I often think about my grandmothers and grandfathers.
Not the immediate ones that I knew or that reside in the living memory of my family, but rather the ones from a very, very long time ago. The grandmother that spoke a dialect of Lenape, the grandfather that couldn’t conceive of a money economy any more than we can conceive of anything else. I think of the people, specifically, who never met Europeans, who were never touched by existential upheaval. These are Indigenous people that we, as Americans, don’t spend a lot of time thinking about.
My thoughts don’t dwell on significant events of their lives, or conflicts and diplomacy with neighboring people, or even their personalities. Instead, my thoughts are consumed with the mundane, pedestrian details of their day to day lives. Waking up groggy in the smoky interior of a longhouse on a mid-autumn morning, quietly stoking the fire before the kids wake up and offering thanks to any number of spirits and manetuwak, walking outside to the reaches of the town to check on maturing crops as the world wakes up around them. Maybe there’s a few dozen men setting off in the distance preparing for a coordinated hunt, or to check for last runs of fish in the river weirs before the fish nations move on to deeper waters. Women are prepping their cradles to bring babies into the woods for the acorn harvest, others checking on the arbors over the cornfields where early-rising boys and a handful of precocious girls will wait with blunt-tipped arrows to turn garden pests into sustenance. While harvest and hunting parties are out at work, some of the older-but-not-too-old folks will be in town replacing the warm-weather reed coverings over the longhouses with bark ones that keep heat and will do a better job of handling the coming snows.
As a farmer and a person obsessed with food, it’s the diet and sustenance patterns where my daydreams are most specific. In this long ago place and time, everywhere people are snacking. For the people traveling, there’s fresh and dried hominy cakes, paw paw plucked fresh from the trees, the last of last year’s acorn patties topped with maple syrup traded from up north. A hardheaded child on the trail to his first hunt ignores his uncle, smarting from the bitter twang of a persimmon not…