When we all ate well.

Iw pi ga je mno wisneygo

When we all ate well

An exploration of our traditions and our pre-colonial diet, as compared to our modern diet, from a traditional Neshnabe perspective.

Donald A Perrot

With Dolores Perrot



Introduction. 3

1:  Reaffirm the Peace Treaty. 7

2:  Respecting the Medicines. 14

3:  Respecting the Four Sacred Plants. 22

4:  The Three Sisters. 31

5: Fish:  The other white meat 35

6:  Using Natural Sugars. 40

7:  Native Plants. 47

9:  End the War on Mother Earth. 56

Bibliography. 64


As a species, we have come to the point where our overabundance of food has become our greatest curse.  We have used and abused the plant world and the animal world to the point where great yields of food have resulted in cancer, diabetes, and heart disease, which have brought about premature death.   Yet there are vast sections of this world, where, despite all the scientific advances in food production, millions are still starving to death.  There is no balance in the food chain.

Perhaps we need to look to the wisdom of our ancestors instead of the recklessness of scientific advancement.  Science can tell us IF something can be done, but it cannot tell us if something SHOULD be done.

When I was a child, there was no question as to where the food came from or what was in it.  We grew what we ate, traded with and bought from local farmers what we couldn’t grow ourselves, and foraged the rest. 

I grew up in a home with no electricity, no indoor plumbing, and no refrigeration.  We were very keenly aware of the need to preserve, store, and not waste our food supply.  Our family didn’t have many of the material goods that other families have now, but WE NEVER WENT HUNGRY.  My elders saw to it that everyone ate, and taught us what we needed to survive. 

I am the last one alive who was actually born on Skunk Hill, Pkwakik as we called it, now known as Powers Bluff State Park, in Wood County, Wisconsin, USA.  My family was one of the last to leave that hallowed ground.  Even after we moved away, our extended family still continued to gather there for seasonal activities…picking apples, collecting maple sap, hunting, gathering berries and medicines.  I grew up in a time when we still spoke our original language, still practiced our cultural ways, and maintained our relationship with the Earth and The Spirit who made everything. 

Our little community was made up of like-minded Neshnabek of many tribes, Potawatomi, Ho-Chunk, Menominee, Ojibwe, Odawa, Kickapoo, all brought together by the pressures of removal and resistance.  We were descendants of the Strolling Indians, the ones who refused to be removed, or fled from the reservations in the west back to our original homeland. 

My grandparents and older relatives imparted knowledge of the sacred ways of my people to me, passed down to me in the languages we spoke.

Wegwendek ekendemyan cho she ékendasiyan i chemokmonmowen, neshnabemwen mteno egi yowat gi kekyajek egi bsedoyan iw pi egi penojewiyan. 

As for myself, I am enrolled with the Prairie Band Potawatomi of Kansas, but I am also related by blood to the Menominee Nation, the Ho-Chunk Nation, and the French trappers and traders who ingratiated themselves among our people. 

Although many of us have accepted Jesus as our Savior and have recognized Him and the Creator as one and the same, we were given a way, an original way, which we were supposed to walk and to use to keep healthy and strong, and live well on this earth.  Too many of us have forgotten that way.  Whether we refer to our Creator as Mamogosnan, the Greatest Father of All of Us, or as Jesus, the Savior of the World, we do not have to live like the dominant society, follow their ways, or eat their food!

We are part of a great and long lasting heritage, this land and its fruits are our birthright, and the new ways that were brought to us have resulted in malnutrition, addiction, diabetes, and heart disease.  We need to decolonize. 

1:  Reaffirm the Peace Treaty

Our elders tell us that at one time, the women of the nation made a peace treaty with the plants of the earth.  The women agreed to take care of the plants, and the plants agreed to take care of the people.  This hearkens back to a long lost spiritual time, when the people could communicate with the plants and animals.  Those with the ability to communicate directly with the plants and animals of this world are now few and far between.

The peace that existed for millennia between the people and the plants was based on respect.  Those who grew and used plants knew that they needed to respect the source of food, for it was grown on Mother Earth.  The animals that were eaten also ate the food that grew on Mother Earth.  Neshnabék were aware of the chain of life and the source of physical strength that the Mother provided.  Therefore they respected plants, animals, and the Mother of all. 

The people knew that Mother Earth was created by Mamogosnan, the Creator of us all, for his children needed a place to live upon that would be caring and nurturing toward all.  So he created the Mother from Himself, as the Mothering side of Himself, and placed her in physical form in the heavens. 

He created her from the Fire which was Him, and then cooled her with His tears, bringing the water and the rock.  Then He placed the green upon her, and allowed it to grow and establish itself before placing His other children here.  He had a plan, a long-term plan, but for the Eternal One, what difference is time if it is a year or a day?

So it was that the Earth came to be, and the Spirit gave her instructions, to bring forth and sustain life.  He gave her all of the elements and materials to continue on following these instructions.  He infused her with His creative abilities, his spark of life, and thus she could now continue the process of creation that the Creator began.  The people were placed upon her, and they saw the plants, and they were hungry.  But not all plants are food, and many plants have thorns and other defenses, and plants have guardians: the insects, who can be just as dangerous to man.

The insects had the first treaty with the plants.  The insects tend to the plants, pollinating and protecting, while the plants provide food to the insects.  The people were very observant.  They saw the great colonies that the bees and ants made from the food provided to them by the plants, and they knew that there must be peace between themselves and the plants. 

The people agreed not to take everything for themselves.  The people agreed to share the food with the other animals and insects.  The people agreed to save the seeds of the food and replant them to continue the lives of the plants.  The people agreed to protect the plants from harmful insects and animals who may seek to destroy them completely.  The people agreed to respect the remains of the plants, giving them proper burial and not allowing them to rot in a bad way.  It was the women of the nation who brokered this treaty, and it is the women of the nation who should lead the way back to reaffirming this treaty.

The plants in turn agreed to provide nourishment, and to teach the people how to prepare them in the best way to bring the most good.  The plants also agreed to provide medicine to the people, and to help them when they needed healing.  They agreed to show the people how to use them. 

The plants have their original instructions, and they have obeyed these from the beginning.  I have never seen an oak tree stand up, walk out of the forest into the swamp, and become a cedar tree.  The oak was commanded to be an oak, and to do the things oak trees do.  Each plant was commanded thus by The Creator, and thus each plant has behaved, since the beginning. 

One of the instructions was: Be fruitful and multiply.  Another was: Be food and medicine to the people.  So if the plants were commanded thus, and are obeying their instructions, why was there a treaty?  Why bother respecting the plants, why not just take what is ours?  Why not just “take dominion?” (Genesis 1:28) 

Taking dominion does not mean you abuse and misuse what you have dominion over.  It means that you have authority to use it.  Imagine you are a paid servant, with a master.  If your master is kind and generous, never boastful or mocking, treating you with dignity and respect, you will indeed obey, but with heart, with gusto, with genuine appreciation for your master, going above and beyond what is expected, and offering to meet his/her expectations and then some!   But if your master is rough with you, hitting you and cuffing you, mocking you and spitting you, you will still obey what he/she says, for the master has authority and dominion over you, and will not pay you if you disobey.  You will obey, but grudgingly, sparingly, only providing what is necessary, and never going above and beyond what you are capable of, never offering willingly to do more.  You may even try to get out of the contract and find a new master, if you can! 

Thus it is with the plants.  Science can tell us what chemicals and vitamins and minerals and antioxidants and proteins and nutrients are in each plant, and technology can harvest those plants and pack them into neat little capsules for the swallowing, and both completely miss the point.  Why do so many people have trouble with commercial supplements?  Because there is no heart, there is no soul, there is no connection between the plant, the person who gathered it, and the person who is using it.  There is no prayer, no song, no blessing.  Thus the plant is doing only the minimum required, and nothing more. 

If you find a useful plant, and yank it out of the ground, and use its usable parts to make a medicine, without any thought or communication, forgetting the life within the plant, the Creator who made it, and the need to preserve and conserve, you will still have your medicine, but it will be weak, and not as effective.  And when you go back to get more, when you need it again, the plant will be gone, especially if you have destroyed the roots! 

The plants have songs, and when one approaches a plant to use its parts for food or medicine, the people used to sing those songs and leave a tobacco offering and ask for permission to use them, which the plants always graciously gave according to the treaty.  The people would not gather all of them, just the ones who were designated.  The people recognized that each village of plants had leaders, had elders, had youth, and had adults.  They picked accordingly, making sure to respect the wishes of that plant village.  There are so few left who remember those songs and who remember to leave the offering and wait for the plants to show who should be picked and who should remain.

If the people did not sing those songs, the guardians of the plants may move to protect them.  Some guardians are bees, some are ants, some are birds, some are snakes, but all have plants that they watch over.  These guardians will move to protect the plant if the treaty is not heeded.  If that warning is not heeded, the plants themselves will turn on the people.  And in this day and age, with obesity, cancer, diabetes, and heart disease so prevalent, it does appear that the plants will no longer honor the treaty that we broke.

2:  Respecting the Medicines

What does this have to do with food?  I assure you, FOOD IS MEDICINE, AND MEDICINE IS FOOD.  Anything that we consume with our bodies, through our mouths, through our lungs, through our skin, is food.  And medicine. 

Too many of our people have become oblivious to the act of eating, the act of drinking, the act of consuming.  We take and take without gratitude, without recompense, without thought or feeling, only driven by a desire:  I’M HUNGRY.  MBEKTE.  I’M THIRSTY.  NGASHKNABAGWE.  I NEED A CIGARETTE.  NWI WDEMA.

When we begin looking at the act of consumption as something sacred, and we begin to realize that EVERYTHING we put into our bodies has a spiritual implication, we begin to be more aware.  The first step in overcoming the addictive processes and chemical dependencies that we have developed amongst ourselves to recognize the Creator of the medicines, the sacredness of each one, and our inability to control any aspect of it. 

So you think you are better than the plants, eh?  They’re older than you…

There is nothing on this earth that is truly man-made.  Metals and precious jewels come from within the earth.  Petroleum products come from long decayed life forms.  Even the medicines that we take for granted are not created by scientists and pharmacists.  They are re-created, re-fashioned from the materials found on Mother Earth.  Even chemical and synthetic compounds came from the Earth.  No scientist has ever been able to create medicine from nothing, everything has a source.  The universal source is the Creator him/herself.

Respect for medicine is an often overlooked subject.  In this era when we can pop a pill for anything that ails us, we often forget where the medicines come from.  These pills which seem to have a category of their own are still taken by mouth, in most cases anyway, and because they are taken by mouth, they are also part of our diet.  These pills can also affect our diet, with the multitude of side effects that come with every pop.

The Neshnabék used to talk to the medicines they took, yes, literally talk to the medicine.  They would explain what the symptoms were to the plants and medicine mixtures they used, and then ask those medicines to go into their body to relieve what was wrong.  Acting upon the treaty, the plants obliged.  Side effects were rare.  The plants knew what to do.  In modern times, the medicines have been twisted and compounded, transformed into pills and capsules, and are still trying to do what they were made to do, but without any instructions from the pharmacist or the patient. 

Imagine sending a contractor in to build a house, with no blueprints, no instructions, no list of preferences or details. You would get a house, yes, a house indeed, but you may not be satisfied with the outcome!  The same with these medicines…if there is a medicine that is made by the creator to deal with pain, then without instruction, it will go in and find anything that may be a source of “pain” and attack it, even the lining of one’s stomach, or nerves in one’s fingers or toes.  But with instructions, the medicine will know where to go, where to focus, and what to do!

