Native American Herb and Vegetable Garden
In the backyard of the University of Wisconsin - La Crosse
Archaeology Center and Laboratories Building is a luscious
garden. Tiny as it may appear, every nook and cranny is full of ripening plants.
Heirloom seeds and donated plants have grown into bountiful lush plants. Several
harvests have provided much pleasure for the students and staff at MVAC. You
may be wondering how does growing a garden relate to archaeology? Experimental
archaeology can answer basic questions about the lifestyles and practices of the
Oneota (1300-1625 AD) and Woodland (500BC- 1000 AD) peoples who lived in the La
Crosse locality. Such questions include what kinds of tools were used and how
effective these tools were, what methods of planting and harvesting work best,
how much yield is possible and so on. Experimental archaeology creates hands-on
activities that can't be found in textbooks. Through these experiences
interpretations of the past can be made. The garden functions as a unique
learning tool for archaeologists and the public.
Click on one of the following links if you would
like to hear Merlin Red Cloud Jr. talk about gardens. You will
need a player to listen to the MP3 files. Click
here if you want to download a free version of RealPlayer.
The Native American Herb and Vegetable garden would not be possible without
great contributions from Merlin Red Cloud Jr., a member of the Ho Chunk Nation,
who has taken the time to share oral garden traditions with us and his vast
knowledge of gardening. He has
helped by providing family heirloom seeds, continues to stop by and check on
the garden and assists with the harvest. The garden would not be
possible without funding. Grants
from University of Wisconsin - La Crosse, College of Liberal Studies for Faculty Development and Summer Projects provided the funding
necessary to work with Ho Chunk Historic Preservation and tribal members as well
as develop the garden, web pages and displays in the UW-L Archaeology Center and
Merlin Red Cloud Jr.
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Every gardener must have the proper tools to get their garden
prepared for planting and sowing and later for tending their crops. The
MVAC gardeners are using tools that cannot be bought in any store and
include no metal. These tools were made as replicas of garden tools
used by the Oneota. The Oneota lived in the Coulee Region from
1300 to 1625AD.
scapula hoes were made from the shoulder blade of a bison and attached
with sinew to a wooden branch. A clamshell can also be tied in the same fashion
to a stick. These types of hoes work just as
well as metal hoes. Sections from deer antlers are also being used, and
are extremely versatile for working on small sections of the garden.
Bison Scapula Hoe
Clam Shell Hoe
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Ho Chunk Archive Photographs
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The following bibliography provides the sources used in this
garden project. We recommend these books for more information about traditional herb usage
and Native American gardening.
How Indians Use Wild Plants for Food, Medicine and Crafts. New
York: Dover Publications, Inc.
Gilmore, Melvin R.
of Plants by the Indians of the Missouri River Region. University of Nebraska
Hutchens, Alma R.
Handbook of Native American Herbs. Boston, MA: Shambhalia Publications.
King, Frances B.
People, and Paleoecology Biotic Communities and Aboriginal Plant
Usage in Illinois, Illinois State Museum Scientific Papers, Vol. XX.
Moerman, Daniel E.
American Ethnobotany. Portland Oregon: Timer Press Portland.
Crow, Sister Corn. Berkeley,
CA: Ten Speed Press.
Caduto, Michael J. and Joseph Bruchac
American Gardening: Stories, Projects and Recipes for Families. Golden,
CO: Fulcrum Publishing.
Wilson, Gilbert L.
Bird Woman's Garden: Agriculture of the Hidatsa Indians.
St. Paul, MN: Minnesota
Historical Society Press.
Seed Savers Exchange www.seedsavers.org
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