What Did the Lakota Indians Eat?

What Did the Lakota Indians Eat?

The Lakota were one of 13 tribes of Sioux Indians that moved out ahead of the advancing settlers. They lived in the present-day states of Wisconsin, North and South Dakota, Minnesota, Illinois, Montana, Nebraska and Iowa and in south central Canada. Today, most Lakota live in Nebraska, Minnesota, North and South Dakota and Saskatchewan, Canada. While early Lakota did grow and harvest maize, beans and squash, they were primarily hunter-gatherers, living off the land they traversed.

1 Buffalo, Elk, Squirrel

The Lakota farmed and hunted, but their primary source of food was meat. They followed buffalo herds and used the meat and animal products for food, clothing, tools and shelter. They hunted elk and deer or any other animals they could find when the herds of larger game were scarce. Lakota found it easier to follow the herds once they acquired horses. They ate fish they caught in the streams near their tepee villages or when they traveled in their canoes. Other indigenous meats included squirrel, turkey and duck. The Lakota also harvested eggs from wild birds, and when other protein sources were scarce, they sometimes ate snake, porcupines, opossums and other less desirable game.

2 Fruit, Nuts, Berries

As the Lakota followed buffalo herds, they ate fruits and berries they found growing wild along the way. The berries included chokeberries, strawberries, cranberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries. Other fruits included pears, tomatoes, apples, wild cherries and grapes. The Lakota enjoyed dark raisins, hazelnuts and plums and used them to make plum cake. Pumpkins, sunflower seeds, acorns, hickory nuts, cashews, peanuts and pine nuts were also Native American staples.

3 Corn, Potatoes, Turnips

Before they adopted a nomadic lifestyle, the Lakota grew corn, potatoes, sweet potatoes and other crops. After they acquired horses and gained the ability to travel quickly, they traded buffalo hides and other valuables for corn and other vegetables they needed. They also ate various kinds of beans and squash, as did many of the Native American tribes. Another popular food was timpsila, a turnip the Lakota harvested in the summer and dried so they could use it year-round. They also harvested wild rice, indigenous herbs and greens.

4 Pemmican, Honey, Cornmeal

Pemmican, also known as wasna, is a concentrated mixture of foods containing protein and fat, such as buffalo, dried berries and animal products such as fat and bone marrow. Wasna not only served as nutritious food for the Lakota but also provided medicine and food for religious ceremonies. The Lakota used honey and maple syrup as sweeteners and they ground corn, nuts and seeds to make cornmeal and flour for breads and other baked goods.

Rev. Kathryn Rateliff Barr has taught birth, parenting, vaccinations and alternative medicine classes since 1994. She is a pastoral family counselor and has parented birth, step, adopted and foster children. She holds bachelor's degrees in English and history from Centenary College of Louisiana. Studies include midwifery, naturopathy and other alternative therapies.