How Did Native Americans Get Food For Their Families in The Days Before Supermarkets?

Native American

The natives of both North and South America exibit a great variety of lingusistic, anatomical, and cultural characteristics. The discussion of these diverse peoples must thus proceeded by groups and subgroupings. The most advanced civilizations were those developing in Mexico, Central America, and South America. The civilizations in North America were primarily hunter-gather civilizations, but some were engaged in settled agriculture. Native Americans have in the United States been traditionally referred to as Indians or in Europe as Red Indians. It refers to the pre-Colombian peoples of the Americas.

Many tribes no longer exist and about them little is known. Considearble anthropoligal work, however, exists on many tribes of North America. Native Americans are credited with the development of some key agricultural crops, corn and potatos as well as tobacco, cacao (chocolate), peanuts, beans, squashes, pumkins, sunflowers, gourds, cotton, and others were among 25 major crops cultivated by native Americans. Interestingly, it was the potato introduced into Europe after the discovery of the America that made posible the explosive growth of European populations after the 16th century. Native Americans, in part because of the horendous treatment by white Americans as well as the exposure to European diseases, now comprise only a small part of the Americam mosaic. It is a rich, colorful traition, no matter how small.

One of the most common questions that we get is “What did American Indians eat?” Of course, the answer to this question varies from tribe to tribe– as you might be able to guess, Athabaskan Indians in Alaska had a very different diet from Brazilian tribes in the Amazon rainforest!

Some Native American tribes were also much more agricultural, staying in one place year-round and farming the land, while other tribes were semi-nomadic, moving frequently from place to place as they hunted and gathered food for their families. This also affected what kinds of food they ate.

Here is a general overview of some of the American Indian food sources and food gathering techniques the people developed over the years to fit these needs.

How did Native Americans get food for their families in the days before supermarkets?

There were four basic ways for people in ancient societies to find food: hunting and fishinggatheringfarming, and raising domesticated animals. Native Americans did all these things, but the first three were much more common. There were not many domesticated animals in North America before Europeans arrived– only turkeys, ducks, and dogs, and most tribes did not eat dog meat (although some did.) In South America, llamas and guinea pigs were also raised by some tribes for their meat.

Native American

The other three food sources were much more important to Native American life. Most tribes used two or three of these food-gathering techniques at once to get a varied diet. Every American Indian tribe that we know of took part in hunting and fishing to get fresh meat to eat. The Inuit (Eskimos) and some Indian tribes of the far north relied almost entirely on hunting and fishing to survive. Some Native Americans were primarily big game hunters, migrating frequently to follow herds of bison or caribou. The Blackfoot and Sioux are two examples of big game hunting tribes. In tribes like these, large groups of Native Americans usually worked together to drive large animals into an ambush, a man-made pit, or over a cliff, sometimes setting controlled fires or building fences to cut off their escape. In other tribes, such as the Chippewa or Creek, each individual Native American hunter would stalk deer, rabbits or other game, or set snares or traps for them. In fishing tribes, Native American fishermen would either catch fish and hunt marine mammals from their canoes, or else set fish nets and wooden traps for them. The Tlingit and Salish are two examples of Northwest Indian tribes who got most of their meat through fishing. Native hunting and fishing weapons varied from tribe to tribe but the most common ones were bows and arrows, spears, harpoons, fish-hooks, and blowguns.

Farming was another very important source of American Indian food materials. Native agriculture was most advanced in what is now the southern United States, Mexico, and the Andean region of South America. Native Americans from those areas used special farming techniques like irrigation, terracing, crop rotation, and planting windbreaks to improve their farms, and they usually harvested enough crops to dry and store for the winter. Some examples of southern Native American tribes who were expert farmers included the Hopi, Navajo, and Cherokee tribes. Other tribes further to the north planted crops in garden plots in their villages but did not harvest enough to last the winter, so they would split up into hunting camps during that time instead. Examples of northern tribes who farmed this way included the Lenape and Iroquois tribes. Besides food crops, Native American farmers often grew cotton, hemp, tobacco, and medicinal plants.

Gathering is a general term for collecting food that grows wild in the environment. Sometimes this is a very basic sort of task, such as picking blueberries from a bush. Other times gathering can be complicated and requires special tools and training, such as tapping trees for maple syrup or grinding and leaching acorns into edible flour. The kinds of wild foods gathered by an Indian tribe and the tools they needed to do it with varied a lot depending on where the tribe lived. Usually Native Americans gathered wild foods in addition to hunting, fishing, or farming.

