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Mojave Desert Indians - Historic Desert Indian Territories Map: Southern Paiute Indians

Gardening Practices

The Paiutes used spring and creek localities in a characteristic fashion. The planting site, up to an acre near or below a spring, was cleared, leveled, and banked with six to eight inches of dirt, just enough to keep the water from running off the garden. These banked lots were termed “ponds.” Irrigation ditches then were excavated to bring water to the rows of crops planted inside the berm. Pond construction or renewal began in November and December, to ready the land for early spring planting. Gardens were thoroughly soaked before planting, using pre-sprouted seeds. The same pond would be used for two to three years, then another site was cleared nearby and the irrigation ditch extended to it. Ideally, each crop had its own pond. Favored crops included two types of corn, two of pumpkins, two different squashes, tepary and spotted beans, sunflower, amaranth, small-kerneled (Sonoran) wheat, quail beans or chick peas, and a hardshelled watermelon. The elders consulted at Corn Creek stated that besides corn, two kinds of squash were grown, one “like a pumpkin” and the other “like Italian squash” [Patahuang in Paiute]. All that is known about gardening methods at Corn Creek is that water was taken from the creek. The cultivated crops were supplemented by native wild greens, seeds, and fruits, some of which were tended: pinyon pine, mesquite, agave, yucca, salt bush, rice grass, and grapes. At Corn Creek, the elders noted a number of important wild plants, some used for food, others for making tools such as needles: Indian spinach or prince’s plume (two types), mesquite beans, cattail, watercress, hedgehog and barrel cactus, and yucca. Insects, birds, reptiles, and mammals rounded out the diet.

Pinyon pine trees do not grow at Corn Creek, but extensive stands flourish in the Spring Mountains, the Sheep and Las Vegas ranges, and other mountains within the Las Vegas Paiute territory. While the harvest of pine nuts was very important to the Paiute people, they also needed to tend their gardens, planted at the springs and creeks of the valley foothills and valley floors. Tending gardens and harvesting nuts at the same time of year required that the people split their work force in the fall, with some moving into the mountains and others remaining at the valley camps.

source: excerpts from; COYOTE NAMED THIS PLACE PAKONAPANTI - Elizabeth von Till Warren

Indian Uses of Native Plants
In the desert, Indians found native plants and other natural objects that not only ensured their survival but also ...

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