Monday, August 13, 2018

Summer Fun@ Institute for American Indian Studies Aug. 20-24

If your kids are restless as summer draws to a close one solution is to enroll them in a brand new week long program at the Institute for American Indian Studies in Washington Connecticut on 38 Curtis Road that is sure to engage them. This program is perfect for kids 5-13 years old and will focus on skills used in the Eastern Woodlands for centuries by Native Americans.

Participants will experience a variety of interesting and unusual topics that they are sure to share with their friends when the school year begins. Skill lessons learned will include ecology, archaeology, survival skills and Native American culture. Team building games will increase their knowledge of nature and will connect kids with a culture that has more than 10,000 years of history in the area.
Just some of the activities include learning to identify different plants and animals, learning about the science of archeology from staff archaeologists, and visiting an authentic Algonkian Indian Village, and listening to Native American stories that always teach a valuable life lesson.

The program runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and is $125 per child for the week and $95 for the second child from the same family or member of the Institute. Pre-registration is required in order for the Institute to provide a valuable and safe learning experience for your child. These programs are best for children 5-13. Children should pack a bag lunch. To call (860) 868-0518, extension 103 or email the Institute's camp director at gbenjamin@iaismuseum.org for more information and to reserve your child’s spot.

All forms must be completed by the beginning of the first day of camp. Complete payment is due on or before the beginning of the first day of camp. We accept cash, checks, or credit cards.


Summer Fun in August - A Special Camp for Kids Aug. 20-24

If your kids are restless as summer draws to a close one solution is to enroll them in a brand new week-long program at the Institute for American Indian Studies in Washington Connecticut on 38 Curtis Road that is sure to engage them.  This program is perfect for kids 5-13 years old and will focus on skills used in the Eastern Woodlands for centuries by Native Americans. 

Participants will experience a variety of interesting and unusual topics that they are sure to share with their friends when the school year begins. Skill lessons learned will include ecology, archaeology, survival skills and Native American culture.  Team building games will increase their knowledge of nature and will connect kids with a culture that has more than 10,000 years of history in the area. 
Just some of the activities include learning to identify different plants and animals, learning about the science of archeology from staff archaeologists, and visiting an authentic Algkonian Indian Village, and listening to Native American stories that always teach a valuable life lesson.


The program runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and is $125 per child for the week and $95 for the second child from the same family or member of the Institute. Pre-registration is required in order for the Institute to provide a valuable and safe learning experience for your child. These programs are best for children 5-13.

Children should pack a bag lunch.  To call (860) 868-0518, extension 103 or email the Institute's camp director at gbenjamin@iaismuseum.org for more information and to reserve your child’s spot.

All forms must be completed by the beginning of the first day of camp. Complete payment is due on or before the beginning of the first day of camp. We accept cash, checks, or credit cards.


Monday, August 6, 2018

Medicinal Monday...The Benefits of Ragweed

By early August, Connecticut is in full bloom with ragweed.  This flowering plant is in the genus Ambrosia in the Aster family.  Most ragweed pollen is released between August and October and is one of the most important causes of fall hay fever symptoms. Pollen counts are highest in the morning hours on windy days or shortly after a rainstorm when the plant is drying out.  Native Americans found many valued this pesky plant for medicinal uses and took advantage of its topical and internal applications.


About Annual Ragweed

Ragweed can be found just about anywhere this time of year from roadsides to fields, vacant lots and meadows. They are annual and perennial herbs and shrubs. Many species grow anywhere from a few inches high to about three feet high and their flowers contain both male and female flowers.  The male flowers are found in the cylindrically shaped spike on the top of the flowering stalk and the female flower is found on the axils of the leaves. The plant produces two types of leaves. Large leaves divided into three to five lobes with serrated edges and long petioles are located on the lower part of the stem.  Smaller, lanceolate leaves, covered with hairs on the bottom side can be seen near the base of the flowers.




Common annual ragweed produces diamond shaped seeds after wind- induced pollination. A single plant may produce about a billion grains of pollen per season that is transported on the wind. Ragweed pollen is light and fluffy and can stay airborne for days and travel great distances affecting people hundreds of miles away from where the pollen originated.