What were some typical Native American foods?

The most important Native American food crop was Indian corn (also known as maize, which comes from the Taino Indian name for the plant.) The majority of American Indian tribes grew at least some corn, and even tribes that did not grow corn themselves often traded with neighbors for it. Other important American Indian crops included beans, squash, pumpkins, sunflowers, wild rice, potatoes, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, peanuts, avocados, papayas, and chocolate.

Whether they were farming tribes or not, most Native American tribes had very meat-heavy diets. Favorite meats included buffalo, elk, caribou, deer, and rabbit; salmon and other fish; ducks, geese, turkeys and other birds; clams and other shellfish; and marine mammals like seals or even whales. But almost any animal who lived in the Americas in ancient times was sometimes added to the menu, even animals you might not think of as food like porcupines, monkeys, or snakes. Many Native American tribes had strong beliefs against wasting food, so if they killed an animal for any other reason, they would often try to eat it.

Other foods that could be found naturally in the Americas and were often eaten by American Indians included eggs, honey, maple syrup and sugar, salt, nuts (including peanuts, pine nuts, cashews, hickory nuts, and acorns,) fruit (including cranberries, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, chokecherries, wild plums, and persimmons), and a wide variety of beans, roots, and greens.

What were Native American meals like?

Native American cooking tended to be simple. Most Native Americans preferred to eat their food very fresh, without many spices. This was different in Mexico and Central America, where Indians tended to use less fresh meat and more spices in their dishes, including hot peppers, cumin, and chocolate seasonings. Meat was usually roasted over the fire or grilled on hot stones. Fish was often baked or smoked. Soups and stews were popular in some tribes. Corn was eaten in many different ways, including corn-on-the-cob, popcorn, hominy, and tortillas and corn bread baked in clay ovens. Indians in some tribes enjoyed fruit puddings or maple candy for dessert. Most Native Americans always drank water with their meals, but hot chocolate was a popular beverage in Mexico, and some Indians in Central and South America developed an alcoholic corn drink called chicha.

How did Native American eating habits change after Europeans arrived?

The Europeans introduced some new plants and animals that didn’t exist in the Americas originally, such as bananas, wheat, sheep, and cows. Some Native American farming tribes, such as the Navajos or the Mexican Indian tribes, began to raise these new crops and farm animals in addition to corn and other traditional crops. Many people in those tribes are still farmers today, and they have been raising some of these “new” foods for centuries now!

Other tribes were forced to change their traditional lifestyles a lot after Europeans took over. Since Europeans killed most of the buffalo, tribes that used to follow the buffalo herds had to find new ways of living. Today, some tribes raise buffalo on ranches. Many forests and jungles have been cleared, which makes it harder to earn a living by hunting. In rural areas of Canada, Alaska, and South America, some Native Americans and Inuit (Eskimos) still make their living by hunting and trapping, but this is becoming rarer. And of course, one of the biggest changes was Indian tribes being forced to move to reservations far from their original homelands. In many cases, these tribes had to give up their old ways of life in their new location because the environment was different and the land was not suitable for their traditional agriculture.

Some traditional American Indian foods and recipes are still enjoyed by Native American people today. However, except for a few remote rainforest tribes, Native American people also eat modern food, just like their non-native neighbors do.

Native American

What are some Native American recipes I could make for school?

This is harder than it sounds. Most traditional Native American recipes from North America included fresh meat or fish, which isn’t easy to share with your class.

Here is a good recipe :

Wild Rice and Cranberries, a dish of the Northeast Woodland tribes.


  • Turkey broth
  • Sage
  • New cattail buds or roots, water chestnuts or crunchy somethings. Whatever is available. (i usually use canned water chestnuts �cuz they are available year round.)
  • Salt & pepper to taste if you like that
  • Wild rice
  • Cranberries


Boil up some wild rice in turkey broth 

When it is almost done, add the sliced crunchy somethings and a handful of fresh cranberries. (no sugar!) 

Add what herbs you like, a little sage perhaps, etc. 

Note: The thing to remember is to only add enough water to cover the rice and keep an eye on it so it doesn’t dry up. 

American Indian Recipe for Corn Cakes


  • cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 cup pounded corn
  • honey


pound hard corn until powder like
pour in water
sprinkle cinnamon
put in a small amount of honey
make a type of patty cake
melt butter in a small pan
cook until golden brown (flip sides occasionaly)
let cool and pour honey 


And Another for Blueberry Wojapi, which is a kind of Sioux fruit pudding.


