Manataka® American Indian Council






By Huron H. Smith










Pitcher Plant (Sarracenia purpurea L.)286 "kokokoo'makasīn" [owl's shoe], Mrs. Spoon uses the foliage of the Pitcher Plant to make a "squaw" remedy, though she could not explain its particular use. Among the whites,287 the entire plant was used by eclectic practitioners for its bitter, astringent, stimulant, tonic, and diuretic properties. Another authority288 states that the entire plant has been used for its tonic, stimulant, diuretic and laxative properties.




Prickly Gooseberry (Ribes Cynosbati L.)289 "cabo'mīnaga'wīc" [see throughberry bush]. The Prairie Potawatomi call this "pźskomīnaka'wes" which has somewhat the same sound as the Forest Potawatomi name. However, the use of it by the Prairie Potawatomi is quite different as they employ the root bark for a uterine remedy. The Forest  Potawatomi make a tea of the root for treating sore eyes. We have no record of its use by the whites. 





Turtle Head (Chelone glabra L.) The Forest Potawatomi have no name or use for this plant to our knowledge and consider that it is a more recent plant to their region. Among the whites,290 the leaves have been esteemed for their bitter, tonic, cathartic and anthelminthic properties. Another authority291 says that the leaves have tonic, cathartic and anthelminthic properties. They have been used in the treatment of jaundice, liver diseases and for the removal of worms. They have also been employed in cases of dyspepsia, debility of the digestive organs and for those who are convalescing from febrile and inflammatory diseases. An ointment is made from the leaves for the treatment of piles, inflamed breasts, tumors and painful ulcers.


Monkey Flower (Mimulus glabratus HBK., var. Jamesii [T. & G.] Gray), "wesawū'nakūk" [yellow top]. The Forest Potawatomi have made use of the leaves of the Monkey Flower for medicinal purposes but the use was not discovered. Among the whites,292 the leaves have been used by eclectic practitioners for their stimulating properties. 


Wood Betony (Pedicularis canadensis L.)293 "cagacka'ndawesoanūk" [flying squirrel tail]. The Prairie Potawatomi word for this plant was "mūkwa'mūk" or "makwama'wūc" [bear weed]. The Forest Potawatomi name, the fore part of which means "flying squirrel", represents the use again of that name to commemorate a famous Potawatomi chief who has long been dead. The use of the root of this plant is rather different in the two tribes. The Forest Potawatomi use it as a physic, whereas the Prairie Potawatomi use it for reducing both internal and external swellings.  Among the whites,294 the entire plant is used by eclectic practitioners for its tonic, sedative, astringent and vulnerary properties.  


Hare Figwort (Scrophularia leporella Bicknell). The Forest Potawatomi have no name or use to our knowledge for this plant and consider that it has come into their territory in historic times. We have no record of its use by the whites.


Common Mullein (Verbascum Thapsus L.)295 "waboī'anībag" [blanket leaf]. The Forest Potawatomi smoke the dried leaves in a pipe to get relief from asthma. This practice may have been learned from the white people or vice versa. They smudge the leaves and inhale them for curing catarrh. The leaves are also smudged to revive one who has lost consciousness. Among the whites,296 the plant is known among eclectic practitioners for its demulcent, diuretic, anodyne, anti-spasmodic and vulnerary properties. Another authority297 states that the leaves and the flowers are used for their demulcent, anodyne, diuretic and anti-spasmodic properties. An infusion of the leaves is used for coughs, catarrh, breathing from the mouth, as a diaphoretic, a blood purifier and for piles and bowel complaints. The fomentation of the leaves in hot vinegar and water has been used locally to allay the inflammation in piles, ulcers, tumors and mumps. Eclectic practitioners have required the patient to inhale the steam from the leaves for acute inflammaton of the tonsils and malignant sore throats.


American Brooklime (Veronica americana Schwein.). The Forest Potawatomi have no name or use for this plant to our knowledge. Among the whites,298 the whole herb has been used for its anti-scorbutic, diuretic, emmenagogue, exanthematous and febrifuge properties. 





Black Nightshade (Solanum nigrum L.) "aciba'nīmīc" [coon weed]. This plant is not used by the Forest Potawatomi because they consider it to be poisonous. Among the whites,299 the flowers are considered narcotic, poisonous, and diaphoretic. The extract in oil is used as an anodyne and for the purpose of dispelling or resolving tumors. Another authority300 states that the leaves are narcotic and sedative. One to three grains of the leaves infused in water will produce a copious perspiration and purge on the day following. The leaf infusions have been freely used in cancer, scurvy and scrofulous affections in the form of an ointment. Very small doses are taken internally. The berries are quite poisonous and will produce torpor, insensibility and death. 





Bur Reed (Sparganium americanum Nutt.). The Forest Potawatomi have no name or use for this plant to our knowledge. We have no record of its use among the whites.





American Yew or Ground Hemlock (Taxus canadensis Marsh.), "kawūc" [ground]. The Forest Potawatomi use the leaves to make a tea which is used as a diuretic. The leaves are usually combined with the root bark of the Bush Honeysuckle (Diervilla Lonicera) and others for the treatment of gonorrhea. Among the whites,301 the leaves are credited with sedative properties. It is said to act in much the same manner as digitalis.  





Moosewood (Dirca palustris L.) "cībägob" [dead man's bark]. The Forest Potawatomi use the inner bark of the Moosewood to make a tea for its diuretic properties. Among the white men,302 the bark has been valued for its acrid, rubefacient, vesicant, and expectorant properties. The berries are considered poisonous. 





Basswood (Tilia americana L.)303 "wīgobi'mīc" [string tree]. The Prairie Potawatomi call the tree by the same name "wikupi'mic" [string tree]. The Forest Potawatomi do not use the Basswood for medicine to our knowledge, but it has been used among the whites,304 the inner bark for its emollient, mucilaginous and vulnerary properties, while the flowers have been used for their diaphoretic and stimulant properties. Another authority305 records the use of both flowers and leaves as medicine for their diaphoretic, stomachic, antispasmodic and sedative properties. A tea of the leaves and flowers has been used for promoting perspiration. It has also been recommended for giving relief in chronic epilepsy and during epileptiform headaches. It is an old household remedy for quieting hard coughs and relieving hoarseness.  





