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Cooking and Gathering

Egg Lady, painting by Farrell R. Collett
Egg Lady, painting by Farrell R. Collett

Indian Women Cooking

Mary likes to see the Indian women cooking their breakfast mornings. As it became light and before the sun was up, one would see the squaws busily engaged cooking over the campfires they had previously made, chatting to each other. She said it was a very pleasant sight to see them at their different tasks, as all seems so pleasant and busy. They camped on both sides of 2nd Street. [1]


The Northwestern Shoshone were hunters and gatherers; the women did the gathering. The Indian women would socialize as they went in groups to gather seeds. Little girls accompanied their mothers at a very young age and learned this important skill. Cradle boards would come in handy when a child was too young to participate, but would still go along- the board would be hung up in a nearby tree.

The women took with them the tools of their trade: willow baskets, winnowing pans, and hitting sticks. As they gathered sunflowers, wild rice, and mustard, they told each other of the latest happenings in the camp. Sometimes they traded recipes and sang songs as they labored. The gathering was a hard task. When seeds were scarce, a mother might spend an entire day gathering enough for only one family meal.

Digging sticks were used for digging roots and bulbs. Wild vegetables were normally plentiful, with a harvest of ground potatoes, camas, sego lily, cactus, wild garlic, and other bulbs.

Berries of all kinds were found in the mountains and fields, along with wild honey. Eggs had also gathered a delicacy because they were so hard to find. [2]


[1] - Autobiography of Mary Elizabeth Hutchens Sherner, Mary Elizabeth – Her Stories, dictated to her daughter Dorothy A. Sherner, manuscript, 1933, p. 86.

[2] - Darren Parry, The Bear River Massacre, Common Consent Press, 2019, p. 17, 18.

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