Native Fruit: The Wild Blueberry

My favorite chronicler of natural and cultural histories in early America is Englishman John Josselyn. He was a curious and good-humored observer of the 17th-century inhabitants of northern New England, both indigenous and colonists, and their ways. Josselyn was particularly interested in local, medicinal uses of plants. Of what he referred to as “bill berries,” Europe’s closest relative to the blueberries, he reported that the fruit is used “To cool the heat more »

Clarifying connections: Navajo Oral History

One never knows what kind of material will be next, when cataloging for library branches serving Smithsonian’s 19 museums and research centers.  I recently received a box of DVDs that needed complex copy and original cataloging.  The first several DVDs were oral history interviews with Navajo Code Talkers, which immediately piqued my interest.  As I worked my way to the bottom of the box, I found that the interview topics were more more »

Native Fruit: Cranberry for all Seasons

Is there a food in North America more intrinsically linked with the landscape of the past and nostalgically intertwined with a holiday feast than the cranberry? From Cranberry Lakes in Nova Scotia, Cranberry River of West Virginia, Cranberry Pond in Sunderland, Massachusetts, the Cranberry Isles of Maine, Cranberry Mountain in New York, Cranberry Meadow in New Jersey, and many a Cranberry Bog dotting coastal areas, the plant deserves the appellation of First more »

Native American Heritage Month: Penn Treaty Wampum Belts

November is Native American Heritage Month. The Smithsonian Libraries has many intriguing resources about Native American history, especially in the Vine Deloria, Jr. Library, National Museum of the American Indian. I was recently reminded of this as I came across The Penn Wampum Belts by Frank Gouldsmith Speck (1925).

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