Cat-tail (Typha latifolia L.)306 "aba'kweūck" [shelter weed]. The Prairie Potawatomi have a very similar name "pakwe'ūk" [shelter weed]. The Forest Potawatomi use the root to make poultices for various inflammations. The fresh roots are pounded and reduced to poulticing material. Among the whites,307 the root has been valued for its astringent, emollient and detergent properties.  





Bulb-bearing Water Hemlock (Cicuta bulbifera L.). The Forest

Potawatomi have no name or use for this plant to our knowledge. Among the whites,308 the plant has always been considered poisonous, having convulsive properties.


Smoother Sweet Cicely (Osmorhiza longistylis [Torr.] DC.) "äsūkītä'boe" [stickers]. According to Mrs. Spoon, the more precise name of this plant is "äsūkītä'boe manomani cikokaä'cikūk" [stickers—looks like wild rice]. The root of the Sweet Cicely is used by the Forest Potawatomi to make an eye lotion and also to make a tea which is used as a stomachic. Among the whites,309 the root is valued for its carminative, expectorant, demulcent, aromatic and tonic properties.  


Wild Parsnip (Pastinaca sativa L.) "babīgwe'wūnūsk" [stem of a weed or flute reed]. Another name applied to this by the Forest Potawatomi is "mźmīskoga'tiīak" [will become red in the fall]. The root is used by the Forest Potawatomi to make a poultice for inflammation and sores. In discussing this medicine, they say that it is not to drink for it would surely kill one who uses it for a tea. Among the whites,310 the root of the cultivated Pastinaca is considered an esculent and nutritious while the seeds and the top of the plant are considered to have diuretic properties. 





White Elm (Ulmus americana L.) "anib" [elm]. The Forest Potawatomi use the bark of the White Elm for cramps and diarrhea. Among the whites,311 he inner bark is used for its astringent, tonic, alterative, and diuretic properties. It has been used in treating cases of leprosy. 


Slippery Elm (Ulmus fulva Michx.)312 "cacī'gūb" [slippery bark]. The Prairie Potawatomi call this "osasha'kūp" [slippery bark]. The Forest Potawatomi chew the inner bark and apply the mass to the eye for speedy relief in cases of inflammation. When one has a boil, a splinter of the inner bark is sharpened and thrust into the boil and then a poultice is placed around the splinter. When the boil comes to a head, the splinter is pulled out and with it comes the core.   Recovery is complete and permanent. One of the Potawatomi in illustrating the value of the Slippery Elm, told about one of their women choking upon a chicken bone that could not be dislodged from her throat. Her husband was just about to go for a physician when an Indian medicine woman came along and took a long strip of the inner bark of the Slippery Elm, running it down into the patient's throat, past the chicken bone. It was allowed to remain there for an hour and when it was pulled out, it brought the chicken bone along with it. Among the whites,313 the inner bark is noted for its mucilaginous, nutritious, nutrient, expectorant, diuretic, demulcent, emollient and lenitive properties. Another authority314 states that the inner bark is noted for its demulcent, emollient, and nutrient properties. Internally an infusion is given for the treatment of dyspepsia, diarrhea, urinary and bronchial ailments. Externally it is poulticed for inflammation, boils, etc., and is the base of rectal and vaginal suppositories. 


Lyall's Nettle (Urtica Lyallii Wats.) "masan" [itching]. The Forest Potawatomi make a medicinal tea from the leaves of this plant and use the roots also to make a tea for the treatment of intermittent fevers. Among the whites,315 the plant is used in the same manner as Urtica dioica for its diuretic, pectoral, astringent and tonic properties. 





Canada Violet (Viola canadensis L.). The Forest Potawatomi have no name or use for the Canada Violet to our knowledge. Among the whites,316 the entire plant has been used as an emetic and alterative. The flowers have been used as the basis of a perfume. Another authority,317 states that the leaves and flowers have been used for their alterative and expectorant properties. They have been used in treating skin diseases, scrofula, syphilis and bronchitis. 


Downy Yellow Violet (Viola pubescens Ait.) "kakike'bīgons" [evergreen]. The Forest Potawatomi make a medicine from the root for treating various heart diseases. Among the whites,318 the entire plant yields an extract which is emetic and alterative while the flowers are distilled for their perfume.  


Smoothish Yellow Violet (Viola scabriuscula Schwein.). The Forest Potawatomi have no name or use for this plant to our knowledge. Among the whites,319 the entire plant has emetic and alterative properties while the flowers are used for their perfume.  






Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia [L.] Greene) "omakaski'-bag" [toad weed]. Mrs. Spoon called this plant "makaki'wbag" [poison ivy] and said that the plant was poisonous, but it is the opinion of the writer that she confused it with poison ivy. The Forest Potawatomi make no use of the plant to our knowledge although they have a name for it. Among the whites,320 the bark and twig of the plant are valued for their alterative, tonic, astringent and expectorant properties. Another authority321 assigns the same property to it and says that it has been used in a syrup to cure scrofulous dropsy, bronchitis and pulmonary complaints. It has been reported to be used in curing cases of intoxication.  





We have good reasons to think of the Potawatomi as a race with a long history, stretching back into prehistoric times. We know that the first white man to see them in Wisconsin was Jean Nicollet in 1634, nearly three hundred years ago. Potawatomi tradition tells us that they lived centuries before this time in Canada and the Upper Lakes region. It is probable that all through their history they have been agriculturalists and have perpetuated their cultivated plants through these centuries. This is presumably so since we know that the people who lived in Wisconsin long before the Potawatomi came, the Mound Builders, practiced agriculture, commerce and industry on quite an extensive scale and it is not too much to assume that the several tribes who came into this area were influenced by the culture of the Mound Builders. Exploration of ancient mounds and village sites have given to scientists some knowledge of these primitive times and peoples.  "It is customary to think of agriculture as pertaining only to civilized people, or at least to people who have emerged from so-called barbarism into the realm of what we are pleased to term civilization. As a matter of fact, the beginnings of agriculture can be traced back to very primitive times and primitive peoples, and that the artificial cultivation of food plants seems to be almost instinctive with the human race."322 It is the popular belief that our Indian tribes were more or less nomadic and were without any noteworthy agricultural practices, but we know for instance that the Pueblo Indians of the Southwest had developed agriculture of their food plants to a higher degree.  



