Foraging Where We Live at the Grand Village of the Natchez Indians
On Saturday, July 24, at 10 a.m., the Grand Village of the Natchez Indians will present its first in-person program since the COVID-19 pandemic with a lecture and outdoor foraging demonstration led by special guest Tammy Greer of the University of Southern Mississippi (USM). In recognition of the Natchez Indians’ July harvest moon celebrating the cultivation of peaches and wild grapes, visitors will learn about the indigenous plants such as blackberries, muscadines, and walnuts that made up the diets and cultures of Native Americans before the modernization of common farm crops. Greer will also lead a guided walk on the Grand Village nature trail in search of these historic edible plants.
“We need to recognize our native plants for what they were to our ancestors, and we need to recognize them for what they are today,” said Tammy Greer. “Many of these plants still provide strong building materials (hickory, osage orange), healthy foods (muscadines, blackberries, blueberries, persimmons), beautiful basket materials (cane, palmetto, long leaf pine, coral honeysuckle), awesome drinks (yaupon holly, elder flower, sumac lemonade), amazing dyes (poke berries, black walnut, goldenrod, dock root), and medicines (yarrow, elderberry, purple coneflower). These plants will stay with us forever if we harvest sustainably and tend them as they, for thousands of years, have tended us.”
The Grand Village of the Natchez Indians is considered part of the Eastern Agricultural Complex (EAC), a historic term for the region extending from across the present-day Mississippi River valley area where Native Americans cultivated thousands of native species of herbs, seeds, grasses, berries, flowers, vegetables, and other crops for food, clothing, medicines and various other uses. The EAC began to decline among Native Americans in the region after the mass production of conventional crops such as corn began to rise. Most plants that thrived in the EAC are rarely cultivated and others are considered as ordinary garden weeds. Sunflowers and squashes are modern-day examples of EAC plants that were heavily cultivated by Native Americans and are still widely grown today.
Tammy Greer serves as the director of the Center for American Indian Research and Studies and an associate professor of psychology at USM. She has collaborated on numerous endeavors with tribal nations and members, including the 2005 creation of the Medicine Wheel heritage garden at USM. Greer has presented several talks and workshops on Southeastern American Indians and is currently working with the Mississippi IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence and the USM Telenutrition Center to address health disparities among Southeastern American Indians.
The Grand Village of the Natchez Indians was the main ceremonial mound center of the Natchez people from 1682 until 1730. The 128-acre National Historic Landmark features three mounds, a plaza, nature trail, museum, and store. Administered by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, the Grand Village is located at 400 Jefferson Davis Boulevard and is open free of charge to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and Sundays 1:30 to 5 p.m. Call 601-446-6502 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.