By Linda Murray Berzok
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Extra resources for American Indian food (Food in American History Series)
In lean times, these tribes pledged to help each other out with stores of food. The Moundbuilders. From ad 750 to 1350, an advanced society known as the Mississippians or Moundbuildlers began to emerge in what is known as the American Bottom, a wide area of the Mississippi River Valley near St. Louis. On this fertile ﬂoodplain, there was a major change in food production around ad 750, when people began to grow and eat more maize. From that point on, the staples were maize, maygrass, chenopod, knotweed, a little barley and squash/gourds.
Geography. The area extends from above the Canadian border through the plateau and mountain area of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California on the west, the Wasatch Mountains in Utah on the east and the northern edge of the Mojave Desert and watershed of the Virgin River on the south. It includes about two-thirds of California, Colorado Nevada, parts of Utah, Oregon, Montana, Idaho, Washington and Wyoming. Environment. This was an inhospitable environment of desert, sparse rainfall and salt ﬂats intersected by mountains.
As a condition of surrender, the Indians had agreed to abandon their nomadic lifestyle (even though the Navajo were mostly settled), relocate to a reservation and devote themselves to farming. The government decided to move the defeated 8,300 Navajo and Mescalero Apache to Bosque Redondo or Fort Sumner in southeastern New Mexico. Some Indians went into hiding and lived on insects and rodents rather than join the exhausting 350-mile Long Walk. Those who survived arrived sick and starved. The Apache, traditionally gatherer-hunters were forced to farm for the ﬁrst time.