The Mound Builders of the Central North American area all cultivated maize or Indian corn as the staple agricultural product. They were known to have grown beans, squashes, pumpkins, melons, sunflowers and perhaps a number of other plants of food and medicinal value as well as tobacco for smoking. Accidental fires in storage pits of the Mound Builders have carbonized many of these vegetables and preserved them through the ages to be discovered even today.   



Our commonest staples in agricultural lines have so remote an antiquity that no one has ever been able to trace the origin of some of them, especially maize or Indian corn. From time to time, we hear startling reports of some scientist who claims to have discovered the original parent plant of maize, but careful study so far has proved that they have not discovered it. 



It is pretty well admitted that maize is a product of tropical America, rather than any other part of the world. The earliest record of maize is in the Popul Vuh.323 This sacred book of the Quicke Indians of western Guatemala, goes back to the eighth century.   



Geologists tell us that they find impressions of food plants left in the sandstones which date back some five hundred million years and while they have never found the plants intact, they do find the animal remains of creatures that lived upon the abundant vegetation of that period. Just when man appeared upon the scene and began to cultivate certain useful food plants is entirely a matter of speculation. Agriculture, however, must have been the ascending link in evolutionary progress as it allowed people to adopt a sedentary life and gave them a greater means of subsistence than the uncertain quantities of game or fish. When one man became able to raise enough food to support more than his own needs, society began to diversify and perhaps this was the beginning of ancient forms of religion. 



Men who did not have to struggle for existence, found themselves with a sufficient amount of time so that they could devote their lives to the study of the occult and mysterious and were able to devise systems of religion and ceremonies. This state of affairs must have  happened over and over again with various peoples, changing the nomadic tribes into the more highly civilized tribes and accumulating greater intelligence as men were released from tribal duties to give their time to the study of the world about them and to project solutions of the mystery of life and death.  



It may be that the Potawatomi went through the entire gamut of these experiences as very likely did also the Mound Builders and people that preceded them for many, many centuries. According to their traditions, the Potawatomi do not recollect the time when they were without these early agricultural crops and while they have several stories or traditions about how they came to have these cultivated plants, most of them are naturally legendary. All that we really know is that they had Indian corn as their staple agricultural product, augmented by beans, squashes, pumpkins, melons, sunflowers, and other plants of real or fancied food value.  



Wisconsin, at an early date, must have accommodated a very large aboriginal population from the number of cornfields and garden beds which are found with stone artifacts strewn over their surfaces.  



Originally they took full advantage of their native wild fruits, nuts, seeds, and other edible plants that occur freely in our region and have often expressed themselves as being well satisfied with the native foods that they found in Wisconsin. They believe today that many of the white men's diseases have been brought to them by the changing from their aboriginal types of food to the white-man's food. They especially mention their present day use of white flour made from wheat, which they all use, but realize that certain of the  valuable food elements have been taken away from the wheat in the process. They feel that their wild foods which have more or less disappeared from the picture under processes of cultivation with the coming of civilization for it is a fact that wild plant life once eradicated does not recur. The use of great tracts of their former hunting grounds, has deprived them of the opportunity of getting sufficient quantities of their wild foods. In these wild foods, they assert that they found certain chemicals and salts which kept them in health in the early days and they were not subject to the diseases from which they suffer today.  



Among the older members of the Forest Potawatomi today, we find that they try to perpetuate the old varieties of cultivated plants which they knew in their youth and that they look with disapproval upon the attitude of the younger generation in permitting these ancient varieties to die out.  



The Forest Potawatomi have only lived in their present location in Forest County, since 1914, when they were settled through the efforts of the late Senator Robert La Follette on farmsteads of one hundred sixty acres. From the tribal funds, the government purchased these farmsteads and built substantial six-room frame houses upon these properties, locating them near a white neighbor, hoping that their assimilation into the present population of the state would be more rapid if they had white neighbors than if they were living under reservation conditions. This has not suited the Forest Potawatomi, who are often scattered at great distances from their kinsfolk, in one instance as much as one hundred thirty-six miles, and they have not become the extensive farmers that Senator La Follette hoped they would become. Most of them have little more than a garden patch and a hayfield upon their farm and have been a burden to the National Government for many years. For some years they had an agent, Mr. W. H. Bennett, at Laona, in Forest County, Wisconsin, but are at present under the sub-agent, Mr. Henry Ritchie, of Laona. The government has never provided them with a farmer to instruct them in agriculture or to set up demonstration plots as has been done with other tribes when they live upon a reservation, such as at Lac du Flambeau, and their progress in present day agriculture has been very slow. 



They still do a considerable amount of hunting, fishing and gathering of their wild, native foods. During the harvest time, it is a common thing to see them cutting squashes into rings and drying them for winter use, threshing their beans, drying their corn, drying their blueberries and preserving the various wild fruits for winter use. 



As among all other tribes, there are, of course, some progressive individuals who have imitated the whites and become good farmers and have raised all sorts of agricultural and garden crops. Usually these individuals do not stay in Forest County but migrate to other more advantageous locations and become better farmers or laborers in some of the nearby or distant cities. The migration of their children from the old homestead led to the need for a means of written communication and only fifty-five years ago was this satisfied by the formulation of a syllabary by one of the members of the tribe. 



Up until that time Potawatomi, like Menomini, was only a spoken language. As in preceding bulletins, the families of plants that yield foods will be listed alphabetically.  








Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum Marsh.)324 "kisinamīc" [cold tree or timber].  This name connotes medicinal rather than food use. The name of the tree when it is spoken of as food, is "inina'tig" [Indian tree.] The Ojibwe Indians also called the tree "inena'tig" and "adjagobi'mīn". The  sugar maple and the black sugar maple are found all over Wisconsin and were the most valuable trees to our aboriginal brothers of any in the forest because they furnished them their seasoning material. All of their cooking was seasoned with maple sugar in lieu of salt. While they do use salt today, it is an acquired ingredient and most of the old people would prefer to have sugar for their seasoning. This seems rather queer to us when one considers a mixture of pork and sugar, but it was all that they  had in the early days.  


The February or March sugar camp among the Indians was one of the high spots of the year. While everybody had to work, they all derived a good deal of pleasure from it, especially the children who made taffy as the white children do, cooling it in the snow, or drank the maple sap as it came from the tree. Maple sap not only furnished the sugar for seasoning material but also furnished the vinegar. Sap that was allowed to become sour made a vinegar to be used in their cooking of venison which was afterwards sweetened with maple sugar. This corresponds somewhat to the German style of cooking known as sweet-sour meats. 


The late Alanson Skinner in his "Material Culture of the Menomini"325 has recorded many interesting legends about the tree, its discovery, and about sugar making. Another interesting account of the Potawatomi sugar making is found in the book by Chief Simon Pokagon.326 He tells of the making of maple syrup "gīwagamisigan" and the making of maple sap into sugar "onsīban copomau".  


The Forest Potawatomi gather their sugar crop in just the same way as they did many years ago, except that they now use large iron kettles in place of the pottery of former days or in place of the birch bark vessels before they had pottery. The boiling of sap in birch bark vessels was quite a difficult thing to do. In those days, the original fire had to be fed with bark of the tamarack tree, which was called "munipi'aniwa" [two times blaze]. The flame must never be allowed to come into contact with the birch bark, but the intense heat of the coals made the sap boil.  


Indian pottery was not much better than the bark "mokoks", for it was rather fragile and would not stand rough handling or overheating. The coming of the white man with his huge iron kettles and metal ware offered them a much better means of boiling their maple syrup. They still use their bark buckets for gathering the maple sap and storing it until it is boiled, because the materials are handy and may be had without any expense except that of gathering and preparing. These vessels are made of birch bark with the inner bark as the outside of the vessel and sewed together with boiled basswood inner bark, then rendered waterproof by the application of pitch with a small amount of fat mixed with it. These vessels, with a cover fitted and sewed down, are the storage vessels for the finished maple sugar and may hold any amount from one to seventy-five pounds.  


In March or April, according to the time of the beginning of the sap flow, the Potawatomi visit their sugar camp to get everything in readiness. The men repair the camp and storage vats of hollowed logs as well as the framework of the boiling house and the upright poles around the fireplace to hold the iron kettle. They also cut the necessary firewood. It is the duty of the women to see that the "mokoks" are kept in repair and are scrupulously clean and water tight. They usually take along fresh rolls of birch bark to make repairs or to make new mokoks.  


The whole family camps here and lives in a wigwam for a month. The men chop holes and set spiles (whittled from yellow birch) into two or three hundred trees a day and men and women go to the trees to collect the sap. The first flow of the sap is the best and finest for making sugar, and the poorest quality comes at the end of the sap flow. The Potawatomi will not waste any of the sap because they feel that their deities would be offended and stop the flow of the sap, if they did not take care of all of it. 


The process of boiling is much the same as it is among the whites, except that they always have a fresh spruce bough to disperse the foam during the boiling process. The syrup is drained through a cloth and recooked in quantities of two or three quarts until it is ready to crystallize into sugar. 


Then it is poured into a wooden trough, where it is pounded and pressed with a heavy wooden paddle until it hardens. The sugar is graded according to whiteness. While we did not find the Soft Maple, the Forest Potawatomi say that it does occur there and makes a whiter sugar than the real Sugar Maple. Sap is often added to the dregs in the kettle and a second grade of sugar is secured. 





Broad-leaved Arrowhead (Sagittaria latifolia Willd).327 "wabasi'-pinik" [white potato]. Pokagon328 called this "kopīnīak". This plant has a mass of fibrous roots to which round corms are attached by tiny stems. When these corms are detached from the mass of roots, they immediately grow into a new plant and are so heavily laden with starchy food material that the new plant will have sufficient material to form roots and leaves. It is difficult to dig them out because the tiny stems that connect the corms, so readily break off and lose the corm, but the muskrats and beavers are very industrious in gathering these "white potatoes" and the Indian often takes advantage of their caches for his winter supply of these potatoes. They grow along the streams and lakes and are used as food by many tribes of Indians. It is also a favorite food with ducks and geese and has been planted by hunting clubs to attract these birds. A similar species found in California is used by the Indians there as a "potato" under the name "wappate" or "wapatoo" and is called by the whites there, the "tule" root. Pokagon says that "in preparing it for use, a hole is dug in the ground, five or six feet deep and about the same in width. At the bottom of this hole, stones are placed, and the fire built thereon until they were heated nearly red-hot. Wet moss was then placed over them, on top of which five or six bushels of these tubers were placed, over which was spread more moss nearly a foot thick. Several days were required to cook them properly, the stones being heated once each day, removing the tubers for that purpose. When fully prepared according to custom, they were cut into slices and dried for future use. Thus, an article, unfit to eat raw, was made very nutritious and very palatable." 


For winter use the potato is boiled, then sliced and strung on a piece of basswood string, to be hung up overhead for storage. A very tasty dish is made from deer meat, these potatoes and maple sugar. 





Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina L.)329 "bakwa'nīmīc" [puckering? bush]. The berries of the Staghorn Sumac satisfy a natural craving for something acid or tart, among the Forest Potawatomi, who sometimes eat the berries, but none of them knew about its use as a beverage as most of our other Indians of Wisconsin employ it.  





Mountain Holly (Nemopanthus mucronata [L.] Trel.)330 "sakwa'- kminaga'wīc" and "bosakwa'komīnaga'wīc". While these berries are edible, they are quite bitter and not relished by the white man, but the Forest Potawatomi claim that they keep the berries for a food. 





