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Native Americans and Quahogs

Native Americans and Quahogs

Ingersoll (1887:598) reported that quahogs were a valuable food for some east coast Native Americans, “The Indians, who had no machinery,caught their clams ” Quahogs” by wading in and feeling for them with their toes. This technique was later done by colonist. 

 The chief use of clams in the early days was in summer and fall. Then the Indians came to the sea-shore for their greatest festival, that of green corn. On such occasions, a great assembling of sages and warriors with their families was held at the beach. Clams, succulent ears of corn, and seaweed were roasted together in astonishing quantity.  Now it is known as a ‘CLAM BAKE”. Ingersoll (1887) further reported that the Indians preserved quahogs and oysters for winter use by drying their meats in the sun on pieces of bark, the Indians left middens of shells (quahogs, oysters, mussels, and others) on estuarine and bay shores along the entire east coast of Canada and the United States.

In his book “Travels” in 1748, Peter
Kalm (1937 edition) describing the use
of quahogs in New York wrote that,
“A considerable commerce is carried
on in this article, with such Indians as
live farther up the country. When these
people inhabited the coast they were

able to catch their clams, As soon as the

shells are caught, the fi sh is taken out of
them, drawn upon a wire, and hung up in
the open air, in order to dry by the heat
of the sun. When this is done, the fl esh
is put into the proper boats, and carried
to Albany upon the river Hudson; there
the Indians buy them, and reckon them
one of their best dishes. Besides the Europeans,
many of the native Indians come
annually down to the sea-shore, in order
to catch clams, proceeding with them in
the manner I have just described.”

The Indians used quahog shells as scrapers for hollowing out and shaping the
bows of their canoes and in shaping the insides of bowls, and as knives, spoons, and hoes  and crushed shell was a common tempering material
for their pottery. Using the two shells, the Indians in Virginia grated off the hair from one side of their head, and while some groups of Indians plucked all the hair off their bodies using two quahog shells as tweezers.

MacKenzie Jr., C., Morrison, A., Taylor, D., Burrell Jr., V., Arnold, W., & Wakida-Kusunoki, A. (2002). Quahogs in Eastern North America: Part I, Biology, Ecology, and Historical Uses. Marine Fisheries Review, 64(2), 1-55.

Filed by nicoleg at November 3rd, 2009 under

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