Books & Articles

Books & Articles: Native American Gardening

Native American Gardening: Stories, Projects, and Recipes for Families
Michael J. Caduto, and Joseph Bruchac, March, 1996, Fulcrum Publishing
Readers will learn about the relationships between people and the gardens of Earth, seed preservation, Native diets and meals, natural pest control, and the importance of the Circle of Life.

Native American Gardening: Buffalo Bird Woman’s Guide to Traditional Methods
Gilbert L. Wilson, July 2005, Dover Publications
Early in the 20th century, anthropology student Gilbert Wilson made the first of several trips to an Indian reservation in North Dakota to examine agricultural techniques used among the Hidatsa Indians. This intriguing book is the result of his research. More than a survey of primitive agriculture, however, the work sensitively investigates the activities of a unique culture. With the help of Buffalo bird-woman, a Hidatsa native, Wilson not only created a poignant biographical study and a classic anthropological document but also presented a Native American woman's interpretation of economics, with views about the land she cultivated, frequently sprinkled with shrewd and humorous observations.
The text covers a broad spectrum of topics, including methods that will be of lasting value to modern organic gardeners and farmers. Subjects range from useful advice on clearing fields, applying fertilizer, and storing crops for winter to such traditional activities as braiding ears of corn, making squash dolls, and harvesting tobacco blossoms.

Buffalo Bird Woman’s Garden: Agriculture of the Hidatsa Indians
Gilbert Wilson, October 1987, Borealis Books
This book includes sustainable gardening methods from seed preparation to harvest, including the ceremonies, songs, and stories required for a bountiful harvest.

Native Harvests: American Indian Wild Foods and Recipes
E. Barrie Kavasch, March 2005, Dover Publications
This practical primer on natural foods not only provides recipes for a variety of dishes that are uniquely Native American but also identifies and describes the uses of specific ceremonial, medicinal, and sacred plants. From clambakes, corn chowders, and turkey with oyster cornbread stuffing, to flavored butters, sunflower seed cakes, and wild strawberry bread, the author offers a unique book that is simultaneously a field guide, cookbook, and useful manual on herbal medicines — all interwoven with Native American wisdom.

Keepers of the Earth: Native American Stories and Environmental Activities for Children
Michael J. Caduto, and Joseph Bruchac, August 1997, Fulcrum Publishing
The flagship book in the Keepers of the Earth series, this environmental classic teaches children respect and stewardship for the Earth and all living things. Joseph Bruchac's lyrical retellings set the stage for Michael Caduto's abundance of related activities.
Beginning with Native American stories, this invaluable and time-honored resource provides readers with an abundance of hands-on activities that will inspire children to understand and appreciate Native American cultures and the Earth.
This book connects to social studies, science, environmental studies and other content areas. It uses a holistic approach suitable for all ages. It provides field-tested activities, includes charts, illustrations and graphs to enhance the projects and concepts.
When the stories and activities in this book and its companion teacher's guide are followed carefully as children progress from kindergarten through the primary grades, roughly ages five through twelve years, they provide a complete program of study in the important concepts and topics of ecology and natural history. As the stories unfold and you help the children to bring the activities to life, a holistic, interdisciplinary approach to teaching about the Earth and Native American cultures begins. These stories and activities weave together lessons both directly and through metaphors and have been enjoyed by families as well as in camp settings, nature centers, environmental education programs, public and private schools, library story hours, and in both rural and urban settings.

Keepers of the Earth: Teacher’s Guide
Michael J. Caduto, and Joseph Bruchac, March 1988, Fulcrum Publishing
A teacher's guide to Keepers of the Earth, including biographies and reading lists.

Keepers of Life: Discovering Plants through Native American Stories and Earth Activities for Children
Michael J. Caduto, and Joseph Bruchac, July 1997, Fulcrum Publishing
Through 19 Native American stories and various activities, children learn the invaluable lesson that all living things are intertwined.

Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners, 2nd Edition
Suzanne Ashworth, March 2002, Seed Savers Exchange
Seed to Seed is a complete seed-saving guide that describes specific techniques for saving the seeds of 160 different vegetables. This book contains detailed information about each vegetable, including its botanical classification, flower structure and means of pollination, required population size, isolation distance, techniques for caging or hand-pollination, and also the proper methods for harvesting, drying, cleaning, and storing the seeds.