There are still those Neshnabek who speak their language, and who remember that old treaty, and know these ways, and know how to talk to those medicines, and they have been known to speak to their pills before taking them.

The same principle applies to food.  Many foods are medicines, and many medicines are food.  They are intertwined, and treated with the same level of respect.  What harm is there in talking to the food?  In prayers over food, many traditional Neshnabek not only address the Creator and the Sacred Powers of this universe, but also the food itself, asking the food to bless and nourish the people.  We have no power to bless the food!  We ask the food to bless us!

One of the most powerful of the medicines is not a plant at all, but water itself.  Water hydrates, cleanses, and nourishes.  It lowers the body temperature and blood pressure.  It carries nutrients throughout the body.  It is the medium by which many traditional medicines are prepared.  It is 70% of the earth’s surface, and 70% of the human body.  Without water, life as we know it could not exist.

It is said that the women carry the water.  This has many meanings.  Women carry the water in their bodies for 9 months before giving birth to a child.  Women carry the water into the major ceremonies of the Neshnabek.  Women therefore take the responsibility of protecting and caring for water sources very seriously. 

Clean water poured into polluted water makes diluted polluted water.  It is necessary to clean up the water.  Plants that soak up polluted water become polluted plants.  Fish that live in polluted water become polluted fish.  Animals that eat polluted plants and polluted fish become polluted animals.  In our quest for industry and technology, we have forgotten that our first priority is to eat.

Water is one of the greatest things in any ceremony, especially the Medicine Dance. As the Creator made us of this earth, He dipped his finger into water and placed it in our mouths. Water is life. It always moves. It is the same as the blood in our bodies. It is life. Our hearts are only wind and water moving. We breathe air, we are made of earth, and we are given life by water. Water, earth, and wind are what we are made of. The moving ocean is the beating of the earth’s heart. The wind is its breath. Thus started the Medicine Lodge from the Creator and all ceremonies.

The original medicine was very sacred like the original water. It became polluted after the coming of the Europeans in this hemisphere, as they did not know how to live with it. It was also told they did not know how to live in communion with the green, the rock, and the air. The Neshnabek actually communed with all of these things, believing them to be alive and able to bless them, thus they were to be in co existence with all of life, which is what all of this was to them; the two leggeds, the four leggeds, the creeping crawling things, the winged ones, the rock, the water, the green and the air.

The European did not believe any of this was alive and treated it with disdain, not giving any of these things their proper place within his world or theirs. To think that one must make a formal request of a plant, or a four legged, or water, or any of these created beings, was totally out of his line of reasoning. The European sought to control nature thusly, and became enslaved to it, as recompense. The old people used to tell us this is why the Euroamericans fear nature now; weather, creeping crawling things, the green, even the rock when it moves about, as it should to accommodate Mother Earth and all of Creation. When one respects these things and communes with them, treats them as living things, seeks to be in harmony with them, and generally acts like life is in all things, as well as himself, this person is said to be in harmony.

We have always been part of the water, the green, the air, and created from the rock itself, thus we are family. All living things are then related to us as well. We treat them as relatives by saying this: gdenwemagnedok…….all of our relations.  

In respecting the medicines of the earth, it is important to consider the Neshnabek point of view.  In modern times, many people who know a little something about herbal medicine are called “Medicine Men” or “Medicine Women.”  This is a misconception and mistranslation.  Those Spiritual Leaders who know how to communicate with plants and can use them effectively know full well that they are not Medicine Men (Perrot, 1983). 

The real Medicine Men and Women are the plants themselves!  They are spoken to directly by Spiritual Experts, who are fluent in their language and culture, who are recognized by their tribes, clans, and societies as experts, and who have an anointing from Mamogosnan to do such things.  This status is achieved over decades of apprenticeship, sacrifice, and study, and is not guaranteed by one’s bloodline or blood quantum.  The real Medicine People are the plants, and the Spiritual Experts who use them are skilled in asking the PLANTS what they should do to help someone.

The Spiritual Experts also know there is much more to healing than medicine, that the plants will not help someone who is not prepared to help one’s self.  Per the treaty, the plants expect the patient to be honest in recognizing the source of an illness, especially if it is misconduct or abuse of someone or something.  If there is some reason that patient is sick, perhaps abuse of tobacco, or abuse of some other drug, or some form of sexual misconduct, the plants expect that patient to seek forgiveness, and to CHANGE the way they were living to prevent the illness from happening again!

3:  Respecting the Four Sacred Plants

Semau –  Tobacco

The first of these plants is Sémau, “The One who Gathers.”  This plant in particular has been greatly abused and has turned on its users.  Originally, the Nensémau plant (Indian tobacco) was not smoked.  He was used as an offering only, placed in the fire or offered at the base of a tree or other suitable offering site.  He was the most sacred of offerings.  He was the one that was offered to the plants before picking.  He was the one that was offered to the animals after the hunt.  He was the one offered to the Spirit while praying. 

This plant in particular has been modified by greed.  It was originally meant to grow only about a foot tall.  Modern tobacco plants can grow up to 6 feet tall, sometimes taller.  They are cut, mixed with other ingredients, rolled, and sold as a recreational drug.  The people who then smoke them are subject to the curses of abusing a sacred plant:  Cancer, Heart Disease, and Emphysema. 

Nensémau has a special role in the plant world.  He is the ears of universe, and “He Gathers” the prayers of the people, delivering them to Mamogosnan in the form of smoke.  He is also a universal translator; “He Gathers” the thoughts of the people and delivers them to the other plants and animals so there is communication between all.  In his pure form, he is powerful, for when he is burned the offered prayer goes straight before the Creator.  He Gathers is never to be worshipped, but merely to be recognized and respected for his role in the universe.

In his twisted form of a cigarette, He Still Gathers.  He gathers up all of the thoughts, words, and actions of those who smoke them, and take them before the Creator as he is burned.  He brings not just what he hears, but the intents of the heart.  May those who choose to smoke remain pure of heart, for He Gathers will tell all!

Ésheshkméyagwek – Sweetgrass

Ésheshkméyagwek, or Wishkpemishkos as it is often called, is known commonly as Sweetgrass.  This powerful plant is also burned, and was given the task of drawing good spirits to the people.  She was meant to be harvested through the offering of tobacco, braided and dried for future use.  She was never meant to be pulled up at the roots, but cut gently at the base.  This allows her to continue to grow.  Unfortunately this plant has been overharvested in some areas, neglected in others, and has been run out of fertile growing places to make room for progress.  It is no wonder that the faithful spirits who love that sweet smell are not close to us anymore.

A braid of sweetgrass tells a powerful tale, for it is the same braid that is worn by the women of the nation.  This three stranded braid speaks of marriage, a perfect union as it was meant to be.  The three strands are The Man, The Woman, and The Spirit.  A powerful, long lasting marriage will be one where the husband, wife, and God are intertwined with each other, so much so that they cannot be broken.  When sweetgrass is fresh, it is pliable and bendable and does not break easily, but once it is dried, it snaps easily.  However, it is very difficult to snap a full braid in half.  The intertwined strands strengthen each other, forming a bond that is difficult to break.  So too is a marriage.  A young marriage is full of young love and dedication, fresh and pliable, and does not break easily.  But as a marriage matures and begins to dry and cure, it may bend to outside pressures.  This is where the power of the Spirit enters in, and a married couple who pray together, worship together, and seek God in their lives will stay together in an unbreakable bond. 

The medicine, as we Neshnabek know it, is very sacred. It has to do with spiritual bonding/marriage and until one fully understands that, so one can yield themselves to that concept there can be nothing in the way of wisdom, understanding and knowledge that happens deep within the wellspring of the heart.

For knowledge to take root and understanding to usher in wisdom, along with its attributes, and wisdom to bring forth the fruits of his kind, there has to be a marriage to take place deep within the heart and soul of man.

I speak of the fruits called love, humility, respect, bravery, truth, honesty, and the lesser wisdom of man. Originally, there were only four of these the Spirit required of man. They were love, peace unity and guidance. It has been referred to as a phenomenon called WIDOKTADWEN.

Widoktadwen is that community spirit that binds men together, but should also include his Maker/Creator, and a deeply established relationship there. Widoktadwen also describes a cooperative spirit on all levels as it pertains to community and the nature of tribalism, along with a wholehearted willingness to do the will of the Spirit/spirits here on this earth where abide men and the children of men. It further describes an ability to interact with all of LIFE, i.e., the Life force, and forge meaningful relationships between God/gods and men.

All of this has to do with MARRIAGE!

The marriage/union of wood and spark to create a fire for cooking or ceremonial purposes.

The marriage/union of wood and stone when one connects the pipe for filling it.

The marriage/union of man and woman for purposes of establishing a family.

There are many other things in life that speak of this union between man and creation, Creator and creation, the Natural and Spiritual elements, etc.

That is the reason the marriage between male and female is such an important function to the neshnabek world because it speaks of the deeper levels of this most holy union, and what it symbolizes and represents on all levels of life.

Wabshkegbyak – Sage

Wabshkegbyak is but one of the names for Sage, a powerful protector.  He has the task of pushing away spirits that seek to disrupt the lives of the people.  He works in tandem with Sweetgrass.  When one burns Sage to clear the area of spirits, one should burn Sweetgrass shortly after to attract good spirits back to the area.

Sage comes in many forms, from white mountain sage to the common cooking sage found in gardens.  It is important to know which types are for burning for this purpose, and which types are meant for eating and teas.  Some sages have medicinal properties that can be very beneficial to the people.  Culinary sage is readily available in most areas, but the wild sages that are used for smudging/burning ceremonies are often hard to find, and even more difficult when the people have forgotten what to look for. 

The burning of medicines as “smudge” has been mocked by many so-called civilized peoples, who have since developed aerosols that cleanse and sanitize their air using chemicals that are just as dangerous as the bacteria and viruses they are seeking to destroy.  Our people used smudge as both a physical and spiritual disinfectant, knowing that burning sage will drive away mosquitos, vermin, and unclean spirits who recognize that smell as what they will one day smell like, when they stand before the fire.  Turns out smudge really does destroy bacteria and viruses, in laboratory testing (Nautiyal CS, 2007).  But of course, because some people can’t take on faith that something happens, they have to test it in a lab before they believe it. 

All plants have guardians, but sacred plants have fierce guardians.  Once a group of people found a large patch of sage growing in a clean area, so they stopped to gather it for use at a sweat later that day.  When they arrived with the fresh sage, they were fully dedicated to cleaning it, using some right away, and drying some for later.  One of them began itching his ankle.  Then another, then another.  Pretty soon the whole group was bent over, scratching furiously.  Close inspection revealed an infestation of chiggers!  Those who had remained by the fire asked the elders who were there about this turn of events, and one of the elders asked those gatherers if they had put tobacco down and asked permission to gather that sage.  They hung their heads ashamedly and said no.

Gishki – Cedar

Gishki or Shkop are the names for Cedar.  Cedar that has rounded leaves is known as Shkop, usually Juniper.  Cedar (Northern White Cedar) with flat leaves is known as Gishki.  Gishki in particular is so named because of the points of his leaves.  When one holds a sprig of fresh cedar out, it looks as though those points are defending that person.  Red Cedar is also known as Gishki, as it is similar in form and function to White Cedar. 

