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Potatoes and Buffalo Meat

Garden Potatoes

Mary remembered hearing her father tell Jack Indian that it was wrong for the Indians to go through his potato patch and take out the young plants before the potatoes had matured because it spoiled his rows made for irrigation and flooded his potatoes and ruined the whole crop. Her father took him into the field and showed him the results. He also showed him where the Indians had worked on the plants.

Jack Indian said he would see that his Indians didn’t do that anymore, and after that, her father’s crops were not spoiled by the Indians as they waited until he was ready to harvest them, and then Jack Indian came and took his portion. Her father had given the Indians every third row. [1]

Sharing his garden crops with Jack Indian was important since the Mormon pioneers had upset the delicate balance of life for the Indians. The land that the Shoshone had lived on for centuries was only able to sustain life for so many people. As more and more saints arrived in Shoshone lands, gathering native plants and hunting became an impossible situation for the Shoshone. [2]


When Jack Indian asked her father for corn, her father told Jack he could have every third row, but for his women not to walk between the two rows which were left as that had to be watered, so Jack had his women come with long baskets and pull off the corn. Then it was placed at the foot of each row and afterward gathered and taken to their camp. Mary asked her father what the Indians did with all the corn as they couldn’t possibly eat it all at once, so he said he would take her along the road beside the Indian encampment.

He did that later and there she saw the corn which had been cut off the cobs drying in the sun. The Indians had placed it in the corn husks, laying each piece side-by-side on the ground filled with corn. She thought that showed they were very industrious to save the husks for that purpose which enabled them to keep the corn from coming in contact with the dirty ground. [3]

Buffalo Meat​

One day in the fall of the year, Mary saw Jack Indian come into the yard followed by another Indian who carried a piece of meat on his shoulder. They walked up to the house and opened the door and walked in. He asked Eliza Hutchens, the “Fighting Squaw”, where his “Brother” was. Eliza said that her husband was working in the field. Jack turned and motioned for the other Indian to come in.

The other one came in and laid the piece of meat on the table. Jack Indian said it was buffalo meat, and Eliza thanked them for it. Jack just grunted, and then they turned and left. [4]

The meat was a central item in the Northwest Shoshone diet. In the fall, the men traveled into Western Wyoming and harvested buffalo and antelope, sun drying the meat for winter use. Deer, elk, moose, and bighorn sheep were hunted in what is now Idaho and Utah.

In Western Utah and Eastern Nevada, remnants of Shoshone sage-brush corrals could be seen as late as the 1930s. Hunters would drive deer or antelope in these corrals to facilitate their slaughter for food and clothing. Larger animals like moose and elk were much harder to kill and were sometimes driven over cliffs or chased into large pits near watering holes to facilitate their taking. Rabbit hunting was done in the summer and winter months, and squirrels, woodchucks, and other small animals were also harvested when found. [5]


[1] - Autobiography of Mary Elizabeth Hutchens Sherner, Mary Elizabeth – Her Stories, dictated to her daughter Dorothy A. Sherner, manuscript, 1933, p 84.

[2] - Darren Parry, The Bear River Massacre, Common Consent Press, 2019, p. 22.

[3] - Sherner, Mary Elizabeth- Her Stories, p 84.

[4] - Ibid.

[5] - Parry, The Bear River Massacre, p. 18.

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