Native Plant Stories
Joseph Bruchac, March 1995, Fulcrum Publishing
These mythical stories draw upon legends from eighteen Native American tribes and illustrate the importance of plant life in Native American traditions.

Plants of Power: Native American Ceremony and the Use of Sacred Plants
Alfred Savinelli, March 2002, Native Voices
This book is a guide to the sacred plants traditionally used by Native Americans and other indigenous people. It is an excellent tool for those seeking to connect more fully with the mysterious world of plants, animals, and Spirit.
For thousands of years Native cultures have used plants to heal physical and spiritual ailments. Highlighted here are 14 significant plants, with information on their properties, growing conditions, and medicinal applications, along with descriptions of Native American ceremonies and rituals in which these plants play a central role.

A Handbook of Native American Herbs
Alma Hutchens, November 1992, Shambhala Press
This authoritative guide—based on the author's classic reference work, Indian Herbalogy of North America —is a portable illustrated companion for the professional and amateur herbalist alike. It provides detailed descriptions of 125 of the most useful medicinal plants commonly found in North America, along with directions for a range of uses, remedies for common ailments, and notes on the herbal traditions of other lands. Entries include staples of folk medicine such as echinacea and slippery elm as well as common kitchen herbs—such as parsley, thyme, and pepper—whose tonic and healing properties are less widely known.

Brother Crow, Sister Corn: Traditional American Indian Gardening
Carol Buchanan, January 1997, Ten Speed Press
Buchanan's book seeks to shed light on the American Indians' style of gardening and how gardening connected them with the earth. She explains the two types of gardening they practice: the first method is cultivating vegetables and tobacco for food, religious purposes, and trade; and the second is harvesting native plants, then saving enough seeds for the next year. She describes what they grow--corn, beans, and squash were the basic foods--and their methods for harvesting and storing the crops. Buchanan also explains the American Indians' traditional view of sacred plants and colors, their first fruits and tobacco ceremonies, and their trading practices. The book includes ancient American Indian songs and myths and 19 illustrations. Buchanan's is more than a gardening book; it offers a fascinating look at American Indian cultures and their spiritual relationship with the earth. Review by George Cohen

Enduring Seeds: Native American Agriculture and Wild Plant Conservation
Gary Paul Nabhan, October 2002, University of Arizona Press
As biological diversity continues to shrink at an alarming rate, the loss of plant species poses a threat seemingly less visible than the loss of animals but in many ways more critical. In this book, one of America's leading ethnobotanists warns about our loss of natural vegetation and plant diversity while providing insights into traditional Native agricultural practices in the Americas. Gary Paul Nabhan here reveals the rich diversity of plants found in tropical forests and their contribution to modern crops, then tells how this diversity is being lost to agriculture and lumbering. He then relates "local parables" of Native American agriculture—from wild rice in the Great Lakes region to wild gourds in Florida—that convey the urgency of this situation and demonstrate the need for saving the seeds of endangered plants. Nabhan stresses the need for maintaining a wide gene pool, not only for the survival of these species but also for the preservation of genetic strains that can help scientists breed more resilient varieties of other plants. Enduring Seeds is a book that no one concerned with our environment can afford to ignore. It clearly shows us that, as agribusiness increasingly limits the food on our table, a richer harvest can be had by preserving ancient ways.

Rebuilding the Foodshed: How to Create Local, Sustainable, and Secure Food Systems
Philip Ackerman-Leist and Deborah Madison, January 2013, Chelsea Green Publishing
Droves of people have turned to local food as a way to retreat from our broken industrial food system. From rural outposts to city streets, they are sowing, growing, selling, and eating food produced close to home—and they are crying out for agricultural reform. All this has made "local food" into everything from a movement buzzword to the newest darling of food trendsters.
But now it's time to take the conversation to the next level. That's exactly what Philip Ackerman-Leist does in Rebuilding the Foodshed, in which he refocuses the local-food lens on the broad issue of rebuilding regional food systems that can replace the destructive aspects of industrial agriculture, meet food demands affordably and sustainably, and be resilient enough to endure potentially rough times ahead.
Showcasing some of the most promising, replicable models for growing, processing, and distributing sustainably grown food, this book points the reader toward the next stages of the food revolution. It also covers the full landscape of the burgeoning local-food movement, from rural to suburban to urban, and from backyard gardens to large-scale food enterprises.

