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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

Indian's Eating Habits

Dallas Bogan on 29 September 2004
Original article by Dallas Bogan
Return to Index to see a list of other articles by Dallas Bogan

While scanning The Western Star recently, the writer spotted an article, which describes early Indian eating habits. I shall now quote from the story.
"If an eating match were to be arranged, and one of the contestants was an Indian, the chances are that the Indian would win the match "hands down," for in his ability to dispose of enormous quantities of food of any and all kind his equal is hard to find. The Indian does not require the services of a French chef to prepare his food so as to titillate his over keen appetite. It is simply a question of quantity, not quality. It is well known that the Indians will eat almost anything.
"A brief description of what some eyewitnesses have seen them dispose of in the way of quantity and kind will not prove uninteresting. In the first place he is not particular as to the manner in which the food is prepared or cooked. He does not care whether it is very rare or "done to rags." The food is placed on the fire, and hunger regulates the length of time for cooking. In case he is very hungry he will take the food from the fire when it is hardly warmed through and eat it with relish. One army officer who spent nearly all his life among the Indians says that the average Indian during a night of feasting, dancing and story telling following upon a successful hunt, will consume from 10 to 15 pounds of meat, and if there is an abundance and he can select the choice tid bits he desires, he will consume without indigestion or inconvenience not less than 20 pounds of meat. Think of it, when it is known that the capacity of the stomach of a man weighing 150 to 175 pounds is about five pints, and a pound is usually called a pint.
"This same officer says that on one of his hunting trips he had with him some soldiers and some Indian scouts. Having killed a fine elk, he gave part to the soldiers and part to the scouts. That night the scouts made a night of feasting, and in the morning their meat was all gone, while the soldiers had enough to last them for three days. The Indians had consumed on an average over 15 pounds each during the night, and this included the entrails, which were eaten raw, and which are considered a great delicacy. There is an old saying that an Indian will not eat a wild turkey, as he believes it will make the eater cowardly, as the turkey runs from its pursuers.
"All this has passed before the cravings of an empty stomach, no matter what the superstition of the tribe was at one time. At one military post an old gobbler had been roasted, but could not be eaten, as it was too tough. It was boiled, but was still too tough; it was then put on and boiled 24 hours, and about this time an old Indian came around for food. The kettle was handed to him, and in a short time he had eaten the entire contents, which was figured to be at least two gallons, or 16 pounds of liquid and solid food. It is a well-known fact to many officers of the army that an Indian would sit down by the carcass of a deer he had just killed and eat raw the heart and liver, and sometimes other portions before he rises from the ground. Dog flesh is regarded by the Sioux as almost a sacred dish, and is used on occasions of ceremony. The Cheyennes and the Arapahoes are very fond of fat puppy, but eat dog only when forced to do so by hunger.
"Horse flesh is looked upon as a greater delicacy than beef or deer, while fat skunk is most highly esteemed as an article of diet. An Indian will catch one of these animals so shunned and beat out its brains on the ground, holding the animal by the tail, and perfectly oblivious to the odor, which would drive a white man wild. It is a common occurrence at army frontier posts where Indians are to be found for them to make daily rounds of the post, visiting all barrels of refuse, and horses and other animals, which have died and been hauled outside the post for burial, are quickly cut up and carried away as most delicious morsels for the table."

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This page created 29 September 2004 and last updated 28 September, 2008
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