Would you be able to survive in the forest, or out on the prairie on your own, completely away from a supermaket? We are so conditioned in this society to the supermarket as our source of food that many of us might think that food comes from the supermarket, (especially if you live in the city and off the farm). So I thought it might be nice to begin a series on basic survival, Native American style.
I still remember when I was on the Blackfeet reservation about 5-6 years ago a conversation I had with an elder of the tribe. He told me that one could still live off the land. I also remember being very interested in how this might be done, although I didn’t ask him about it at the time. But as time went on I became interested more and more in how exactly one could survive on your own, completely apart from others and especially completely apart from the IGA or Albertson’s.
Let’s begin with the search for food. One of my very dear friends (who is Blackfeet) was always tasting berries and such when she came to visit me here locally in California. When I discovered this, I was concerned as there are many poisonous plants here in southern Cal. But she instructed me on the fact that there is no plant that is sweet in Nature that is poisonous. Medicine men or women would often taste the plants to learn if they were okay to eat or not. Poisonous plants or berries tend to taste bitter. But if something is sweet, it is generally good to eat. Did you know that? I certainly hadn’t up until that time.
Roots, nuts, mushrooms, berries, turbers, bark on trees can be eaten. In the old days, women often went out in groups in each season and gathered what they needed. It was a sort of holiday for them. But if one is thrust into a survival situation, here are the things to look for. Watch the birds. If it were me, I’d watch the birds and eat whatever they ate. I might leave the mushrooms alone because I am not an expert in this and some are so poisonous and the death from them is so painful, that I would tend to leave them alone. Look for foods that you know: plums, blackberries, raspberries, stawberries, huckleberries, blueberries, chockcherries. There are also nuts like the walnut, pecan. Even the acorn can be eaten, but careful on this. One must prepare the acorn. They should never be eaten raw. They should be dried in the sun, the shells cracked off and the inner “meat” separated. They are then ground info flour and washed so that the water can be drained off them. They are then washed until the water runs clear and the yellow stain disappears. They can then be made into bread or porriage.
Roots were often eaten and if a man were starving and couldn’t find any other food, the inner bark of trees could be eaten. Those of the slippery elm, birch, basswood, white oak, sassafras, striped maple. I have known horses to survive the winter eating the inner bark of the cottonwood tree. Even squirrels nests can be robbed of their nuts.
As far as greens go, I really think you need to know what you are looking for — the wild mustard, clover, watercress are all edible — but would you know what they looked like? There are also the fish of the waters, the rabbits, ducks, even squirrels and birds can be eaten. Preparing them to eat is another thing altogether, which often times requires fire. Fire. In my next blog, I thought we might discuss how to make a fire if you are unprepared and have no matches.
Survival, in uncertain conditions. Sometime it might be important. Hopefully not, but it never hurts to be prepared. Have you ever been in a situation where you needed to know how to live off the land? Has anyone that you know ever had to survive in hard times? What did they do? What would you do?