Foods of the Southwest

The southwest appeared to be less abundant with foods than in other parts of the Americas, but to those who knew how and where to look, the sometimes hard environment supplied a variety of foods for the many tribes such as the Cocopahs, Navajos, Apaches--Chiricahuas, Jicarillas, Lipans, Mescaleros--Havasupais, Hualapais, Tohono O’Odhams, Pimas, Mohaves, Quecgans/Yumas, Tiguas, Yaquis, and Pueblo tribes--Acomas, Cochiti, Hopis, Isletas, Jemez, Lagunas, Nambes, Picuris, Sandias, San Felipes, San Ildefonsos, San Juans, Santa Clara, Taos, Tesuque, Zias, and Zunis.

Natives foraged for Pinon nuts, cacti (saguaro, prickly pear, cholla), century plant, screwbeans, mesquite beans, agaves or mescals, insects, acorns, berries, and seeds and hunted turkeys, deer, rabbits, fish (slat water varieties for those who lived by the Gulf of California) and antelope (some Apaches did not eat bears, turkeys, snakes, owls, coyotes or fish). More sedentary tribes irrigated and cultivated the land for corn, cotton, pumpkins, sunflowers, beans for themselves and to trade to other tribes for meats besides the game they hunted. Apaches, however, looked for food constantly which put them on the move. The Apache tribes utilized an array of foods, ranging from game animals to fruits, nuts, cactus and rabbits, to sometimes cultivated small crops. Some used corn to make tiswin or tulupai, a weak alcoholic drink. Cultivation of crops in the arid southwest is nothing recent. Even 3000 years ago, the Anasazi, the Hohokam and Mogollon grew corn and squash, and evidence tells us that the Hohokams, at least, dug irrigation canals 8 feet deep and 30 feet wide; some of the canals were 20 miles long.

Taken from Devon A. Mihesuah, Recovering Our Ancestors’ Gardens: Indigenous Recipes and Guide to Diet and Fitness (University of Nebraska Press, 2005)