Page Banner

United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: MANAGEMENT OF TEMPERATE FRUIT NUT AND SPECIALTY CROP GENETIC RESOURCES Title: Manna in winter: indigenous Americans and blueberries

Author
item Hummer, Kim

Submitted to: HortScience
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: August 1, 2012
Publication Date: August 1, 2012
Citation: Hummer, K.E. 2012. Manna in winter: indigenous Americans and blueberries. HortScience. 47(9):S89.

Interpretive Summary: More than 35 species of blueberries and huckleberries are native to North America. The indigenous North American Peoples, wise in the ways of survival, recognized the quality of these edible fruits and revered these plants. Beyond food needs, these plants played significant roles in their culture, sociology, economics, and spirituality. Because these traditions, developed and gathered over millennia were transmitted orally, documentation of this use has been determined through archeological data, written records from western civilization after first contact, and recent surveys of present day native peoples. The wealth of indigenous knowledge on blueberries, huckleberries, and other foods was shared with European immigrants. These fruits were used by many tribes throughout North America. Samuel de Champlain documented that fresh and dried blueberries provided “manna in winter” when other food was scarce. Pemmican, a preserved concoction of lean meat, fat, and blueberries or other fruit, enabled survival. Roger Williams, Meriwether Lewis, and David Thoreau, each were impressed with the uses of blueberries by indigenous Americans. The social, technological, and horticultural changes that gave rise to a commercial wild huckleberry and blueberry gathering and production history will be summarized.

Technical Abstract: More than 35 species of blueberries (Vaccinium L.) and huckleberries (Vaccinium and Gaylussacia Kunth.) are indigenous to North America. The indigenous North American Peoples, wise in the ways of survival, recognized the quality of these edible fruits and revered these plants. Beyond food needs, these plants played significant roles in their culture, sociology, economics, and spirituality. Because these traditions, developed and gathered over millennia were transmitted orally, documentation of this use has been determined through archeological data, written records from western civilization after first contact, and recent surveys of present day native peoples. The wealth of indigenous knowledge on blueberries, huckleberries, and other foods was shared with European immigrants. These fruits were used by many tribes throughout North America. Samuel de Champlain documented that fresh and dried blueberries provided “manna in winter” when other food was scarce. Pemmican, a preserved concoction of lean meat, fat, and blueberries or other fruit, enabled survival. Blueberry products such as ohentaqué, hahique, satar, sakisatar, sautauthig, k’enkash, navagi and nunasdlut’i were important to Native Americans. Roger Williams, Meriwether Lewis, and David Thoreau, each were impressed with the uses of blueberries by indigenous Americans. The social, technological, and horticultural changes that gave rise to a commercial wild huckleberry and blueberry gathering and production history will be summarized.

Last Modified: 10/31/2014
Footer Content Back to Top of Page