An increasingly important food after the fur trade started
As Europeans began to enter into the territories of the Anishinaabe people, and as economic ventures into the fur trade began to become part of everyday life for the people, agriculture became more important than the harvest of wild rice for some.
While the growing of corn and potatoes to augment wild plant foods and game was long practiced by the Anishinaabe while living in the woodlands, they were always secondary to rice. However, as time went on and people began to operate more in the prairies where wild rice doesn’t grow, horticulture and agriculture became more popular.
The Red Lake Ojibwa were rapid experts on horticulture and they spread their knowledge rapidly through the Boundary Waters and Red River valley regions around the turn of the nineteenth century. Their gardens at Garden Island (Lake of the Woods) and at Netley Creek were reported to be flourishing in 1805. Other gardens were begun by mixed Métis, Ojibwa, and Cree families at the Forks (Winnipeg) by 1812 and at a site between Brandon House and Portage la Prairie in 1816.
Corn and potatoes provided a supplement to wild rice during years in which the rice harvest was poor or failed altogether, and if it was not possible to get to wild rice fields these crops proved a life saver during more difficult times.
Garden produce was in a sense a double addition to Ojibwa subsistence, for, as well as the food value of the crops, the gardens required little tending during summer and therefore allowed the people to harvest other foods while the crops were ripening. The carbohydrates provided by corn and potatoes were also important in adding calories and energy to the diet, especially during winter when game was lean.
Learn more: Peers, Laura L. (Laura Lynn). 1994. “Ojibwa Of Western Canada, 1780 To 1870.” Manitoba Studies In Native History. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press.
A collaborative effort of members of the Ojibwe and Metis communities