In the Three Sisters Garden: Native American stories and seasonal activities for the curious child
JoAnne Dennee and Carolyn Peduzzi, March 1995, Kendall Hunt Publishing Co.
Sister Corn, Sister Squash, and Sister Bean introduce children to gardening in two distinct year-long adventures that explore the ancient wisdoms of the land. Each is a unique journey through the four seasons, rich with earth-friendly gardening methods, history, hands-on activities, stories, and provocative ideas.

Original Instructions: Indigenous Teachings for a Sustainable Future
Melissa Nelson, January 2008, Bear and Company
Indigenous leaders and other visionaries suggest solutions to today’s global crisis:

For millennia the world’s indigenous peoples have acted as guardians of the web of life for the next seven generations. They’ve successfully managed complex reciprocal relationships between biological and cultural diversity. Awareness of indigenous knowledge is reemerging at the eleventh hour to help avert global ecological and social collapse. Indigenous cultural wisdom shows us how to live in peace--with the earth and one another.
Original Instructions evokes the rich indigenous storytelling tradition in this collection of presentations gathered from the annual Bioneers conference. It depicts how the world’s native leaders and scholars are safeguarding the original instructions, reminding us about gratitude, kinship, and a reverence for community and creation. Included are more than 20 contemporary indigenous leaders--such as Chief Oren Lyons, John Mohawk, Winona LaDuke, and John Trudell. These beautiful, wise voices remind us where hope lies.

Growing Food in a Hotter, Drier Land: Lessons from Desert Farmers on Adapting to Climate Uncertainty
Gary Paul Nabhan, June 2013, Chelsea Green Publishing
How to harvest water and nutrients, select drought-tolerant plants, and create natural diversity. Because climatic uncertainty has now become "the new normal," many farmers, gardeners and orchard-keepers in North America are desperately seeking ways to adapt their food production to become more resilient in the face of such "global weirding." This book draws upon the wisdom and technical knowledge from desert farming traditions all around the world to offer time-tried strategies for:

Gary Paul Nabhan is one of the world's experts on the agricultural traditions of arid lands. For this book he has visited indigenous and traditional farmers in the Gobi Desert, the Arabian Peninsula, the Sahara Desert, and Andalusia, as well as the Sonoran, Chihuahuan, and Painted deserts of North America, to learn firsthand their techniques and designs aimed at reducing heat and drought stress on orchards, fields, and dooryard gardens. This practical book also includes colorful "parables from the field" that exemplify how desert farmers think about increasing the carrying capacity and resilience of the lands and waters they steward. It is replete with detailed descriptions and diagrams of how to implement these desert-adapted practices in your own backyard, orchard, or farm.
This unique book is useful not only for farmers and permaculturists in the arid reaches of the Southwest or other desert regions. Its techniques and prophetic vision for achieving food security in the face of climate change may well need to be implemented across most of North America over the next half-century, and are already applicable in most of the semiarid West, Great Plains, and the U.S. Southwest and adjacent regions of Mexico.

Our Knowledge Is Not Primitive: Decolonizing Botanical Anishinaabe Teachings (Iroquois and Their Neighbors)
Wendy Geniusz and Annmarie Geniusz, April 2009, Syracuse University Press
Traditional Anishinaabe (Ojibwe or Chippewa) knowledge, like the knowledge systems of indigenous peoples around the world, has long been collected and presented by researchers who were not a part of the culture they observed. The result is a 'colonized' version of the knowledge, one that is distorted and trivialized by an ill-suited Eurocentric paradigm of scientific investigation and classification. In "Our Knowledge Is Not Primitive", Wendy Makoons Geniusz contrasts the way in which Anishinaabe botanical knowledge is presented in the academic record with how it is preserved in Anishinaabe culture. In doing so she seeks to open a dialogue between the two communities to discuss methods for decolonizing existing texts and to develop innovative approaches for conducting more culturally meaningful research in the future. As an Anishinaabe who grew up in a household practicing traditional medicine and who went on to earn a doctorate and become a professional scholar, Geniusz possesses the authority of someone with a foot firmly planted in each world. Her unique ability to navigate both indigenous and scientific perspectives makes this book an invaluable contribution to the field and enriches our understanding of all native communities.

Farm to Cafeteria Initiatives: Connections with the Tribal Food Sovereignty Movement
A report written by Emily Dwyer with support from Winona LaDuke and Kyra Busch and the National Farm to School Network.

Free download at:

National Farm to School Network
Urban & Environmental Policy Institute
Occidental College, Los Angeles, CA |