Mississippian Indian Food Described
Father Marquette and Lieutenant Joliet, who first discovered the Upper Mississippi in 1673, had friendly intercourse with some of the tribes on its eastern bank, and were hospitably entertained by them. "The council being over, we were invited to a feast, which consisted of four dishes. The first was a dish of sagamite—that is, some Indian meal boiled in water and seasoned with grease—the master of ceremonies holding a spoonful of it, which he put thrice into my mouth and then did the like to M. Joliet. The second dish consisted of three fish, whereof he took a piece, and having taken out the bones and blown upon it to cool it, he put it into my mouth. The third dish was a large dog, which they had killed on purpose, but understanding that we did not eat this animal they sent it away. The fourth was a piece of buffalo meat, of which they put the fattest pieces into our mouths." [Footnote: Historical Collections of Louisiana. part ii. An Account of the Discovery of some New Countries and Nations of North America in 1673, by Pere Marquette and Sieur Joliet, p. 287.]
Lower down the river, below the mouth of the Ohio, they fell in with another tribe, of whom they speak as follows. "We therefore disembarked and went to their village. They entertained us with buffalo and bear's meat and white plums, which were excellent. We observed they had guns, knives, axes, shovels, glass beads, and bottles in which they put their powder. They wear their hair long as the Iroquois, and their women are dressed as the Hurons." [Footnote: ib,. p. 293]
In 1766 Jonathan Carver visited the Dakota tribes of the Mississippi, the Sauks and Foxes, and Winnebagos of Wisconsin, and the Ojibwas of Upper Michigan. He speaks generally of the hospitality of these tribes as follows: "No people are more hospitable, kind, and free than the Indians. They will readily share with any of their own tribe the last part of their provisions, and even with those of a different nation, if they chance to come in when they are eating. Though they do not keep one common stock, yet that community of goods which is so prevalent among them, and their generous disposition, render it nearly of the same effect." [Footnote: Carver's Travels, etc. Phila. ed. 1796, p. 171.]
The "community of goods, which is so prevalent among them," is explained by their large households formed of related families, who shared their provisions in common. The "seven families of Shoshones" in one house, and also the houses "crowded with men, women, and children," mentioned by Lewis and Clarke, are fair samples of Indian households in the early period.