when they were hunting.

The women were in charge of gathering roots, herbs, berries, and killing small game. They used sticks called tu`k`es or digging sticks to extract the roots from the earth. In some instances they would span out across valleys teeming with the camas, bitterroot, and kous.

Kous was dug from April to July. It was found in dry rocky soil and is similar in shape to a carrot. It was eaten either fresh or dry. Thy peeled off the skin and sun dried it. Then they would pound it into a oatmeal or cornmeal and serve as a cooked mush or make a ball and sun dry it or make a long bread called o`ppah that was smoked.

Bitterroot was dug in Nespelem area in August. It resembles a crocus with pink flowers. The yellow root looks like spaghetti and must be peeled. This root wasn't ground up, it was served like a vegetable. They mostly traded for it with the Plateau Indians. Women ate bitterroot or made tea to increase their milk flow after childbirth.

Wild onions were the first root of spring, dug in April. They have a fern-like top and the bulb is the size of a walnut. They also dug wild carrot in May. It grows in clusters in damp or wet areas. The blossom is two feet high and smells like the food. It is a finger sized food with a brown jacket and white meat. Sweet and rich flavor and may be eaten raw. They also dried and ground it for porridge and boiled it fresh like a potato.Or preserved the root by drying and grinding it into flour for loaves that were smoked and stored.

They stone boiled soup in willow baskets. Putting a rock that has been heating in a fire into the basket. They stored food in baskets and hide bags as well as caches or pits dug in the ground where large amounts of food would be stored for the whole band. These could be anywhere along their well traveled routes or hidden.

That is some more of the information I've gleaned while researching for the historical paranormal romance trilogy set among the Chief Joseph Band of the Nez Perce.
Camas roots were dug from June to September depending on the elevation where they grew. They were gathered in wet upland meadows. Weippe Meadows, Camas Prairie, Palouse Prairie and Grande Ronde Valley. They were baked and steamed. Cooking pits or large holes were dug before the harvest. After the roots were dug they would lay out hot red rocks in the hole, sprinkle with water, put dirt over the rocks, then fresh alder leaves, and a layer of meadow grass. Then the camas. The roots were covered with alder leaves, meadow grass, sprinkled with water and dirt, then a fire built on top and they cooked for three days. The roots were then eaten whole, pounded into flour, or tossed in soup.

Spirit of the Mountain
Wren, the daughter of a Nimiipuu chief, loves the mountain and her people—the Lake Nimiipuu. Himiin, as spirit of the mountain, watches over all the creatures on his mountain, including the Nimiipuu. When an evil spirit threatens Wren’s life, Himiin rushes to save her. But to leave the mountain means he’ll turn to smoke…

Spirit of the Lake
Can a spirit set upon this earth to watch over the Nimiipuu stay true to justice when revenge burns in his heart? On their quest for justice, Dove reveals spiritual abilities, ensnaring Wewukiye’s respect and awe. But will these abilities seal their future or tear them apart?

Spirit of the Sky
Sa-qan, a Nimiipuu eagle spirit, must take human form to save her mortal niece when the Nimiipuu are forced from their land by the U.S. Army. Trying to remain true to her spirit world and her people becomes hard when a Cavalry Officer captures her heart.

Find the books here.

Photo by Carmen Peone

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