Indian Turnip (Arisaema triphyllum [L.] Schott.)331 "mūkwodji'bīk" [bear's root].332 We learn that at an early day Nicolas Perrot, who visited the Potawatomi, found them using the bear root which was called in the Menomini language "owässäutci'pa" and told how they could convert this very hot and poisonous root into an edible food. Perrot said, "An actual poison, if it is eaten raw (Arisaema triphyllum); but they cut it in very thin slices and cook it in an oven (the pit oven method was found necessary to render acrid and poisonous foods harmless and starchy foods saccharine, and as a preliminary for drying and preserving for winter use) during three days and nights; thus by heat they cause the acrid substance which renders it poisonous to evaporate in steam, and it then becomes what is commonly called cassava root."  





Indian Spikenard (Aralia racemosa L.)333 "okadag" [leg]. The Forest Potawatomi relish the young tips of the Indian Spikenard in soups. Soup was a favorite aboriginal dish and still is among the Indians. Being expandable, it fits in well with the well-known Indian hospitality. After a meal is started several more guests may arrive and they are always welcome.  





Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense L.)334 "ba'boan" or "nīme'bīn". The Prairie Potawatomi called this plant "kūpūä" [ginger]. The Forest Potawatomi use the root of the Wild Ginger in the same manner as do other Indians of our region to flavor meat or fish and render otherwise inedible food, palatable. It was used to help the appetite of persons who could not keep anything upon their stomachs. 





Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca L.)335 "a'nźniwīc" [man weed]. The Forest Potawatomi used the Common Milkweed flowers and buds, in soups in the same manner as do all of the other Indians of this region.  One always finds a riot of milkweed close to the wigwam or house of the Indian, suggesting that they have been cultivated. Meat soups are thickened with the buds and flowers of the Milkweed and it imparts a very pleasing flavor to the dish. 





Beaked Hazelnut (Corylus rostrata Ait.) "cīkane'samīc" or "cīkana'simīnaga'wūc". This species seems to be the only kind of Hazelnut native to Forest County and it is a favorite food of the Forest Potawatomi. They especially favor it when the nut is just about mature, or "in the milk" as it is called, and also gather it for winter use. 





Climbing Bittersweet (Celastrus scandens L.)336 "manītobima'- kwīt" [spirit swisted]. This is one of the real aboriginal foods encountered by the early white voyageurs and often indispensable in the early history of the Potawatomi. The inner bark was prepared and cooked when there were times of food scarcity and while it was not highly commended as. a food, it was valued because it would sustain life when there was nothing else available. The first white man to call attention to it was Radisson.337 He said, "The greatest subsistance that we can have is of rind (Vine) tree, which grows like ivie about the trees, but to swallow it, we cut the stick some 2 foot long, tying it in faggott, and boyle it, and when it boyles one houre or two ye rind or skinne comes off wth ease, wch we take and drie it in the smoake and then reduce it to powder betwixt two grainestoan, and putting the kettle wth the same water uppon the fire, we make it a kind of broath, wch nourished us, but became thirstier and drier than the wood we eate." Another early writer338 tells us what a certain Mrs. Red Thunder cooked in time of famine. He says, "Mrs. Red Thunder took her axe and started in quest of bittersweet or wild ivy, and succeeded in bringing home all she could carry and reported that there was plenty more. This vine is readily prepared for food. It is cut into chunks from one to three inches long and boiled until the coarse, thin bark easily separates itself from the stem. The bark then makes at least three-fourths of the original quantity; it is spongy and of a bittersweet taste. It is quite nutritious, and so one might not fatten on it, still it would preserve life for a long time."





Lamb's Quarters (Chenopodium album L.) "koko'cibag" [pig leaf]. While this plant furnishes a relish food for salads and spring greens when the leaves are used by the Forest Potawatomi, it also is one of those examples previously stated wherein the use of the native food keeps the Indian in health. It is supposed to be a specific in the cure of scurvy or in its prevention. Therefore the Forest Potawatomi feel rather duty bound to include it in their diet.    





Jerusalem Artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus L.) While the Forest Potawatomi have no Indian name for this plant to our knowledge they knew about the edibility of the roots and gathered them for foodstuffs. 



Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale Weber)339 "asawa'bagwūnik" [yellow flower]. The Prairie Potawatomi call this "wasakutcä'pūk" [strong root]. They use the leaves for greens in the springtime in the same manner in which the whites do. They cook them with the vinegar made from maple sap. They are often combined with pork or deer meat. 




Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis L.) "kakawisa'k" [popcorn weed]. The Forest Potawatomi used to use the berries of this plant for food but claim that they do not use them today. We could not ascertain how they used them, whether in the raw state or cooked. 





Pumpkin (Cucurbita Pepo L. var.) "ogwīssimaū'n" [tangled hairs] referring to the interior seed arrangement. The writer found the Forest Potawatomi cultivating several kinds of pumpkins and squashes. This they have done from the eariest times. Captain Jonathan Carver340 said "They have also several species of the melon or pumpkin, which by some are called squashes, and which serve many nations partly as a substitute for bread. Of these, there is the round, the crane-neck, the small flat, and the large oblong squash. Smaller sorts being boiled, are eaten during the summer as vegetables; and are all of a pleasing flavor. The crane-neck, which greatly excels all the others, are usually hung up for a winter's store, in this manner might be preserved for several months." Lawson also remarks341 that the pumpkins and squashes were cut open, the  seeds cleaned, and the smoked shell hung up for winter use. Mr. Lawson gained this information from Dr. Alphonse Gerend, who learned it in turn from Simon Kaquados of Blackwell, Forest County, Wisconsin.  





Labrador Tea (Ledum groenlandicum Oeder)342 "wesawa'bagūk" [yellow leaf] or "mamizhi'bagūk" [woolly leaf]. The Forest Potawatomi use the leaves of Labrador Tea to make a beverage. During the Civil War it is recorded that the whites also used it for the same purpose. 