Cedar is a purifier.  His leaves are often burned to cleanse an area of enemies, both physical and spiritual.  His oils are sacred and can be used for anointing.  Now he has been stunted, grown as “arbor vitae” in many areas, used as a decoration.  But the mighty cedars of the swamps once provided health and help to thousands of people, not to mention the animals and birds who make their homes in his boughs.  Now these cedars are in decline, succumbing to drought, pollution, and the need to clear the land for “progress.”

Being a tree that loves wet areas, the guardians of cedar trees most often include mosquitos.  Many a person has been bitten to welts while taking boughs without permission.  It is amazing to me that our Creator has chosen many of the smallest of creatures to be so fierce…if we do not humble ourselves, they will humble us.

All four of these medicines are primarily used by burning them, although there are uses for infusions and essential oils as well.  Cedar oil in particular is used in modern disinfectants, soaps, shampoos, liniments, and cleaning supplies (USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center & the Biota of North America Program, 2002).  It is also used in this part of the world as anointing oil…as olives are not native to this land!

4:  The Three Sisters

When explorers and colonists first came to America, they observed through their European eyes how Mound Agriculture can be beneficial.  It was Mound Agriculture that enabled the “Pilgrims” to enjoy their so-called Thanksgiving feast.  It was Mound Agriculture that fed the peoples of the Great Lakes for generations (Weatherford, 1991).

The Three Sisters are Mdamen, Kojesek, and Wabgonen:  Corn, Beans, and Squash.  They were grown together because they were able to care for each other like sisters do.  Corn is tall and strong, and provides a base for climbing beans.  Beans are nitrogen fixing, returning this valuable nutrient into the soil.  Squash is low with broad leaves, providing shade and ground cover, helping the soil to retain moisture.  Working together, these three sisters were able to feed the people. 

Many stories have been passed down to us by the elders about these three sisters, but these stories are not useful unless we put them back in the ground.  The three sisters have the ability to bring nutritious food to the people, if they are permitted to do so.  Crop rotation, planting corn one year and beans the next, has been helpful, but why not have all three at once?  Mono-yield agriculture provides food, but at what cost?  Variety is very necessary in a diet for balanced nutrition, and the Three Sisters are meant to be grown and eaten together in a season. 

In this day and age, both corn and soybeans are grown and twisted into multitudes of chemical extracts and compounds, providing food, fuel for our cars, and general merchandise.  However, most modern citizens have no idea what a variety of corn exists. 

Most backyard gardeners are familiar with Sweet Corn, that delicious summer treat that goes with anything.  However, give them an ear of multi-colored Indian Corn, and they peel it and use it as a Thanksgiving centerpiece.  A fresh ear of Popcorn is treated as Indian Corn by those who have lost the art of popping corn on a stove. 

The Neshnabek knew a way of preparing what is commonly known as “Indian Corn” into a highly nutritious food.  This practice is called “nixtamalization” by educated folks…we just called it making hull corn.  We would cook the hard corn kernels with a solution of water and sifted wood ashes.  The ashes would become a lye solution that would alkalize the corn.  In doing so, the hard hulls would slip off, and the internal corn kernel would puff up.  They would become what is known as hominy today.

This process created a chemical reaction within the corn, which changed the amino acids to become a “complete protein.”  It also enabled the niacin to be released and digested.  Thus traditionally processed corn became a super food (Katz, 2003).

Colonists saw the effort that the Neshnabek went through to process their corn, and of course felt they could do it better.  So they used their grinding wheels and other tools to simply process the corn down, instead of alkalizing it.  They quickly found that the un-alkalized corn was not providing enough protein and niacin, and diseases such as pellagra and kwashiorkor became realities of life in the colonies and abroad where corn was exported.  In Europe, corn became regarded as animal feed. 

It is easy to see something, see how others use it, recognize its value, and then try to appropriate it.  However, in doing so, one often misses the natural, cultural, and spiritual aspects of that thing.   The same process is now being repeated by many who are questing to become herbalists and whole food specialists.  They are finding that plants that the Neshnabek used at one time are still available and they seek to use them, only to find that the results are not what was intended.  The Neshnabek relationship with the plants was generations in the making, and cannot be replaced overnight.

The Three Sisters weren’t just grown together, they were also eaten together.  Succotash is one of the most nutritious dishes you can eat, high in fiber, balanced in nutrients, low in fat.  We also made soups out of these three plants. 

There were at least 18 varieties of beans that we grew, as well as hard and soft squashes.  Beans are easy to dry or can, and we kept them in abundance.  If you are Neshnabé, you have at least one auntie that makes the best bean soup around. 

Squash was more difficult to keep, but we had a traditional way of doing it.  We would take the hard squashes and cut them into thin rings.  We would dry these rings of squash, and braid them together in long chains that could be hung up.  I have vivid memories of the women of the community performing this task in late fall.  We had orange pumpkins, white pumpkins, acorn squash, and hard green winter squash.  All winter long, when we wanted soup, we would take a ring off and add it to the pot. 

5:  Fish:  The other white meat

Of course the Neshnabek ate red meat, but a variety of it.  There was deer, elk, moose, and buffalo that could be hunted and processed.  Our people also ate bear and boar, when available.  There were also smaller animals that could be trapped and eaten in season, like rabbits, squirrels, porcupines, turtles, and muskrats.  The Neshnabek did not need a DNR service to know when it was safe to take these animals.  We hunted them in season.

When Neshnabek males were learning to hunt, we were taught to first observe the animals doing what they do.  We were told to watch where they went, what they ate, where they slept, what they drank…and what they avoided!   In this way, we were well aware of the environment and the chains and webs of life that existed. 

When a hunter took an animal, he always respected the life he had taken.  He would lay that animal facing west, offer tobacco to it, and thank it for laying its life down so his family could eat.  He would take it to his wife, sister, or daughter, who would carefully and respectfully take it apart, using every available piece of meat, and tanning the hide for clothing.  Neshnabek were not wasteful people, and they made sure to use what the Creator had provided in a very efficient way.

Our meats were lean, fed on the natural wild grasses and fruits of the land.  Venison and bison were (and still are) high in protein, rich in iron, and low in fat (Marchello, 1996) (Michigan Venison, 2009).  In comparison to modern day beef, these meats were healthier for our diets, especially when you compare the fat content. 

We were also connoisseurs of the wild fowl that roamed our woodlands, prairies, and marshes.  Wild turkey, pheasant, duck, grouse, goose, loon, quail, partridge, and other types of waterfowl.  We didn’t eat the larger birds, swans and cranes were considered clan symbols and not eaten. 

If you believe the myth, Neshnabek must have completely wiped out the deer population with all the deer they were eating.  However, if you look closely at the lifeways of the Neshnabek, you will find that the primary source of protein was once FISH. 

Our people were well aware of the life that teemed under the water, and knew that the middle of a swamp does not freeze in the winter.  They knew that all they had to do was break through the ice to find a readily available food source.  We also knew how to make good use of the cranberry bogs, which were full of fish and other water creatures, and as white entrepreneurs created the cranberry farms, we found that the reservoirs used for flooding the bogs were teeming with northern pike and other crowd-pleasing fish.  As a young man, I worked in the cranberry farms for hire, but also fished and trapped along those same life-giving waters.

Namé, the sturgeon, was once one of the greatest natural resources of the great lakes area.  Growing to be anywhere from 6 to 10 feet long, this fish could feed an extended family in one sitting.  His brothers and sisters, the lesser fish of the Great Lakes area, provided both food and fertilizer for the garden beds of the Neshnabek (Peterson, 2013) (Gaumnitz, 2001). 

The Neshnabek were so skilled at fishing that they actually began herding fish.  My grandparents told me of a time when the rivers were teeming with fish, and the groups along the rivers would create their own live fish storage systems.  They would dig channels around the bends in the rivers and streams, wide enough and deep enough for sturgeon or whatever fish was abundant in that area.  They would steer the fish into the channels, then block them off at both ends.  They would then have a readily available fish pond, and could simply reach in and spear a fish when they were ready to use it.  The remains of these channels can still be seen along different rivers and streams around the Great Lakes.  I later met an anthropologist who “discovered” that my grandparents were telling me the truth (Martin, 2002).

As with other animals, the fish was carefully used and every available part was eaten.  The bones became tools and the leavings became fertilizer.  Everything was used.  Whatever waste remained was carefully placed in designated areas, forming middens of fish waste, shells from shellfish, and animal parts that were left over.  When the waste was compared to what was used, it is amazing how much we used as opposed to filling great trash dumps.  And everything then was biodegradable.

It is truly stunning how much waste is produced in this time.  It was not many generations ago that the children of America were admonished not to waste food.  There was a Depression, a Great War, there were starving communists in Russia, starving children in Ethiopia, all these were used as examples to exhort the children to eat all their food. 

Yet now, we are told we are eating too much!   Our portion sizes have become so great that many have trouble eating what is served in most restaurants.  The calorie count of most processed foods is staggeringly high.  This is completely disproportionate to the effort we now put into obtaining food.

Most Americans now get up, get into a car or a taxi, drive to the grocery store, purchase food items, return home, store and refrigerate them, and casually get up to eat whenever the urge strikes them.  We no longer hunt for our game.  We no longer spend hours fishing, gathering wild foods, or gardening.  We rely on great powerhouse farms that churn out food through the use of machines, pesticides, and chemical fertilizers.  Our lifestyle has become sedentary, and we have begun taking our food for granted. 

There is enough food wasted in America today simply because it goes bad in the fridge or is uneaten in restaurants to feed every starving child in Africa. 

6:  Using Natural Sugars

Warning after warning after warning now in this day and age goes unheeded by the soda pop junkies.  We are warned now to limit the amount of refined sugars in our diet.  The sugars that once brought wealth, misery, and terror to the plantations of the Gulf Coast and Carribean are now revealed to be a cause of diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, cancers, and various endocrine disorders.  In colonial times, people couldn’t get enough of what was a new source of sugar and calories.  Now, we get too much (Gladstar, 2001) (Weatherford, 1991) (Katz, 2003).

Sugar is readily available everywhere we shop, and it’s added to almost everything.  Even corn has been twisted around and made to add to the problem, with high fructose corn syrup appearing on many ingredient lists.  It is easy to get angry and blame sugar for our woes, but in reality, sugar is innocent.

Sugar is a thing.  It comes from plants.  It doesn’t spontaneously appear in our cupboards, or on our tables, or in our cookies.  It takes humans to extract the sugar, it takes humans to refine the sugar, it takes humans to buy the sugar, it takes humans to use the sugar, and it is humans who eat the sugar.  So who is the enemy?

As it turns out, Neshnabek have a very simple philosophy on food and medicine.  It is HUMANS who are capable of destroying themselves, not the sugar.  Humans were created by the Creator with something called FREE WILL.  We have a choice.  We exercise our power of choice daily with what we pick up and put in our mouths.  Sugars, fats, and salts are not our enemy, we are!  We are our own worst enemy!  How can we go through the trouble to twist plants around to extract the sugars, refine them, package them, make them readily available, and then call them our enemy???  Are we creating the very army that will destroy us?  No!  It is the humans who have the choices, who have the ability to look at the food on the table or in the store, and say simply, NO!  I will not eat that…I will eat this instead.

Neshnabek used two natural sources of sugar in their diet.  One was maple sugar, brought as a gift from Ininateg, the Maple Tree.  He saw that the people were struggling at the end of the winter, before the green grass appeared and the return of the food sources.   So he told the people to cut him and take his sap, that if they boiled it down they would have enough energy to make it through to green grass time. 

