FARMING AND FOOD
By about 1000 AD, corn had become the most important food for native people in this region. SunWatch archaeologist Andrew Sawyer:
Corn played a big role in the community here, in fact, probably the main reason they decided to settle down into rather permanent villages, was to take care of the corn crop. And based on the analysis of the remains here at SunWatch, it looks like corn alone took up 50% of their diet. So, this was a very important crop to the people, they wanted to make sure that they got enough in, year in, year out.
When the village’s center pole shadow said it was time to plant, the people set to work, their methods probably much like later ones that have been recorded:
Historically, the way American Indians in this region grew their crops, was they would make little mounds in their gardens, about a foot or so high, 2 or 3 feet around, and at the top center of the mound they would plant the corn. And, once the corn sprouted, they would plant the beans. They would grow up together, and the corn stalk provides a trellis for the beans.
Around the base were added squash or pumpkins; their large leaves helped retain moisture and control weeds. Because these plants all worked so well together, they were called “the three sisters.” When the center pole shadow announced harvest time, the crops were collected. The corn especially was set aside for winter:
It stores well. They would dig subterranean storage pits about three feet deep, line them with grasses or bark to insulate them, and in the fall at the harvest, they’d bring all their corn and put it in the pits, and that’d get them through the next year.
Dried corn from the storage pits was ground in mortars to make corn bread, or added to soups or stews. The demonstration garden at SunWatch has been developed with help from Native American communities. Some of the corn might even be descended from the original corn grown here:
A couple of years ago, we were lucky enough to grow some Myaamia corn from the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma, which was their corn that they took with them from this area when they were removed, back in the 1830s. This was the corn they traditionally planted here in Ohio.