Native Americans and Huckleberries

Huckleberries are part of the folklore of Native Americans.  Tribes may have introduced early settlers to the huckleberries — especially settlers in the western part of the United States.

The following article from Today’s Home Kitchen describes some of their stories about “Wiwnu”:  Indian word for huckleberry:

“Ischit Wiwnu”—The Path of The Huckleberry

“Ischit Wiwnu”—Path, Huckleberry.  In the Sahaptin language spoken by Native Americans, “Wiwnu” is the word for the Huckleberry—the elusive berry that symbolizes sustenance, community and the passing of the seasons.

The ancient path of the huckleberry is carved through the forest by the footsteps of generations of Native Americans.  In late summer, when the huckleberries

Native Americans and Huckleberries -- Mt. Hood, Oregon
came into their peak season, indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest left their villages along the Columbia Plateau in North-Central Oregon in search of the “Wiwnu” on Mount Hood….

After they had risen thousands of feet in elevation and reached the timberline, the path of “Ischit Wiwnu” led them to the hallowed ground.

They called it “Wiwlúwiwlu Taaktaak”—huckleberry meadows—lush alpine carpets of native grasses bursting with a stunning palette of orange agoseris, broadleaf lupine and Henry Indian paintbrush bordered by huckleberry bushes holding forth a bounty of wild, purple-hued pearls.  The Indians set camp at “Wiwlúwiwlu Taaktaak,” staying into early October, picking huckleberries and filling their baskets for winter.

Fresh huckleberries would be eaten in season, but most of the harvest of huckleberries would be dried to provide food throughout the year. Native Americans used dried huckleberries to provide nourishment throughout the winter, mixing them with meats into “pemmican”—a combination of ground meat, fat and dried berries.  Venison, elk, qils fowl and salmon from the mighty Columbia River were common types of proteins used by the Warm Springs in making pemmican. As fur traders and explorers ventured West, they adopted pemmican into their diet….

Continue reading this detailed article 

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