Many Great Lakes peoples still carry out traditional maple sugaring processes, and make both syrup and sugar cakes for use throughout the year.   The traditional process of making sugar is ceremonial, and brings together the entire family.  All members of a community participated in the maple sugaring process.  This was a powerful time for families, working amidst the conditions that the change of seasons bring, and allowed for bonding.

As a child I learned from some of the best maple sugar makers among my people.  Maple sugaring, Zisbaktokewen, was a major event on the Bluff, and the syrup, ziwagmede, the sugar, zisbakwet, and the sugar cakes, mezweyak, were respected and used carefully and ceremonially.  We knew where our sugar came from, we knew how much work it was to obtain it and process it, so we were careful how we used it.

Maple sap runs best when the days are above freezing and the nights still dip below.  This time of year can be very dangerous, as the melting and refreezing of rivers and streams can bring deadly results, and animals are just beginning to peek out of hibernation, or are hungry after a hard winter.  Food is scarce right before the growing season, and the sweetness that maple products can bring are a warm, welcome respite to the cold.

Maple syrup, not the high fructose corn syrup with maple flavoring, but real maple syrup, is not just a sugar, but also a source of nutrients.  Maple syrup is high in manganese, riboflavin, zinc, and also contains magnesium, calcium, and potassium.  It also contains 54 different antioxidants, including those found in berries and red wine.  (Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers)

The other major source of sugar was honey.  The Neshnabek were well versed in bees and how to find wild honey.  They knew how dangerous it was to try to take this precious resource.  We knew what to do when we found a hive of wild bees.  We moved with care, using smoke to lull the bees, and taking only what we needed, knowing that the bees needed to feed their children, too.  We were well aware of the delicate balance of nature, and how important the bees were to pollination.  We saw it first hand on the bluff, as we had numerous apple trees and berry bushes that depended on the bees for pollination.  When we found their hives, we were always peaceful to them, and made sure they had what they needed to survive the winter.

Honey has wonderful uses besides a sweetener.  It has powerful antibiotic properties, and can be used to heal minor wounds.  It coats the throat, bringing relief to dry coughs and winter colds.  It can aid in digestion and makes bitter medicines more palatable.  It is better and safer for children over the age of 1 to give honey as a cough suppressant than any over the counter medication (Ashkin, 2013).

Honey is made from pollen, and has homeopathic properties when harvested locally.  Many who suffer from seasonal allergies would do well to eat local honey, as it will bring relief.  The body becomes used to the pollens in the honey, recognizes them as beneficial, and then stops trying to attack them through watery eyes and runny noses.  We used a combination of local raw honey and they early spring leaves of young nettles as a natural remedy against spring allergies.

These natural sugars, made from local ingredients, harvested in a good way, can bring many health benefits.  All science aside, both maple sugar and honey are harvested by the people with the utmost respect and reverence for the sources of these sugars.  They are also harvested in such a way that ensures that another harvest will be available to the next generation.  These spiritual aspects of natural sugars should not be avoided. 

Consider the way refined sugars came to be so popular.  It was the sugar cane plantations of the so-called “New World,” along the southern coast of North America and in the islands of the Caribbean, that made possible the mass consumption of sugar.  The sugar cane plant was mass cultivated through the blood sweat and tears of NATIVE SLAVES.  That’s right, before Africans were ripped from their homeland, it was the Natives of America who were enslaved in the production of sugar cane.  It was backbreaking labor, and the life expectancy of a slave in the sugar cane fields was quite young.  Raiding parties went all along the coasts, capturing Native Americans, bringing them to the Caribbean islands, to languish and die for the sweet tooth of Europe. 

After the famous “Thanksgiving Dinner” incident, the Plymouth Rock Pilgrims enslaved the Pequots of Connecticut, selling them as slaves at market in Bermuda in 1637 (Weatherford, 1991).  Native American slaves were sold by New England colonists in Morocco, the Canary Islands, the Azores, and the West Indies (Weatherford, 1991). 

African slavery began in America at the request of none other than Diego Columbus, son of Christopher Columbus, in 1519, in a document now preserved at the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma (Weatherford, 1991).  The famous Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 only freed slaves in the Confederate States of America…The Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution was ratified in 1865…..

….but enslavement of Navajo people within the United States continued until a joint resolution of Congress outlawed the practice on July 27, 1868. 

Consider then the spiritual implications of this sugar crop, which is innocent in and of itself, but is stained with the blood of slaves who died in its production and proliferation.  Without slaves, we now use machines, cold, heartless automation, to produce the same substance; again with no heart, no soul, no prayers, no songs, no blessings.  The sugar we ingest is innocent all right…it is also oppressed. 

7:  Native Plants

Irish potatoes did not come from Ireland.  They came from Peru, and were exported throughout the world, where they became a staple of diet wherever they grew.  There are many plants that were “discovered” in the new world in this manner; some were accepted readily, like the potato, while others were held in suspicion.  For example, the tomato, another gift of the southern nations, was regarded as poisonous by European colonists for generations.  They associated it with the deadly nightshade plant they were accustomed to back home.  

The ancient diet of the Great Lakes people, the Neshnabek, was varied and nutritious.  In addition to the corn, beans and squash, they ate a wide variety of natural foods, both wild and cultivated.  The Neshnabek knew how to encourage the growth of cranberries, and used them extensively as both a food and a medicine.   They knew cranberries could treat urinary tract difficulties, and knew they added tartness to food.  Their acidic content made them helpful in preserving meat, and they were used extensively in dried food mixtures.  Our people also knew what other life could be found among the cranberry bogs, and used them as sites for hunting, trapping, and fishing.  As a young man, cranberry farm owners would actually pay me to trap muskrats and other small mammals that were too numerous for them.  I would also eat my weight in northern pike fished from the flooded cranberry bogs.

The Neshnabek were very familiar with berries and fruits, taking care to harvest the blueberries, huckleberries, and pawpaws, all native to this continent.  They would take what they need, and then leave the rest for the other animals and for the plant to reproduce.  They never took everything for themselves.  They had a ceremonial word for this, Ke Bon Min Ka, “Leave the Berries alone,” which marked the end of the harvest, and was a warning to the tribe to respect the treaty and allow the other nations of the natural world to have their share.

We had strawberries, blackberries, blackcap raspberries, apples, and blueberries on the bluff.  I remember my mother canning these both for us, and to sell.  Even after we moved away from the bluff, we used to return seasonally as a family to gather those berries.  Now we are told how valuable they are as sources of antioxidants.  We always knew their value, that’s why we sought them out, that’s why we kept going back for them.

We also knew how to take their canoes and harvest wild rice.  Mnomen, the “good seed,” grew on the water, and is part of the oral tradition on how we came to be here, seeking the place we were instructed to find, where the food grows upon the water.  Wild rice is a highly nutritional food, and is cared for, tended to, and harvested in a sacred way.  The First Rice of the season is considered sacred, and is used in ceremonial feasts.  Wild rice is high in fiber, high in protein, and is an excellent source of potassium.  (Moose Lake Wild Rice, 2014)

The Neshnabek ate things on this continent that modern Americans would not think to eat now, such as milkweed, which grows abundantly on the prairies.  Many Americans now decry the decline of the milkweed plant, but as a habitat for butterflies, not as a food source.  The Neshnabek considered this plant both food and medicine, giving it the name Nenwesh (Nenwzhik for the plural).  The Prairie peoples, known as the Mshkwedeniyek, knew how to encourage this and other plants.  In season, they would practice controlled burns on the prairies.  They would sing sacred songs to warn the animals to move, watch and wait for them to move, then burn parts of the prairie.  This encouraged new growth, and the plants that came out of the burned areas were spectacular.  If burned properly and at the right time, milkweed is encouraged to take over areas.  This has to be done at the right time, in early spring, giving the earth time to heal and the milkweed the right moment to germinate. 

This special moment was witnessed quite by accident one year, when a farmer smoking a cigarette accidently burned down a field of hay behind his home in early spring in Michigan.  Within a month, the once grassy field transformed from blackened earth to a field thick with milkweed, teeming with butterflies.  Sometimes ancient wisdom defies modern science.

My daughter still makes milkweed soup the way my mother taught her.  She is amazed by the number of people who stop her as she is gathering it, warning her to avoid that toxic herb, that dangerous plant.  This is the same plant our family has eaten for generations.  This plant tastes somewhat like asparagus when cooked right.

The Neshnabek also used other native medicines, including Echinacea, Goldenseal, and American Ginseng, among others.  These three are mentioned because they are common among modern herbalists.  Of these three, ginseng and goldenseal grow in specific habitats that are currently endangered.  These special plants, like many other native plants, have been pushed out by non-native interlopers, and are slowly fading away.  The Neshnabek once knew hundreds of medicines.  Unfortunately colonial pressures resulted in the loss of much of this knowledge, but there are still a few elders left who know about the medicines and know how to treat common ailments.  There are even fewer bonafide traditional religious experts, who know how to pray for the right medicines to reveal themselves, and can treat many more serious illnesses per the instructions of the plants themselves.

On the bluff, we very rarely called upon the white doctors of the town of Arpin or other nearby communities…we had skunk oil instead of Vicks Vaporub, we had salves and teas for anything that ailed us.  We knew our land, we knew what was growing, where to find it, when to pick it, how to harvest it, and how to use it.

Before the “Discovery” of America, the Europeans had their own diet, in Europe.  They grew wheat, rye, and barley, and ate the greens and vegetables of old Europe.  They had a panacea of natural remedies for many illnesses.  Managed correctly, this system could have fed and sustained millions, but for reasons known only to history, many Europeans fled the continent for America in search of bountiful land where they could finally escape physical starvation and spiritual persecution. 

Upon their arrival they found vast hardwood forests, filled with game and wild foods.  They found vast fields of corn, beans and squash, and terraced gardens of tomatoes, melons, and other vegetables and fruits.  They found rivers and streams teeming with fish and shellfish, turtles and waterfowl.  They found bounty.

So they called it uncivilized, knocked it all down, cleared field and forest, built European style permanent structures (in flood plains and hurricane zones, mind you), plowed European style fields, and planted imported European crops.  They overhunted, over trapped, overfished, over gathered, and over harvested.  They taught the Great Lakes people to do the same, in order to keep up with the fur trade.  When the resources ran out, they would move farther and farther west, pushing everyone and everything out of their way.  And this continued, until the 1930s, when the Dust Bowl finally woke them up and caused them to realize that THIS IS NOT NEW EUROPE.   This is America! And it has its own climate, its own natural foods, and its own way of growing things. 

The Native Peoples of this continent did not just grow Corn.  They grew Sweet Corn, White Corn, Red Corn, Blue Corn, Multi-colored Corn, and Popcorn.  They had hundreds of varieties of corn.  They did not just grow Beans.  They grew 18-20 varieties of beans in any given area, Pinto Beans, Black Beans, Anasazi Beans, Pink Beans, Kidney Beans, Beans of every shape and color, from small plants to tall climbing vines that grew up the cornstalks.  They did not just grow Squash.  They grew hundreds of varieties of Squash, including Pumpkins of every shape and color, Hard Squashes like Acorn and Butternut, and Soft Squashes like Zucchini and Summer Squash. 

The Natives of this land were accustomed to VARIETY!

The beautiful colors of this land and its food are visual testament to the wide variety of vitamins, minerals and proteins found in the traditional native diet.  The hunters, gatherers, and gardeners of this ancient land were once healthy and strong, eating a wide variety of foods, and living with the land, growing strong in its fresh air, keeping clean in its clean waters. 