Velvet-leaf Blueberry (Vaccinium canadense Kalm) "mīnaga'wūck" [blueberry vine]. This and the Low Sweet Blueberry (Vaccinium pennsylvanicum Lam. vars.) furnish an important item of food to the Forest Potawatomi, both in their fresh state and when sun dried or canned. It is also the basis of a very considerable industry during the late summer months when they gather and sell it to white traders. While the Indians are noted as very clean pickers, in practice it does not appear so. They rake the berries from the bushes between their fingers, gathering twigs, leaves and all sorts of things that come into the way, but by rotating the berries, they force the refuse to the top of the bucket and clean out the refuse before they market the berries. They also make a practice of lining their berry pails with the leaves of the Sweet Fern (Myrica asplenifolia L.) which they claim keeps the berries from spoiling. 


Small Cranberry (Vaccinium Oxycoccos L. var. ovalifolium Michx.)343 "bokimīnäsūn" [cranberry]. There are no cultivated cranberry bogs in the neighborhood of the Forest Potawatomi, but there are plenty of sphagnum bogs where cranberries abound and they have always used them as an article of food, sweetening them with maple sugar. 






Beech (Fagus grandifolia Ehrh.)344 "ajawe'min" [beech nuts]. "ajawe'mīn'mīttig" [beech woods]. Beech is fairly common among the forests of Forest County, and the Forest Potawatomi make good use of the beechnuts for food. They are, however, apt to rely upon the hidden stores of a small mouse called the deer mouse "wawabigono'-dji".345    


"The deer mouse is outdone by no other animal in laying up winter stores. Its favorite food is the beechnut. It will lay up in some safe log or hollow tree from four to eight quarts, which they shell in the most careful manner. The Indians easily find the stores when the snow is on the ground by the refuse on the snow. In like manner they locate bee trees, both of which in the early days were a source of important revenue for them." 


Across the road from the east end of Okauchee Lake in Waukesha County is a small lake originally called "Wawabigono'dji" by the Potawatomi Indians when they lived there. This appeared on the early maps as Mouse Lake, but was afterwards changed by the whites to Moose Lake.  


Red Oak (Quercus rubra L.)346 "mźtigo'mīc" [wooden tree]. The Forest Potawatomi use all kinds of acorns indiscriminately for their starchy content, as a sort of breadstuff. In common with the other Indians of our region, they knew the secret of ridding the acorns of their bitter tannic acid. Hardwood ashes and water furnished the lye for soaking the acorns which swelled them and removed the tannic acid. A bark bag or reticule serves to hold the acorns while they are washed through a series of hot and cold waters to remove the lye. Then they are dried in the sun and became perfectly sweet and palatable. They are ground on depressions of rocks which served as a primitive mortar with a stone pestle, to a flour, which is cooked as a gruel, sometimes called samp. 




Maize (Zea mays L.) "mandamīn" [good berry]. The Forest Potawatomi cultivate the present kinds of corn and also their own calico corn, which is of a sweet variety, and an early sweet corn. Neither memory nor tradition goes far enough into antiquity to tell when they were without corn, but they have the usual stories about how corn was given to them by the Great Spirit.   


Most of the early white visitors to the Potawatomi country had something to say about the Indian corn which they found cultivated. In 1666 Father Allouez347 said, "Their country is good for Indian corn, of which they plant fields, and to which they repair to avoid the famines that are too frequent in these quarters." Captain Carver348 tells of an interesting use of the corn. "Among this people (Potawatomi) I eat of a very uncommon kind of bread. The Indians in general use but little of this nutritious food; while their corn is in the milk, as they term it, that is, just before it begins to ripen, they slice off the kernels from the cob to which they grow, and knead them into a paste. This they are enabled to do without the addition of any liquid, by the milk that flows from them, and when it is effected, they parcel it out into cakes, and enclosing them in leaves of the basswood tree, place them in hot embers, where they are soon baked. And better flavored bread I never eat in any country." 


In the earlier days the Forest Potawatomi made their bags of elm bark and filled them with corn or beans and peas to bury in the ground to keep for the wintertime. This is probably what was meant by Professor Chapman of Madison.349 In speaking about the early Potawatomi residents in 1831 to 1833 he says that "they raised three thousand bushels of corn there where Madison now stands. This they stored underground enclosed by trunks of small trees, covered with that and then earth." 


Wild Rice (Zizania palustris L.) "manomīn" [good berry]. One of the greatest aboriginal foodstuffs in the northern part of the United States is the Wild Rice. All northern tribes knew about it, including the Forest Potawatomi, and gathered it for their winter supply of food. It is early mentioned by the whites, when Jacques Cartier of St. Malo, Normandy, reported his trip in 1534 for King Francis I of France.351 He called it a wild corn, like unto rye, and in speaking of the Indian Maize, he called it Great Millet.  


The Poorest Potawatomi lay by large quantities of Wild Rice for their winter use, one man threshing as much as seven hundred eighty pounds of it. The gathering and preparation of Wild Rice is a very laborious process. The writer visited Little Rice or Mole Lake in the southwestern corner of Forest County at the time the Potawatomi were making their rice harvest. This is a shallow lake, almost entirely covered by wild rice.  


Each family had tied the heads of rice together in certain places to mark out their boundary lines where they would work. A man and woman occupied one canoe and the man propelled the boat by a long pole with a fork at the end of it. This pole was from twelve to eighteen feet long and had a wide spreading fork so that it would engage enough of the vegetation on the bottom of the lake to afford some resistance in propelling the boat. The woman had a curved stick with which she reached out and bent the ripened seed heads of the grass over the canoe and a small paddle to dislodge the grain into the bottom of the canoe. 


They gather about forty pounds at a time and then proceed to the shore where they have a zinc washtub tilted over a fire. With a three-foot wooden paddle they keep stirring the freshly gathered rice over this bed of coals until it is thoroughly parched but not scorched. It is then removed to a trampling pit where an Indian with new moccasins threshes the chaff from the grain by trampling upon it all day long. The last process is tossing the grain into the air so that a breeze may carry off the chaff. It will then keep indefinitely and not be infested by grain weevil because it has been treated by heat, which destroys any eggs of the insects which might be in the rice. 


