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Nature Notebook – Native American Insect Food

How many of you have roasted crickets or caterpillars on your menu today? The early indigenous peoples of North America did.

For the western tribes, insects were an important part of their diet, not just “we can’t find anything else” food. Tribes moved about for seasonal collection of different insect species. Some of these collecting areas were so important that collection rights disputes frequently broke out between groups. Prized tidbits were dried and used as valuable trade items. Their attempts to trade them with the finicky white people apparently resulted in humorous accounts.

It seems that eastern tribes did not utilize insect collection for their food procurement. Anthropologists hypothesize that agriculture, combined with foraging and hunting, made the practice unnecessary. The Potawatomi made use of their keen animal observations to add to their food stores. For instance, they would follow mouse tracks in the snow to the animal’s food cache then collect the nuts and seeds.