The wild game of the pristine woodlands, before pollution and overharvesting, was high in protein and vital nutrients such as iron and magnesium, while low in fat.  Why?  These animals ate a rich variety of grasses, nuts, berries, and greens.  The fish and seafood also had a great variety of foods to eat in the lakes and streams of America

In sharp contrast, the modern American diet is frighteningly homogenized.  The choices at the grocery store are Beef, Pork, Chicken, or Turkey.  It becomes difficult to find any sort of other meats, and the sale of wild game is actually prohibited in many states.  These staples of our diet do not forage on the bounty of the earth, but are raised in pens and fed the same thing every day.  The same thing every day.  The same thing every day. 

The fish in the stores are rarely wild caught, and if they are, careful attention must be paid to the source, lest we poison ourselves with mercury and other toxins.  The other fish and shellfish are farmed.  Where they are fed the same thing every day.  The same thing every day.  The same thing every day. 

The other staples of our diet?  White flour from Wheat, Processed corn, White rice, and Potatoes.   A small selection of vegetables, and a small selection of fruit.  French fries and Fry
Bread.  The same thing every day.  The same thing every day.  The Same Thing Every Day!

We have lost our variety!  The colors of our food, the things we once ate in our natural environment, they have been replaced with a pasteurized, homogenized, processed diet.  We have taken our food, and removed its strength, removed its substance, cross-bred it and refashioned it into something that will grow fiercely but not provide anywhere near the nutrition that it once did.  And even now we have scientists who think they can make it better by changing the genetic structure of the plant.  As if they know better than the CREATOR HIMSELF how to go about making food!!!

The human race comes in every color, why shouldn’t our food?  If we can’t find it in the store, it becomes incumbent upon us to grow it ourselves.

9:  End the War on Mother Earth

In breaking the peace treaty with the plants of the earth, we have declared WAR on Mother Earth.  That’s right, WAR. 

As a society, we declared War the moment we began over harvesting her resources.  We continue this War when we tamper with the resources, trying to force them to fit into our way of life, instead of respecting them all as living beings with lives of their own.  The Creator made everything with a set of instructions, and He placed them on our Mother, telling them to follow their instructions.  Every time we take a plant or animal, and try to force it to go against its instructions, we have committed an act of war against Mother Earth. 

This is a war of attrition.  Mother Earth will win.  One way or another, she will win.  As our people slowly die from cancer, heart disease, and diabetes, she is winning.  As our children suffer from malnutrition and disease, she is winning.  When will we surrender, when will we realize we are fighting a fight we cannot possibly win, when will we start to think about our future generations before they have no future left?

As a society, we have declared War on Mother Earth, and it is now up to the leaders of the Nations of this earth to surrender, to end this war.  To stop tampering with the food supply, to encourage sustainable practices of cultivation, and to ensure that all people have food, not just a select few who have money.

As individuals, we have also declared War on Mother Earth.  Every time we abuse a product of Mother Earth, every time we misuse one of her children, we are declaring War on Mother Earth.  This is a personal war that we cannot win.  Mother Earth will always win.

Everything that is on this earth comes from Mother Earth.  Only the meteorites can claim exemption.  That means that every plant comes from Mother Earth.  That means that every Medicine, every Drug, comes from a plant or other substance that is Earth-based.  There is no such thing as a man-made drug.  Everything comes from Mother Earth, no matter how many times it is twisted in a factory or laboratory. 

Alcohol comes from plants that come from Mother Earth.  Marijuana is a plant that grows on Mother Earth.  Cocaine and Crack come from Coca Leaves that grow on Mother Earth.  Heroin and synthetic Opiates come from the Poppy, which grows on Mother Earth.  Mescaline comes from Mushrooms that grow on Mother Earth.  Even amphetamines, LSD, and other so called synthetic drugs come from chemicals that are derived from Mother Earth. 

That means that anyone who abuses any of these products of the Earth is abusing her children, using them for a purpose that they were not instructed to do, and have committed an act of WAR.  Once this act of WAR has been committed, the Earth and her children will turn on that person, slowly destroying him or her, until the abuser is finally returned to the Earth from which their bodies came, and their Spirit and Soul are released to face the Creator and answer for their acts of War.  It was the Creator who created the Earth and all of her children, and He will defend her, as she is an aspect of Himself.

Alcohol and drug abuse is a War that cannot be won by the abuser.  Mother Earth will win, Every Time.  To escape the destruction, the abuser’s only hope is to make peace with Mother Earth.  The abuser should confess to the Earth, make peace with her and the plants that were abused, make peace with the Creator who created it all, and then allow the Creator to bring forth CHANGES to avoid committing the same acts of War.  ONLY THE CREATOR CAN CHANGE WHAT HE HAS CREATED.  If you are finding that you cannot win this War, that you are unchanged despite your best intentions, then it is time, RIGHT NOW, to seek the ONE who made you, and can change you, can undo the damage done to your body, soul, and spirit, and restore you to what He intended you to be! 

Please keep in mind that the most commonly abused substances are derivatives from plants that the Creator gave us to HELP US.  Marijuana is approved for medical use.  It can stimulate appetite in cancer patients, it can reduce the swelling of glaucoma and the pain of many chronic illnesses, it can even control and eliminate seizures.  Marijuana, like all other plants is sacred.  SACRED.  It has life.  It was not meant to be abused, to be a recreational party joke, it was meant to be used to help people! 

Poppies were made by the Creator, and have a resin that can soothe pain and calm nerves.  From this plant is derived hundreds of “opiates,” from morphine, hydrocodone and codeine to the insidious and highly addictive heroin and opium.  This plant like no other has been abused to the point of disrupting society.  In the 1800s the British Empire actually went to WAR with China, because China was trying to keep opium out of its land and protect its people from addiction (Hanes, 2004)!  WAR has been fought over this plant, WAR has been fought to keep this plant in society, WAR has been fought and blood has been shed to keep people addicted to the derivatives of this plant!  At this time and in the community in which I presently live, the cycle of opiate addiction is deadly, affecting members of my own family.  I pray daily for strength for opiate addicts, as they have chains on them that they cannot break alone, they NEED divine intervention! 

Disrespecting food is also an act of War, and this act is committed in many forms.  Some who are at War with the Earth will eat way too much, over indulging in everything, bringing on diabetes and heart conditions, even various cancers, before realizing that overeating is also an act of War.  Some who are at War will refuse to eat, or will throw up anything they eat, in an effort to control their own bodies and create themselves in their own image, and not in the image that the Creator intended for them.  As they slowly waste away, they are often unable to fathom that they are at War with the Earth.  These are called “Eating Disorders” by modern society, and those who suffer with them are often mocked and discouraged, shunted to the sidelines, and sent spiraling into the same behaviors. 

Again, part of the healing process for Eating Disorders should be an end to the War on Mother Earth.  They should make peace with the food and the Earth on which it grows, and make peace with the Creator who made everything.  Then the War can end and the Peace can begin, and the Creator will open the door for them and allow them to begin the process of change.  This is not an overnight cure, it is a long term commitment to changing an attitude, a mindset, a pattern of behavior, and it all begins with making the commitment to make peace with the Earth.

Anyone who abuses any aspect of Creation is declaring war.  We even declare war when we abuse ourselves and our families, the generations before us and after us.  Anytime we take action against a created being, we take action against the Creator of that being.  And thus the War continues.  War is horrible, it affects generations, it affects the landscape, it affects resources, possibilities, hope for the future.  It can only end badly for the human race, for Mother Earth was given the power to shake herself and refashion herself, to move herself and reform herself, and she will clean herself.

Many people are praying for Mother Earth.  Mother Earth is over 4 billion years old.  She does not need us to pray for her.  We need her to pray for us!!  We need her help!!  We need to ask her for forgiveness, pray for peace, and beg for mercy!  We need to ask her to intervene for us to the Creator, for she is an aspect of the Creator, formed from him, just as we were formed from him.  We are all connected, made from the same building blocks, the same materials that the Creator made and then fused together to create the multitudinous variety of life. 

We are the only beings that were created with FREE WILL.  We were given a set of instructions, just like the rest of creation.  But we were also given the ability to refuse to follow them.  We were given the ability to make choices.  This is the only thing that separates us from the plants and the animals…we have the ability to commit Sin.  Everything else is innocent; everything else is simply obedient to the Creator.  We are the only ones with the ability to NOT be obedient.  We are the only ones with the ability to deliberately do what we are NOT supposed to do! 

This Earth is our proving ground, our testing time.  It is not the only life we will live, and it is not the only place we will live.  It is where the Creator places us, to learn to live in peace, to learn to make the right choices, to live a life in which we learn to love, worship, and obey our Creator, not because we have to, but because we want to.  If we live our lives only for ourselves and our immediate present, we are missing the whole point of being here.  But if we live our lives with an eye to the future, both to our own future lives and to the future generations of inhabitants on this earth, we will naturally and faithfully end the War on the Earth, and S/He will be able to repair everything over time.  For what is a day or a year, to the Eternal One?


Ashkin, E. a. (2013, March). A Spoonful of Honey Helps a Coughing Child Sleep. Journal of Family Practice, 62(3), 145-147.

Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers. (n.d.). Benefits of Maple Syrup. Retrieved from Pure Canadian Maple Syrup: http://purecanadamaple.com

Gaumnitz, L. a. (2001, June). Honoring the Ancient Ones. Wisconsin Natural Resources Magazine.

Gladstar, R. (2001). Rosemary Gladstar’s Family Herbal. North Adams, MA: Storey Books.

Hanes, W. T. (2004). The Opium Wars: The Addiction of One Empire and the Corruption of Another. Chicago: Sourcebooks.

Katz, S. E. (2003). Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing.

Marchello, M. (1996). Nutrient Composition of Bison Fed Contrate Diets. Retrieved from National Bison Association: http://www.bisoncentral.com/doc_lib/MarchelloStudyLabels.pdf

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Peterson, B. (2013, May 22). Restoring an Ancient Great Lakes fish. WMUK 102.1. Kalamazoo, MI, USA: WMUK 102.1 FM Kalamazoo, MI.

Smith, H. H. (1933, May 9). Ethobotany of the Forest Potawatomi Indians. Bulletin of the Public Museum of the City of Milwaukee, 7(1), 1-230.

The Holy Bible KJV. (1611; 1991). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

University of Maryland Medical Center. (2015, July 9). Complementary and Alternative Medicine Guide: Feverfew. Retrieved from Medical Reference Guide: http://www.umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/feverfew

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Gwi gteganke ne ginwa

Planting Guide

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds Gardening Guide


This Guide is intended as a general introduction to planting and raising seeds which are available from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. While we have endeavored to answer as many questions as possible, no document of this size can hope to be all encompassing. We therefore encourage you to seek additional locally-specific information from your agricultural or university extension office.

Begin at the beginning

As early as possible in the year, prepare a list of the vegetables, flowers, and herbs you want to grow. Obtain the seed for them or, if too late to start your own plants this year, opt for locally-purchased plants and plan to be earlier next year. Plants which mature quickly such as beans, leaf lettuce, radishes, etc. can be planted even if you purchase your seed well past the last frost date in your area. It is also possible to grow a second crop or Fall Garden by starting many seedlings in late June and July for planting and harvesting up to the First Fall Frost. Plan out on paper where in the garden you will put your plants, taking advantage of windbreaks, shade, and sunlight hours. Save the paper and add notes as your garden progresses. A full and accurate garden record is as essential a tool as a spade or trowel.