The slightly burned taste that stays with the rice is highly relished by the Indians and perhaps as much so by the white people. In the earlier days of Wisconsin, wild rice used to sell for six and eight cents a pound, but now one would scarcely be able to buy it for less than twenty-five cents a pound upon the gathering grounds and when one looks for it in the city he must pay as much as a dollar and five cents per pound for it. Wild rice increases in size from three to four times during the process of cooking and is especially valuable to the Indians for cooking with wild fowl or game. They use maple sugar to season the mixture. Oftentimes they make what would correspond to a pudding from wild rice and sweeten this with maple sugar. It has been said that there is as much nutriment in a bushel of wild rice as there is in a bushel of wheat and this is doubtless so. The wild rice grains are about three times the size of wheat grains and while they are dark brown or black on the outside, when they cook they are white inside. In cooking, the grains curl backwards from both ends. 





Shellbark Hickory (Carya ovata [Mill.] K. Koch.)352 "mītīgwa'-bak" [hard wood]. This tree is very scarce in the neighborhood of the Forest Potawatomi but when they do find the hickory nuts they are fond of them and gather them for winter use.  


Butternut (Juglans cinerea L.)353 "baganak" [nut tree]. The Butternut is a tree that ranges far to the north into Canada, whereas the Black Walnut is confined to the southern half of Wisconsin. The Forest Potawatomi gather the Butternuts for their edible quality and while they are not numerous in Forest County, still there is enough of them to furnish a winter supply of food. 






Groundnut (Apios tuberosa Moench)354 "mūkwo'pīnik" [bear potato]. Like the other tribes of this region, the Forest Potawatomi appreciate the "wild potato", which is found in abundance around springs and in boggy land. Nicolas Perrot while traveling through the Potawatomi country at an early date described these potatoes.355 He says, "That country also produces potatoes; some as large as an egg, others are the size of one's fist, or a little more. They boil these in water by a slow fire, during twenty-four hours; when they are thoroughly cooked, you will find in them an excellent flavor, much resembling that of prunes—which are cooked the same way in France, to be served with desert." Kalm356 says that "this is the ‘hopniss’ of the Indians on the Delaware, who ate the roots; that the Swedes ate them for want of bread and that in 1740 some of the English ate them instead of potatoes." The vine is rather inconspicuous and bears a small bean pod by which it may be readily recognized. The roots, however, run in a mat through the ground, some of the individual roots running as far as twenty feet. At intervals along the underground root are swellings, which constitute these potatoes.  They are starchy reservoirs comparable to the tubers of the Irish potato. 


Bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) "mīskodi'ssīmīn." History tells us that nearly every tribe of Indians in the North American continent had beans when they were discovered by the whites and the wide variety of names which they had for them indicate that they were a very ancient introduction. Otherwise the names would more or less agree or have a common root.  


The great number of varieties also points to their antiquity. Most of our Wisconsin tribes have their own favorite varieties and the Forest Potawatomi are no exception.  





Wild Garlic (Allium canadense L.)357 "cīgaga'wūnj" [skunk plant]. While the flavor of this plant is very strong, the Indians use it in soup and have always accounted it a valuable wild food. In 1674 when Marquette358 and his party journeyed from Green Bay to the present site of Chicago, these onions formed almost the entire source of food. 


Wild Leek (Allium tricoccum Ait.)359 "būgwadjica'gowūnj" [unusual skunk plant]. The Forest Potawatomi also used this larger wild onion as a food. There is a very interesting account of its use in the early days by Nicolas Perrot.360 He says, "These tribes of the prairies also find in certain places, lands that are fertile, and kept moist by the streams that water them, whereon grow onions of the size of one's thumb. The root is like a Leek, and the plant which grows from it resembles the salsify. This onion, I say, is so exceedingly acrid that if one tried to swallow it, it would all at once wither the tongue, the throat and the inside of the mouth. I do not know, however, whether it would have the same effect on the inside of the body. But this difficulty hardly ever occurs, for as soon as one takes it into the mouth he spits it out; and one imagines that it is a certain Wild Garlic, which is quite common in the same places, and has also an insupportable acridness. 


"When the savages lay in a store of these onions, with which the ground is covered, they first build an oven, upon which they place the onions, covering them with a thick layer of grass, and by means of the heat which the fire communicates to them, the acrid quality leaves them, nor are they damaged by the flame; and after they have been dried in the sun, they become an excellent article of food. Their abundance, however, counts for nothing, although the agreeable taste which one finds in them often induces him to satisfy his appetite with them; for nothing in the world is more indigestible and less nourishing. You feel a load on your chest, your belly is as hard as a drum, and colic pains which last two or three days. When one is forewarned of this effect, he refrains from eating much of this root. I speak from experience having been taken unawares by it; and after the distress I experienced from it, I have no longer any desire to taste it."  


Canada Mayflower (Maianthemum canadense Desf.)361 "sūksi'-mīnagawīc" [deer weed]. The Forest Potawatomi insist that they eat the berries of the Canada Mayflower but just how they are prepared as a food was not discovered. Certainly the berries as they come from the plant would hardly be considered esculent by the whites.  





Yellow Lotus (Nelumbo lutea [Willd.] Pers.)362 "wagipīn" [crooked potato]. While the Forest Potawatomi did not find the Yellow Lotus very near to them, they often made journeys to beds in Wisconsin of which there are about thirty-six known stations at the present time. They gathered the lotus roots as well as the seeds for food purposes. The two terminal shoots of an underground root stalk of Yellow Lotus are storage reservoirs of starch about the size and shape of a banana. These are the parts that are gathered at the end of the season, when they are full of starchy material. They are cut across and strung upon basswood strings for winter use. The seeds are also gathered and roasted much after the manner of chestnuts. Nicolas Perrot described them also in the early days when he was in Wisconsin.363 He says, "Also in winter, they dig from under the ice, or where there is much mud and little water, a certain root, of better qualities than that which I have just mentioned (the Indian Turnip, Arisaema triphyllum); but it is found only in the Louisiana country some fifteen leagues above the entrance to the Ouisconching (Wisconsin). 