  • Water to mix with flour to make a gravy or sauce mixture.
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 cans water
  • 1 can blueberries


Put the blueberries into a medium sauce pan.

Add 3 cans water to blueberries.

Add the sugar and mash the blueberries.

Heat until boiling.

Slowly add the flour paste to make a gravey like mixture.

Note: Ready to dip your frybread into hot, warm or cold. It is so very good. I ate all this food at powwows, memorials, funerals, any kind of gathering of relatives and friends. I always got lots of “You make the best”, it made me feel good. I love to share this with relatives and friends during the holidays.


You Could Also Make Tamales, Which are a popular Mexican food of Aztec origin

Welcome to the  My Hot Tamale, Recipe Page. We are going to take you step by step though the process.  We don’t simply give you a list of ingredients and some cryptic instructions, we take you through it step by step with pictures.  With this site you simply can not go wrong.  You will be able to make the most mouth watering Mexican Food dish that you have ever tasted, Guaranteed!

Most people are intimidated by making tamales, but there is no need to be.  The key thing is plan things out.  You need to make sure that you have all ingredients and equipment before you start.  We break the instructions into three parts.  First, you need to gather up the ingredients, and equipment.  Second, you will need to cook the meat that serves as the heart of the hot tamale.  Finally, you need to cook the tamales.  We suggest making this a two day process.  Gather the ingredients and cook the meat on day 1, and then prepare and cook the tamales on day 2.  Since the process is somewhat involved, we suggest making big batches of tamales.  In fact we love to make them in teams.  Have a good friend come over, and make a double big batch and then split them.  Tamale making is fun, and for many people, getting together for a “Tamale Day” has become a tradition. Now, Without Further ado, we will go through the step by step instructions on making tamales. Click on each of the sections (I, II, and III) for in depth instructions. Tamales, Easy as I, II, III!

(I) Gather The Tamale Ingredients and Equipment

This section gives you a shopping list and a description of the simple equipment that you need to make tamales.  You can take this shopping list to the grocery store with you to make sure that you have everything you need to make tamales. The shopping list will make things easy for you.

(II) Cook the Meat

Key thing to good tamales is to get a good scald on the meat.  You can not miss by following these step by step instructions.

(III) Make the Tamales

Now, the supplies are secured, the meat is cooked, and T-Day has arrived.  Your kitchen is ground zero for one of this centuries most important cooking events.  You are about to make Hot Tamales.  Click on (III) above for the final instructions!

Fry-Bread, which is a contemporary Native American treat that you can commonly find at powwows. 

Frybread: Just a couple out of hundreds, but all basically alike. The first makes 8-10 small ones or 5 big flat ones for Indian tacos.

		2 cups flour
		3 tsp baking powder
		1 tsp salt
		1 cup milk
		Deep hot fat in frypan or fryer

Sift dry ingredients. Lightly stir in milk. Add more flour as necessary to make a dough you can handle. Kneed and work the dough on a floured board with floured hands until smooth. Pinch off fist-sized limps and shap into a disk — everyone has their own characteristic shapes.(Shape affects the taste, by the way because of how it fries). For Indian tacos, the disk must be rather flat, with a depression — almost a hole — in the center of both sides. Make it that way if the fry bread is going to have some sauce over it. Smaller, round ones are made to put on a plate. Fry in fat (about 375°) until golden and done on both sides, about 5 minutes. Drain on absorbent paper.

My Version for A Batch of FryBread–Makes 16-24

		4 cups flour
		1/2 teaspoon salt
		2 Tbsp baking powder
		1/4 cup oil
		1/2 to 1 cup powdered milk (don't use the
		       commercial kind, if you cn get commodity)
		2 cups water (a little more if more milk is used)

Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl, make a well in it and pour in the water and oil. Knead thoroughly to a stiff dough. Add more flour — it shouldn’t be sticky. Flour in bread varies by moisture in the air. Take a handful and pat it into a flat round with a depression in both sides of the center, or make a twisted round. Depending on the shape and how much you knead and twist and pull it, the fry bread will taste quite different. Slap it around plenty, and make sure that dought isn’t sticky.

For Indian tacos (or to serve with wojape berry pudding over it), make a flat taco, about 8-9″ in diameter and 1 1/2″ thick at the edges, with a depression in the center of both sides (to hold the sauce).