The importance of the Last Frost Date in Spring

There are two categories of plants in the garden:
Frost tender plants which will be killed by temperatures of 32 degrees or less. This group is further divided into those which must be started indoors so that they have grown into small plants before planting after the last Spring frost and those which will simply be direct seeded into the garden soil after the frost date.
Hardy plants will not be killed if your early Spring temperatures drop into the lower 30’s. These can be planted directly in cool soils without pre-starting in the house.

Find out your Last Frost Date

You can ask gardening neighbors, call any local agricultural or university extension offices, ask at a garden supply or nursery or at the feed store, or consult a map through several on-line sources. With this date you can now work backwards through the early Spring months and work out what needs to be started and when.

When (and Where) to start your seeds

VegetableWeeks Before Last Frost Date
Start indoors and transfer outdoors after last frost (These plants are tender) 
Chives; Globe Artichoke; Leeks; Onions;12
Eggplant; Peppers; Tomatillo; Tomatoes;8
Broccoli; Cabbage; Cauliflower;6
Cucmbers; Melons; Okra; Pumpkins; Squash;3
Direct Seed in garden before last frost (These plants are hardy)Weeks before last frost date
Onion Sets; Seed Potatoes;6
Kale; Kohlrabi; Spinach; Turnips; Mustard;5
Beets; Carrots; Chinese Cabbage; Endive; Peas (English); Radish;4
Lettuce (all types); Swiss Chard;2
Direct seed in garden after last frost (Tender)Weeks after last frost date
Beans; Celeriac; Cowpeas;1-2
Corn; Muskmelon; Watermelon; Okra;2
Pumpkins; Squash;2
Cucumbers; Peanuts; Amaranth;2

Starting Seeds Indoors

Collect the necessary materials for starting seeds. You will need pots or other containers, soil medium, and plastic bags or wrap. Containers can be anything from yogurt cups to purchased flowerpots, but all should have drainage holes in the bottom so there is adequate drainage for your seedlings. Egg cartons are too shallow; there should be about 3” of soil medium in the container to encourage proper growth of the young roots. For “soil” buy bags of seed starting mixture (note to Organic Growers – may contain chemical fertilizers; read the bag carefully) or make your own. Good soil-less mixes can be made from 50% peat moss with 50% vermiculite, or buy bags of potting soil and add 50% peat moss: that is 1 quart peat moss to 2 quarts potting soil. Potting soil used by itself is too heavy and packs down easily. Garden soil (dirt), in addition to being too heavy, contains many microbes, including some disease bacteria which may attack your young plants, causing early death.

Moisten all mixes before planting the seeds. Plastic bags or wrap will keep the moisture in your seed trays and aid in faster germination. Fill your containers with the moistened mix and press it down into the container so that you have a firm bed for the seeds. You don’t want them to fall down to the bottom of the container and not germinate! With a stick or pencil, create a little trench in the soil or punch a small row of shallow holes. Very important note: most seeds should be buried to a depth of one or two times the diameter of the seed. For instance, this means that small seeds like tomatoes should barely be a quarter of an inch below the surface of the soil. Remember that in nature most seeds just lie on the surface of the ground before germinating. Having planted your seeds, take care not to overcrowd them; very lightly press a little more soil mixture on top and lightly mist with water. Place the whole container in a clear plastic bag or under a sheet of plastic wrap. Remove it immediately after the first seed germinates.

In addition to requiring a soil medium and water to grow, seeds also require warmth and light. A warm spot in the house, such as on top of the refrigerator, will provide the heat. Seedling heating mats with thermostatic controls may be purchased. Once the seedlings have emerged, light becomes extremely important. A sunny windowsill may have to suffice, (remember to turn the seed trays every other day), but ideally a pair of low-cost fluorescent shop lights should be suspended on chains about 2 to 4 inches above the growing tops of the seedlings. Turn the light on for up to 16 hours per day and then let the plants rest during 8 hours of darkness. Keep the seedlings warm during the day hours (70º) and reduce the temperature to 60º at night. Lightly water when the soil feels dry to the touch using water at room temperature. Check often as soil mix dries out quickly in heated indoor conditions.

When the seedlings have grown their first set of true leaves (which are the 3rd and 4th to emerge), they should be fed with a diluted liquid feed. This can be a commercial houseplant food diluted to 50% weakness with extra water, or a fish and kelp emulsion organic food (note: this will smell “fishy” for some hours after use). At this time also, seedlings can be moved up into larger containers if needed. When transplanting seedlings into larger containers, hold the young plant by the leaves and not by the stem. The leaves, if damaged, can be replaced as the plant grows taller, but if the stem is damaged by rough handling the plant will likely die.

What went wrong with my seedlings?

Didn’t germinate at all or very few germinated–There are a few possible causes to this problem. The first may be old seed and/or kept in poor storage conditions. Seed sold commercially is sold for use in that season and has been tested and shown to have a germination rate of at least 80%. Seed that has been kept for more than a year in less than ideal conditions (for instance in a warm or moist place) may then not germinate up to the known percentage. Some seeds take a very long time to germinate, and perhaps you have simply not waited long enough—celery and parsley seed, for instance, can take at least 21 days to germinate. If your soil temperature is too cool, seeds will take a long time to break their dormancy. Eggplants and peppers like temperatures around 75º to 80º and slow considerably when started in cooler conditions. Excessive watering may have rotted the seed in the soil mix before it even had a chance to sprout. The soil mix should be damp but not dripping.

Seedlings that grow normally and then drop over or that show signs of fungus or mold are likely victims of dampening off, a bacteria-borne disease. To avoid this condition, always use a soil-less mix which is sterile and rinse thoroughly all containers with a bleach and water solution (1 part bleach to 10 parts water) before use. Dip your tools in this same solution and ensure that your hands are always clean when handling seedlings, especially if coming in from outside gardening chores. A chemical solution of Benomyl fungicide can be used in greenhouse environments to control these diseases. Water from the bottom whenever possible. This means standing the pots in a shallow pan of water and letting them soak up the liquid rather than using a watering can.

Pot-bound seedlings have been growing too long in a container which is too small. Likely all nutrients in the soil have been exhausted and the plant needs to be moved into a larger container with fresh mix around the roots. Take care not to damage the roots when transplanting, especially if they have gone through the drainage holes in the bottom of your pots!

Seedlings that are too leggy or tall have been grown without sufficient light, so the plant has stretched out reaching for it. Try to get the seedlings into a place where light is available for more hours per day. Tall tomato plants can be buried deeply when transferring into larger pots or when being moved out to the garden. Any buried stem will develop roots along its length.

Yellowed or sickly looking seedlings may need feeding or less watering. Allow the mix to dry out and then feed with a liquid food at diluted strength.

Hardening off

Seedlings that have been grown indoors need time to transition into the outside world. If possible, move the trays of young plants outside for some hours of daylight and then return them to the protection of the house at night. A selected spot should be out of direct wind or sun and preferably not likely to be soaked by heavy rain. After a week of this protected environment, the seedlings should be ready to be planted in the garden beds.

How to plant seedlings in the garden

Once the plants have been hardened off and the danger of frost is past (if applicable) take the seedlings and a full watering can out to the row or bed. Using the spacing chart provided in the next section, dig a small hole. Place the seedling in the ground at about the height it was growing in the pot (except tomatoes, which can be buried or laid on an angle). Press the earth down firmly and water well. Continue watering during the next few days. In some areas, cutworms are a problem. They will eat the seedling off at ground level during the night and then burrow into the ground to rest. Place a small strip (2” x 6”) of newspaper around the stem as a collar. This will decay into the soil but thwart the cutworms’ attack.

Plant seed and seedlings according to the following row spacing chart

if you are using rows in your vegetable garden. If your direct-sown seedlings come up too close together based on this chart, carefully pull out additional ones to achieve the desired spacing.

3Carrots; Peas;
4Beets; Leaf Lettuce; Onions; Parsnips; Spinach; Turnips;
6Beans (Bush); Collards; Celery; Mustard;
8Beans (Pole); Beans (Lima); Head Lettuce; Kohlrabi; Rutabaga;
10Chicory; Endive;
12Cabbage; Kale; Sweet and Dent Corn;
18Broccoli; Brussel Sprouts; Cauliflower; Cucumber; Eggplant; Okra; Peppers; Tomatoes;
24Asparagus; Tomatillo;
48Musk Melons; Squash (Summer and Winter); Zucchini;

Other methods of setting out plants
Wide row planting – In this method, a bed approximately 30” wide is planted by broadcasting (scattering) the seed across it. This works well in salad gardens where a mix of small greens is harvested at a very immature stage. Harvesting may be done by thinning the bed; that is, pulling out some of the plants growing together in a cluster, or by use of a pair of scissors snipping here and there along the bed to obtain enough salad for the desired use. Larger vegetable drops such as cabbage can also be wide row planted using a staggered pattern of the rows and allowing the minimum row distance per plant between specimens in each direction. In the case of cabbage, this would be 12” on center in a diamond shaped pattern.

Raised beds – Instead of planting at ground level, the surface of the soil is raised above the walkways. Soil may be simply mounded up, or retained within artificial walls of concrete blocks, cut down wooden pallets, old timbers, etc. Make them a size that you can reach into without difficulty, for instance 4 ft. wide by 12 ft. long with access on all sides. Compost and other soil improvements are distributed inside the raised area, and the soil is never compacted by foot traffic. Set out plants in a grid pattern to take advantage of all useable space. These raised beds may be ideal for use by a gardener with mobility problems.

Container gardening – Ideal for gardeners in city environments or for patio gardens. Take extra large plant tubs or half whisky barrels and fill with a good quality garden or potting soil. Allow for good drainage so that roots do not become waterlogged. Seeds can be direct seeded into a barrel or transplanted from seedlings. Put taller plants towards the back so as not to overshadow smaller ones. Feed and water more often as roots are in competition in this limited space. Promptly remove any insect pests or diseased plants to avoid damage to the whole collection.

Water and feed regularly

Just as you fed and watered your seedlings in the house, they will continue to need attention in the garden. Perhaps it isn’t raining much this summer, and your plants are drooping in the early morning. This is a sure sign that watering is needed. Most plants will wilt in the hot afternoons of summer but recover overnight. If you are using a sprinkler system and hose, keep a rain gauge in the garden to ensure that all plants receive up to an inch. Do this once a week rather than watering daily in small amounts. Do not water in the midday or heat of the afternoon; too much will be lost to evaporation. Spread mulch around the plants to cool the soil and slow down drying. Use black plastic or grass clippings or compost. These will also choke out weeds.
Organic gardeners can feed their vegetables with liquid or dried fish and kelp products and regular side dressings of compost. Do not put manures directly on the garden plants as it is too strong and will damage or kill them. Non-organic gardeners can purchase chemical fertilizers in granular or liquid form and apply per the instructions, taking care not to touch the leaves or stems, as these are also concentrated products and can burn your plants.

Provide support to strong plants

Tall or vining plants such as pole beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, and peas will require staking or other means of support. Peas can be grown on discarded brush stuck in along the rows or on meshes or nets specially sold for the purpose. Tomato cages can be bought commercially but are often too small for heirloom varieties which can often grow to 6 or more feet in height. Install fence posts or lengths of galvanized wire in advance of the plants needing them so that you will be ready to tie up your sprawling vines before they set fruit.