The savages call this root, in their own language, "pokekoretch" (Winnebago) (Nelumbo lutea), Ojibwe "wa'gi'pin" [crooked root] ; and the French give it no other name, because nothing at all resembling it is seen in Europe. It has the appearance of a root, about half as thick as one's arm, or a little more; it also has firm flesh and externally resembles an arm; in one word you would say at sight of these roots, that they are certainly great radishes. But cut across the two ends, and it is no longer the same thing; for you find inside of it a cavity in the middle, extending through-out-its length around which are five or six other and smaller cavities, which also run from end to end. To eat it, you must cook it over a brazier and you will find that it tastes like chestnuts. The savages are accustomed to make provision of this root; they cut it into pieces and string them on a cord, in order to dry them in the smoke. When these pieces are thoroughly dry and hard as wood, they put them into bags, and keep them as long as they wish. If they boil their meat in a kettle, they also cook this root, which thus becomes soft; and when they wish to eat it, it answers for bread with their meat. It is always better with considerable grease; for although this root is very sweet and has a good flavor, it sticks to the throat in swallowing and goes down with difficulty; because it is very dry. The women gather this root, and recognize it by the dry stem, which appears sticking up above the ice. 


The shape is like a crown, of red color; it is as large as the bottom of a plate, and is full of seeds in every way resembling hazel nuts; and when these are roasted under hot cinders, they taste just like chestnuts."   





Common Wood Sorrel (Oxalis Acetosella L.) "siwo'bīgons" [sour weed]. This plant of so much interest to the children among the whites for its sour flavor, is gathered by the Forest Potawatomi, cooked and sugar is added to make a desert which they eat with considerable relish.  






Lichen (Parmelia physodes [L.] Ach.) "wa'kwūnūk" [egg bush]. The Lichen that grows upon a spruce tree, as our specimen did, is gathered by the Forest Potawatomi for a vegetable soup material. When it is cooked into a soup it swells somewhat and affords a pleasant flavor.   





Juneberry (Amelanchier spicata [Lam.] K. Koch)364 "bosikwa'- komīnūm" [goose berry]. The Forest Potawatomi relish these as a fresh food and also dry and can them for winter use. Other Wisconsin tribes are also fond of them. 


Black Chokeberry (Pyrus melanocarpa [Michx.] Willd.) "niki'mīnūn" [wild goose-berry]. The Forest Potawatomi say that they eat the berries from this plant but they are entirely too bitter to suit the white man. 


Bicknell's Thorn (Crataegus rotundifolia Moench var. Bicknellii Eggleston) "mīne'saga'wīc" [thornbush]. The Forest Potawatomi say that the deer and bear are very fond of these apples and that they themselves sometimes eat them. 


European Wood Strawberry (Fragaria vesca L.) "ate'imīn" [heart berry]. The Indians gather large quantities of the Wild Strawberry for food and one can scarcely blame them when one discovers how much more flavorful they are than the cultivated strawberry. They sometimes dry them and at other times preserve them for winter use. 


Sand Cherry (Prunus cuneata Raf.) The Forest Potawatomi make use of every edible fruit that they find in their environment. This Sand Cherry is sometimes called "ickotewa'-bomīn" [the whisky cherry]. It is put into whisky to improve the flavor. Carver in his travel in 1796365 noted the use of these cherries in the Green Bay neighborhood when he said, "Near the borders of the lake grow a great number of Sand Cherries, which are not the less remarkable for their manner of growth, than for their exquisite flavor. They grow upon a small shrub, not more than four feet high, the boughs of which are so loaded that they lie in clusters on the sand. As they grow only on the sand, the warmth of which probably contributes to bring them to such perfection, they are called Sand Cherries. The size of them does not exceed that of a small musket ball, but they are reckoned superior to any other sort for the purpose of steeping in spirits. There also grow around the lake, gooseberries, black currants and an abundance of juniper bearing great quantities of berries of the finest sort."  


Bird Cherry (Prunus pennsylvanica L. f.) "wīga's simine'son" [birch cherries]. It is not difficult to see why the Forest Potawatomi call this cherry the Birch Cherry for the bark peels round the trunk of the tree very much in the same manner that birch-bark does. Very often when the Potawatomi women are working at basketry they keep a supply of branches of this cherry on the ground near them and eat as they work. It is interesting to watch the solid stream of cherries being fed into one side of the mouth and the pits emerge from the other side. 


Wild Cherry (Prunus serotina Ehrh.)366 "okwe'mīnūn" [grub-worm cherry]. While the Forest Potawatomi use this cherry for food, they esteem it mostly for using in wine or whisky. The first thing that occurs to the Forest Potawatomi when this cherry is mentioned is "ickotewa'bo" [whisky]. 


Choke Cherry (Prunus virginiana L.)367 "sūswe'mīnaga'wīc" [choke bush]. The Prairie Potawatomi name for this is quite similar and means the same thing. It is "soswä'mīnūn". The Forest Potawatomi use the Choke Cherry for food and also for seasoning or flavoring wine. 


Blackberry (Rubus allegheniensis Porter)368 "kate'omīnūk" [black berry]. A more proper pronunciation or rather a fuller form of the word would be "makate'mīsku'mīnog" [blackberry bushes]. The Forest Potawatomi use the blackberry for food only. They make no medicinal use of any part of the plant so far as the writer was able to discover. However many of our other tribes do have a medicinal use for the blackberry root as previously stated and the Prairie Potawatomi under the name "kītä'mīn" use it for the treatment of sore eyes.  


Red Raspberry (Rubus idaeus L. var. aculeatissimus [C. A. Mey.] Regel & Tiling)369 "maskwo'mīnaga'wūck" [red berry bush]. The Red Raspberry is a favorite article of food with the Forest Potawatomi who eat it fresh and also make it into jams and jellies. 





Prickly Gooseberry (Ribes Cynosbati L.)370 "cabo'mīnaga'wīc" [see throughberry- bush]. The Prairie Potawatomi call this "pźsko-mīnaka'wes". Both branches of the Potawatomi use the berries for food and make up jams and jellies with maple sugar for their winter food supply.  






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