Fry it in hot oil, either a fryer or frypan with at least 1 1/2″ of oil in it. Keep crumbs and such skimmed off the oil. Oil temperature should be about 375, not smoking. Breads will puff and turn golden. Flip over to fry on both sides. Remove to drain on paper, don’t stack them on top of each other until cool. Even if you’re going to make thousands for a powwow, this is about the right size for a working batch. Make batch after batch after batch….. It will be noticeable that the ones different people shape come out different even if making them from the same dough. If feeding kids, work more powdered milk into it. How many it makes depends on the size you make them.

Cleanup and saving the frying oil: skim out all crumbs on the top. Cut up an apple and fry slices in the fat. Cool it. Pour through a funnel lined with a cloth towel back into can, discarding the brown sludge at the bottom.

If those things are all too complicated, you can make a nice salad out of traditional Native American ingredients:

Like succotash 


  • Pinch Of Salt And Pepper
  • Half Of Green Pepper
  • Small Can Lima Beans
  • Small Can Corn


Chop up green pepper into small pieces
Mix everything together and cook in microwave for 3 to 5 minutes 

Or a Bean Salad or a native fruit salad.

2 cups cooked beans, drained and rinsed, such as kidney beans or black eyed peas
1/2 cup fresh chopped pineapple
1/2 cup fresh chopped papaya
2 green onions, halved lengthwise, thinly sliced
2 to 3 radishes, thinly sliced
2 limes, juiced
1 tablespoon Olive Oil
1 teaspoon honey
2 tablespoons fresh mint, minced
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
In a medium bowl, combine the beans, pineapple, papaya, scallion and radishes; mix well.
In a jar (or small bowl with a whisk), add the lime juice, olive oil, honey and salt and pepper to taste. Shake well.
Pour the dressing over the salad, add the mint, and toss everything together. If you can let this sit, it just gets better!

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Table Of Contents:
Making Your Own Beverages: Beer to Stronger Stuff
Ginger Beer: Making Soda the Old Fashioned Way
How North American Indians and Early Pioneers Made Pemmican
Wild West Guns for SHTF and a Guide to Rolling Your Own Ammo
How Our Forefathers Built Their Sawmills, Grain Mills,and Stamping Mills
How Our Ancestors Made Herbal Poultice to Heal Their Wounds
What Our Ancestors Were Foraging For? or How to Wildcraft Your Table
How North California Native Americans Built Their Semi-subterranean Roundhouses
Our Ancestors’Guide to Root Cellars
Good Old Fashioned Cooking on an Open Flame
Learning from Our Ancestors How to Preserve Water
Learning from Our Ancestors How to Take Care of Our Hygiene When There Isn’t Anything to Buy
How and Why I Prefer to Make Soap with Modern Ingredients
Temporarily Installing a Wood-Burning Stove during Emergencies
Making Traditional and Survival Bark Bread…….
Trapping in Winter for Beaver and Muskrat Just like Our Forefathers Did
How to Make a Smokehouse and Smoke Fish
Survival Lessons From The Donner Party

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From Ruff Simons, an old west history expert and former deputy, you’ll learn the techniques and methods used by the wise sheriffs from the frontiers to defend an entire village despite being outnumbered and outgunned by gangs of robbers and bandits, and how you can use their wisdom to defend your home against looters when you’ll be surrounded.

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Mike Searson – who is a Firearm and Old West history expert – will show you what to do when there is no more ammo to be had, how people who wandered the West managed to hunt eight deer with six bullets, and why their supply of ammo never ran out. Remember the panic buying in the first half of 2013? That was nothing compared to what’s going to precede the collapse.

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The Lost Ways (Learn the long forgotten secrets that helped our forefathers survive famines,wars,economic crisis and anything else life threw at them)

Survival MD (Best Post Collapse First Aid Survival Guide Ever)

Conquering the coming collapse (Financial advice and preparedness )

Liberty Generator (Build and make your own energy source)

Backyard Liberty (Easy and cheap DIY Aquaponic system to grow your organic and living food bank)

Bullet Proof Home (A Prepper’s Guide in Safeguarding a Home )

Family Self Defense (Best Self Defense Strategies For You And Your Family)

 Survive Any Crisis (Best  Items To Hoard For A Long Term Crisis)

Survive The End Days (Biggest Cover Up Of Our President)




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