How long till harvest?

The following table gives approximate days between planting in the garden and harvest. Note that plants which are set out as seedlings (tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, cabbage, broccoli, etc.) do not include the time spent growing indoors before setting out in the garden.

Radish;25-35 days
Turnip Greens; Spinach; Mustard Greens; Lettuce (leaf); Onions (Green);35-45 days
Kale; Swiss Chard; Kohlrabi; Beans (Bush and Wax); Beets; Lettuce (Head); Turnip; Amaranth (As a vegetable);50-60 days
Cauliflower; Peas (English); Beans (Pole); Okra; Cucumber;60-70 days
Broccoli; Carrot; Pepper; Cabbage; Chinese Cabbage; Sweet Corn; Lima Beans (Bush); Crowder Peas;70-85 days
Watermelon; Collards; Cantaloupe; Tomato; Lima Beans (Pole); Eggplant; Endive; Summer Squash; Rutabaga;80-90 days
Winter Squash; Onions (Dry); Tomatillo;100 days
Potato; Celeriac; Pumpkins;up to 120 days
Peanuts;135 days
Sweet Potato; Parsnips; Salsify;150 days
Rhubarb;2 years
Asparagus;3 years

Insect Patrol

While there are commercial insect sprays available at all garden centers, most will have the disadvantage of also killing beneficial insects which are so important to the life of your garden. Rather than introduce these products to your eco-system, take time to look at the plants and discover if there is any damage and what might be the cause. The white cabbage butterfly can be seen flitting about between your cabbage plants in June. Just turn over the leaves and search out the newly laid egg clusters. Wipe them off with your fingers or a cloth and you have prevented damage from this pest. Look at potato leaves for the eggs of the Colorado Potato Beetle which is a small black and white striped insect. Caterpillars may be removed and crushed underfoot. Look for small piles of green “manure” on your plant leaves in the early morning and you will often find the caterpillar tucked under a shady leaf for the day. Tomato Hornworms can easily be detected simply by the amount of damage done in one night. Find this large pale green worm and dispatch him summarily underfoot or feed him to your chickens!


Pull weeds daily or at least while they are small. On no account should you let weeds go to seed in the garden, as your job next year will be that much harder. If at all possible be sure to pull the entire plant, including the root, as many weeds can re-grow from severed root stock if it is not all removed. Remember that a weed is any plant not growing in the desired location, so a volunteer tomato plant growing in your onion bed should be pulled out and discarded or transplanted into the tomato row.

Cover Crops

In dormant places in the garden or after harvesting an early crop, sow a plant which will be dug back into the soil as an improvement. Examples of such “cover crops” or “green manures” would be alfalfa, buckwheat, Sudangrass, hairy vetch, annual rye grass, or a legume crop such as cow or field peas or soybeans. Broadcast seed widely over the area and allow the plants to come up thickly so as to choke weeds and provide a living canopy over the soil surface. Roto-till or scythe and then dig the residues into the ground to improve your soil organically by providing food for earthworms and much needed plant material (humus) in the soil’s composition. Sandy soils will hold moisture with more humus, and clay soils are aerated or broken down with addition of humus. Be sure to allow enough time for your cover crops to break down in the soil before replanting vegetables.

Making Compost

In one corner of every good garden there should be a compost pile ready to receive weeds and crop residues. Do not leave cabbage leaves, corn stalks, or other plant leavings standing in the garden as they will provide habitats for over-wintering insect pests and diseases. Either loosely stack plant material in a heap or purchase or make your own compost container. A length of open weave wire fence can be formed into a circle about 3 to 4 ft. across and preferably no higher than 3 ft. on the sides. To make compost you need three things: organic matter, air, and water. Damp down the layers as you build the pile with a hose or watering can. In dry periods water the entire pile if rain is not expected to fall. The pile should be damp but not saturated.

Your compost “circle” should be filled by alternating layers of organic matter: dry brown (carbon) and moist green (nitrogen) materials (for example, used hay or straw between layers of grass clippings and weeds). Do not make any layer more than 4” deep, or you may smother the pile so that it cannot break down properly and instead merely decays in a stinking mess. Allow air to circulate through the container and lay branches or poles through the pile which can be removed later to produce air channels. Add kitchen scraps but no meat, which will encourage raiding animals. Barnyard manure may be added in small quantities to the various layers, but please no dog, cat, or human wastes because of the danger of pathogens.

If possible turn the compost once during the summer season; that is, prepare another such “circle” or bin, and fork the full heap over into the empty one. This will speed up the breakdown of the material in the pile. If you cannot turn your compost, simply let it sit through one garden season and winter and use it next Spring. Shovelfuls can be dug into beds or placed around perennial plants as a top dressing or mulch. Note that compost is produced by the breaking down of plant residues and manure, and this break down will continue after you have added the compost to the soil – in other words, do as nature does and keep making more!

Harvesting – Deciding if your fruits and vegetables are ready to be eaten

Most vegetables are at their peak when harvested small. Young, tender carrots, for instance, taste much better than older, woody ones. If you are approaching the number of days to harvest for the variety, closely examine the crops and see if some specimens could not now be taken and enjoyed. Some plants have specific tests to see if they have reached maturity. For instance, a Hubbard squash is good for root cellar storage if the skin is tough. Try with your fingernail to make an impression in the skin. If you can’t, it is ready for long term storage. Cantaloupes are ripe for eating when gently sliding your thumb against the vine easily separates it from the melon. They also have a strong fruit odor. Watermelons are ready when they sound hollow or thud when you knock on them. Consult gardening books for other “Is it ready to eat?” tips.

Preserving your harvest

Canning – Preserve many garden products by canning in glass jars or tin cans. Some may be processed in boiling water baths while others must be canned in pressure cookers. The ultimate reference for canning is the Ball Blue Book, published by Alltrista Corp., Muncie, IN 47307-0729. Please consult modern tables for canning times and information as older material has been revised.

Root cellar – If your home has a basement, take one corner and build a root cellar. This should be an unheated area which can be kept dark and cool. Provide open rack shelving and slatted bins for storage of whole winter squash, onions, or potatoes. Provide a screened ventilation source and check the stored produce regularly to look for decay and signs of insect or mice damage. Put out traps if necessary, not poison, to protect your food supply.

Freezing – Many vegetables can be successfully frozen after a process known as blanching, in which the produce is immersed quickly into boiling water and then packed in plastic tubs or strong plastic bags.

Drying – Commercial, round, electric powered food dehydrators are readily available, often with additional drying racks. Many fruits and vegetables can be processed in this way and stored in a small space due to the reduction in bulk. Tomatoes for drying should be of the paste rather than beefsteak type. Dryers are ideal for preserving herb crops too. Weigh produce before drying and during the process to determine the percentage of water lost. Foods should be cooled and then stored in airtight containers when the required percentage of water has been driven off. See manufacturer’s directions. Solar dryers can be homemade, and home ovens can be used as dehydrators, too.

Saving seed for next year

If you want to save seed, there are several books available on the subject. You can learn how to keep plants pure so that their seeds run true-to-type, as growing parent plants properly is the key to producing good seed for subsequent years. As a very general rule for the beginning seed saver, note that any plant with the same Latin name as another plant has the ability to, and most likely will, cross pollinate. In layman’s terms, planting Hubbard True Green Squash (Cucurbita maxima) and Big Max pumpkins (also Cucurbita maxima) in the same garden means that you should not save seed from either as they are insect pollinated. In all likelihood, the bees that went to one plant’s flowers also went to the other one so you will have a crossed seed resulting. If the plants have different Latin names, like cucumbers (Cucumis sativus) and zucchini (Cucurbita pepo), they cannot cross. On the other hand, several varieties of self-pollinated plants like beans, peas, tomatoes, and lettuce can be grown together without too much fear of crossing. If in any doubt, please consult a book on this fascinating topic.

Having grown your vegetables for seed, select the best specimens from the best plants and let the fruit fully mature to ensure that the seed within is at its best, too. Cucumbers, for example, must be grown till well past their eating stage to grow seed useful for saving. Tomato, squash, pumpkin, melon, and cucumber seed all benefit from fermenting the seeds and the surrounding pulp for about three days before cleaning and then drying. The pulp should be put into a jar with a little water and shaken or stirred twice daily for three days. At the end of this time, the pulp and immature seeds will be floating on top as scum, and the mature and useful seeds will have sunk to the bottom. Take these and dry them on labeled paper plates for about two weeks before placing in a cool, dry place; for instance, in a bag or tub in the freezer, ready for planting next year.

Putting your garden to rest for the winter

Remove all crop residue and weeds from the entire garden and dump all in the compost bin. Anything left in the garden may harbor over-wintering insects which will be poised ready to attack your new crops in the Spring. If possible, plant the garden with a cover crop, especially annual ryegrass, before the first Winter frost. This will grow into a thick cover for the garden and protect the soil from erosion over the cold season. Otherwise, lay down a blanket of straw as mulch or even leaves collected in the Fall. These will cover the soil and break down before the next planting. Anything remaining in Spring can be raked up and put into the compost bin then.

Planning for next season

When planning locations of next year’s crops, rotate your rows or beds so that each vegetable is planted in a different location from what it was the previous year. Keep all your garden plans for a few years at a time to ensure you are holding to this rule.

Seed Starting Chart for Flowers

Follow the general seed starting directions above.

Flower VarietyWeeks before last spring frost to start plants indoors
Pansies; Poppies; Snapdragons;12
Marigolds; Zinnias; Nasturtium; Morning Glories;4

Planting and Growing Sunflowers

For giant-sized heads, space the plants at least three or four feet apart. Overcrowding will cause the plants to fall in heavy winds. In garden beds, the plants should be grown along a fence or property line. There are also dwarf and semi-dwarf varieties which may be grown in mixed flower beds. Some produce multiple flower heads on branching stems.

Planting and Growing Sweet Peas

These do best in cool summers and need cool moist weather to grow and flower well. Sow the seed outside as soon as the ground can be worked in Spring. Vining varieties, which may often reach 10 feet in height, should be planted about 3” apart and support provided. Bushy types should be planted with about 10” between plants. All types need to be repeatedly cut for bouquets as they will die once setting seed. Please note: plants, pods, and seeds of Sweet Pea flower are all poisonous.

Seed Starting Chart for Herbs

Follow the general seed starting directions above.

Herb VarietyWeeks before last spring frost to start plants indoors
Chives (Garlic and Onion); Oregano; Yarrow; Parsley;12-14
Thyme; Chamomile. Feverfew; Catnip;8-12
Dill; Chervil; Coriander; Lemon Balm; Sage; Savory; Basil;6-8

Row Spacing Chart for Herb Plantings

Set out your herb seedlings according to the following chart:

InchesHerb Variety
6Anise; Caraway; Chervil; Chives; Marjoram; Parsley; Savory; Sesame; Shallot;
10Basil; Hyssop; Thyme;
12Burnet; Costmary; Dill; Mint; Oregano; Tarragon;
15Sage; Borage;
18Fennel; Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis); Rosemary; Sweet Cicely;

Interact With Us


Migration story

In the Anishinabe Migration Story, alcohol is the last and most evil of the 4 evil gifts that Short Bear Ribs brought home from his trip back east, where he met 2 ugly, smelly “red-face bear men.” who had built a square wigwam made of tree-trunks. (The first white men ever seen by the migrating Anishinabeg, red-faced from cold & alcohol & wearing dirty, shaggy coats.) They persuaded this hungry, stupid young man to feast on a bear (his clan totem) that they had killed. (This was in itself an evil, to eat his clan totem animal; there is some background to this story about the clans I don’t want to go into now.) They told Short Bear Ribs to take the 4 evil gifts as “sample trade goods” back to his people. He didn’t know what that meant, but he took the 4 evil things as gifts, which everyone understands, or so they think.

