Tending the Wild by Anderson M. Kat

Tending the Wild by Anderson M. Kat

Author:Anderson, M. Kat
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: University of California Press
Published: 2012-01-22T16:00:00+00:00


When Indian women gathered seeds and grains with a seed beater and gathering basket, some seeds would fly too far or bounce out of the basket. They were not concerned about this loss because they recognized that some of the seeds needed to fall to the ground to produce the next year’s crop. The incidental scattering of seeds during gathering, however, might not be sufficient to sustain the population of the plant over time. For this reason, the indigenous people in many parts of California deliberately saved seeds and grains and sowed them, usually by simply broadcasting the seeds in the appropriate habitats. This simple type of sowing, repeated annually for untold generations, likely led to the domestication of cereal grains in other parts of the world.20

Records exist of seed sowing by many native groups. Harold Driver and William Massey, in their volume Comparative Studies of North American Indians, reported the broadcasting of seeds by seven tribes: the Modoc, Eastern Shasta, Pit River (Achumawi), Northeastern Maidu, and Nisenan of northern California and the Mojave and Quechan of southern California. It is known that the Wappo increased the yield of certain plants by scattering their seeds, that the Chumash scattered seeds in cleared areas around their villages, and that the Southern Paiute sowed the grains of Indian ricegrass (Achnatherum hymenoides).21 The anthropologist Julian Steward recorded seed sowing among the Paiute on the east side of the Sierra Nevada: “The brush in basins in the hills near the winter villages was burned and Mentzelia and Chenopodium seeds were broadcast. There is no question that this practice was native.”22 Alfred Kroeber reported that the Mojave planted wild seeds: “[T]he Mohave planted several wild herbs or grasses in their overflowed lands and gathered the seeds. These they call akatai, aksamta, ankithi, and akyesa. They are unidentified except for the last, which appears to be a species of Rumex.”23


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