Short Bear Ribs returned to the sacred island with the 4 evil gifts; a mirror (encouraging self-centered vanity, instead of seeing your appearance reflected in the smiling eyes of a friend or beloved): red calico (signifying that the land would be traded for worthless colored rags); a gun ( the means of the new type of devastating warfare the people would conduct against their fellows, Dakota inhabitants of the lands the Migration was moving into); and last; the most evil: alcohol. Its evilness was proven by what was immediately done with it on Moningwaakunig (Madeline) island, WI, where the 5th fire of the Migration had ben lit.

Elders pondered whether this drink might be poison? and found a friendless forlorn old woman who had no relatives left to look after her. “Drink this” they said and waited to see if she would get sick or die, or whether it would be safe for them to drink. She began to fling her creaky old bones around, to scream and sing in her old lonely voice that no grandchildren listened to, to screech and laugh where she had softly wept from hunger when no one remembered her after a hunt.

“Oh, this is good stuff!” the elders said and began grabbing and drinking from that big jug. From this, what those supposedly wise leaders did, you can see: it is not alone alcohol, but that this poison attacks people through existing weaknesses of spirit. Those elders were not wise; those people had not cared for that lonely old woman. They made both a deadly experiment and a mockery of her when she had no one–they should have been the ones–to protect her and take care of her. Through these weaknesses of theirs, the poison of the 4th evil gift took over. But everyone has weaknesses; this poison can always find something to work through.

Soon the sacred island where the big Midewiwin lodge had first been raised, where the Bear had given secrets of new medicines to the people, had become a riotous, dangerous, disgusting place. People were fighting, killing each other, talking loud & senseless, vomiting and pissing on the medicine ground, the arbors, the Fifth Fire. Sober people–quiet sad families carrying their wounded, their passed-out or sick drunks–left the island. And from the drunks who stayed there drinking, arose within them those corrupted spirits which are bear walkers, who do much evil, who love death, rape the corpses of the dead, dig up graves, threaten people with death unless those people do whatever evil the bear walker wants, kill people with poisons (both alcohol which they are always offering and other poisons which mjimanitou taught them to make). They commit rapes even of their own young daughters and their sisters.

All these consequences and the spreading poison, a spirit-poison (the white man used to call alcohol “spirits” knowing that about it: that is a spiritual poison as well as physical) has weakened the people, has left our path a bloody and misery-haunted chaos, has left us awaiting the true kindling of the purifying Seventh Fire. We no longer know where. Once we were going there, many others would have met together there, but we don’t now where it is we were supposed to go to anymore. Through this poison of alcohol, the path and the grand destination were destroyed among us. Much suffering over this 300 years since the 5th Fire was put out by the 4 evil gifts has had to be endured even by those who themselves never touch the poison.

The 4th evil gift is a racist weapon that has been mounted against the survival of Indian people. We must help our young people find ways to combat it. We must show them by our example how to value each other and to want to give to others rather than to grab, to buy, to accumulate possessions. Mahpiya Luta (Red Cloud) tells us that “love of possessions is a disease among them.” Whether their ancestory kits are “formal dance gowns” or PowWow regalia, kitchen kits or tipis, bows or uzis, horses or cars, it doesn’t matter. The lesson is the same: buy, buy, buy, gain status by what you buy and keep. Young children need to be taught how to love, not to be consumers.

Notes by Neaseno.

Someone shared this story with me some time ago now and I wanted to share on this post along with some of my own observations. A long time now, about 50 + years or so, I used to travel about to the various Gatherings of our people to dance and sing, as well as visiting with other Neshnabek. I stopped doing that when I saw how much drinking that went on among the younger people, and then it spread to the older folks too. Of course, along with drinking, people argue and fight, young women get picked up and become pregnant, and all of this behavior was against the sacred teachings I learned growing up.

Sex, for example, was not something one was to experience until after you met the one you were to spend your life with and have a family with. Drinking was doing damage to one’s body, along with smoking and all the other things that went with that sort of lifestyle. Drinking was bad enough but then along came other types of drugs and I stopped attending these Gatherings long before that, when I saw all the bad effects of alcohol and what that did to my people. I put away my dance outfits and ceased even singing on the various drums I knew of.

There were even reported killings that went on among some of the dancers and the use of “witchcraft” to assure one would win the contest. The dancing become very competitive and the Gatherings became known as pow wows which also became very commercialized and they seemed to be staged at times to appeal to whites. The use of medicine against a good dancer was done often and this is none other than witchcraft. It was usually directed against one’s knees or legs so they couldn’t dance properly. There was a constant flow of alcohol at many of these pow wows but I got turned off and just ceased attending them.

Whoever wrote the original article knew of the damages of alcohol against our people many years before all of which I speak of. Drugs have taken a heavy toll of our people since then too and has become a modern way of afflicting our people with bad behaviors and lifestyles. We cannot seem to escape these bad things in use today, no matter where we go, so we need to return to our old way of life and our God. Learn your languages, learn your teachings about God and how to worship him properly.

Iw enajmoyan

Nin se Neaseno.

Great Lakes names in Ojibwe

Anishinaabemowin (Ojibwe) is the most-spoken indigenous language in the Great Lakes basin. Charles Lippert, a speaker of Anishinaabemowin, has helped tremendously by researching the lakes and translating into Anishinaabemowin. Below are the translations for all the Great Lakes:

Nayaano-nibiimaang Gichigamiin: The Great Lakes (The Five Freshwater Seas)

Anishinaabewi-gichigami: Lake Superior (Anishinaabe’s Sea)

Ininwewi-gichigami: Lake Michigan (Illinois’ Sea)

Naadowewi-gichigami: Lake Huron (Iroquois’ Sea), also known as Gichi-aazhoogami-gichigami (Great Crosswaters Sea)

Waabishkiigoo-gichigami: Lake Erie (Neutral’s Sea), also known as Aanikegamaa-gichigami (Chain of Lakes Sea)

Niigaani-gichigami: Lake Ontario (Leading Sea), also known as Gichi-zaaga’igan (Big Lake)

Gichigami (Sea) literally means “big (gichi) liquid (-gami)”. Gichigami can also refer to the Saltwater / Bitterwater Sea (i.e. ocean) — zhiiwitaagani-gichigami

The St. Louis River (MN / WI), St. Mary’s River (ON / MI), St. Claire River (ON / MI), Niagara River (ON / NY) and the St. Lawrence River (QC / ON) are all called Gichigami-ziibi (Sea River), as they all drain into or out of a Great Lake.

*A note on the compass – The Anishinaabe traditionally orient themselves to the East. Because the standard orientation is different in European and Anishinaabe cultures, we’ve included the English word “North” and the Anishinaabemowin word “Waabang,” meaning East, on the compass. The compass rose itself is in the form of a medicine wheel, an indigenous symbol used across the continent to denote the four directions.

A big thanks to Charles Lippert for supplying the following Anishinaabemowin place names:

Biiganaki-ziibiing: St. Louis, MO (By the Blackfoot River)
Aasamadinaansing-waakaa’igan: St. Charles, MO (Fort on the Little Sloping Hill)
Agaaming: East St. Louis, IL (On the Other Shore)
Mitigwaki-ziibiwishenying: Wood River, IL (Forest River)
Misi-ziibi: Mississippi River (Great River)
Biiganaki-ziibi: Missouri River (Blackfoot River)
Ininwewi-ziibi: Illinois River (River of the Illini [Plain Speakers])
Maanamego-ziibi: Meramec River (Catfish River)
Ikagookaawi-ziibi: Cahokia Creek (River of the Cahokia [Abundant with Geese])
Waawaabamowi-ziibiins: Silver Creek (Looking-glass Little River)
Gete-biskitigweyaang: Horseshoe Lake (The Old River Bend)
Zhedeg-minis: Pelican Island (Pelican Island)

Šikaakonki – Chicago, Illinois

Šikaakwa Siipiiwi – The Chicago River

Kihcikami – Lake Michigan

“Šikaakwa Siipiiwi in the Myaamia name for the Chicago River.  It was named for the abundance of Allium tricoccum (wild leek) which grew along its banks.  In the 1600s, the French called this plant “wild garlic” and for this reason, sometimes the river is mistakenly called the “Wild Garlic River.”  For more on this place name see Michael McCafferty, “A Fresh Look at the Place Name Chicago,” Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, 96, no. 2 (Summer 2003), 116-29.  Other tribes have similar names for the river and the place, though they have different stories explaining the origin of the name.  While linguists and historians might be able to determine ultimate origins of the name, we do not believe that our understanding excludes alternate perspectives.” – myaamiahistory.wordpress.com

To learn more about the Myaamia language and culture, visit myaamiacenter.org and myaamiahistory.wordpress.com

While Ojibwe is not Potawatomi, it is a related tongue and many of the same words are used in our language. I post this from my friend Charles Lippert who has done much research on the place names of the Great Lakes area and the Great Lakes themselves.

Nin se Neaseno

Mno waben/mno gishget

I post a lot of stuff on this site which I find interesting about the Neshnabek and their culture and language. There are some insightful things I have about my language and culture and I have often expressed my views on those subjects. I grew up learning and speaking this Potawatomi language and several other languages which are closely related to it. I didn’t learn to speak English until I started school as a 1st grader. It took me about 3 years to learn enough English where no one made fun of the way I pronounced words any longer but I was highly motivated to learn English because I didn’t want people to make fun of me. It was sometimes shaming and painful to know I couldn’t talk like my white counterparts.

If you have never had to learn a language to survive in a society, you don’t know what the challenges can be. I picked up other languages years later when I was in the military service quite easily and often picked up other Native languages as I traveled to various pow wows as a youth. Languages come quite easily to me as I have a practiced ear for it. I often tell others my ears are well educated to the various sounds and intonations of other languages.

With that being said, it is far better for one to learn this language, and for that matter, any language, by listening to it often and hearing all the subtle sounds of the language and learning to mimic them as closely as possible. Reading it and writing it can come later. There is no correct way to spell our language words, and there is no correct way to write it. The Roman Alphabet, ABC’s, was devised to write this language early on. Even the Natives who claimed they developed the old Ba Be Bi Bo system of writing our language copied the same Roman phonetic alphabet to do it.

Prior to that, we had no written language, only a spoken one, with various dialects or sounds, from tribal group to group. There was an early form of syllabics also, but that was developed by Missionaries to translate the Bible supposedly into our languages. It consisted of signs and symbols, not unlike early American shorthand that was created for the business world of that time. So, our languages became fair game for many to try to create a system of writing it and preserving it for teaching others. Today, our people have come to accept English to the point they believe the written forms of our various languages without question, never realizing it is based on English to begin with.

If you wish to learn this Potawatomi language or any of the Native languages of this country, find a heritage fluent speaker and spend a lot of time with them, mimic them and the sounds and intonations they make when speaking.

Iw enajmoyan ngom

Nin se Neaseno.

Papa getting ready for the Spirit

I have some ceremonies to do for various folks today and for our family as well. It looks like Spring is here and we’re going to take advantage of the warmer weather and do some serious praying for various things.

Nin se Neaseno.