Medicinal & Other Uses of Annual Ragweed

 The Cherokee used annual ragweed as a ceremonial plant as an ingredient in their green corn medicine. The plant was also used as a dermatological aid; the leaves were crushed and rubbed on an insect bite, an infusion of the leaves were also used to treat hives. The Delaware made a poultice out of the plant and applied it to wounds to prevent blood poisoning. The Iroquois and the Dakota compounded a decoction of the leaves and the top part of the plant to treat diarrhea and an infusion of the roots was used as a heart medicine. The Lakota made an infusion of the leaves and used it to treat swelling. The Houma uses a decoction of this root for menstrual trouble.

In addition to medicinal uses, Native Americans found several other uses for ragweed.  There is evidence that Native Americans planted, cultivated, and harvested ragweed seeds. These seeds have an amazing percentage of crude protein (47%) and fat (38%) making them an important food source during the long winter months.  It is said that the seed tastes like wheat.  The sturdy stems of ragweed were also used by Native Americans to make rope.

Did You Know...

Cows, sheep and horses like to eat common ragweed. Excess consumption of this plant can change the taste of milk due to high content of bitter substances in the leaves of common ragweed.


Eastern cottontails, voles, grasshoppers like to eat leaves of common ragweed, while dark-eyed juncos, red-bellied woodpeckers, and purple finch prefer seed.


Common ragweed effectively removes lead from the soil in the polluted areas.


The Institute for American Indian Studies


Located on 15 woodland acres the IAIS has an outdoor Three Sisters and Healing Plants Gardens as well as a replicated 16th c. Algonkian Village.  Inside the museum, authentic artifacts are displayed in permanent, semi-permanent and temporary exhibits from prehistory to the present that allows visitors a walk through time. The Institute for American Indian Studies is located on 38 Curtis Road in Washington Connecticut and can be reached online or by calling 860-868-0518.



The Institute for American Indian Studies preserves and educates through discovery and creativity the diverse traditions, vitality, and knowledge of Native American cultures. Through archaeology, the IAIS is able to build new understandings of the world and history of Native Americans, the focus is on stewardship and preservation.  This is achieved through workshops, special events, and education for students of all ages.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

The Culture of Corn


If it wasn’t for Native Americans, corn, as we know it today probably wouldn't exist.  Corn was one of the most important food crops cultivated and harvested for indigenous peoples from Mesoamerica to New England. Native American corn was the genetic foundation of all other corn.  Corn continues to play a central role in the arts, culture, health, and lifestyle of many Native Americans, nationwide, today. Even today, many tribes hold special ceremonies such as the Green Corn Festival that gives thanks when the corn first ripens and can be eaten by the tribe.





About Corn


Scientists believe that people living in central Mexico developed corn at least 7000 years ago. It started from a wild grass called Teosinte whose kernels were small and not fused together like the husked ear of modern corn. Also known as maize, the best plants for eating were systematically collected and cultivated.  The first maize was a few inches long with only eight rows of kernels but through systematic selective cultivation, cob length and size continued to grow.


Maize along with beans and squash did not reach southern New England until 1,000 years ago or so. Native Americans in New England planted corn in fields close to their wigwams.  Corn and beans were planted together in raised piles of soil. The beans supported the cornstalk and fertilized it with atmospheric nitrogen as they climbed the stalks. Squash was planted between the mounds and helped to keep insects, raccoons, and other wild animals at bay. The large leaves of the squash also shaded the ground and kept the soil moist. The three crops complemented each other both in the field and in their combined nutrition and were referred to as the three sisters.


Corn in New England


Many Native American traditions, stories and ceremonies surround corn.  In New England, maize is described as a gift of the creator; in several stories, a crow or blackbird delivered kernels of maize and beans to the tribes of the Eastern Woodlands, while other Algonquian stories also recount maize being brought by a person sent from the Great Spirit as a gift of thanks.



New England tribes from the Mohegan in Connecticut to the Iroquois in the Great Lakes region observe rituals and ceremonies of thanksgiving surrounding the planting and harvesting of corn. One ceremony, celebrated in the Eastern Woodlands, the Green Corn ceremony of New England tribes, accompanies the beginning of the fall harvest. Around August Mohican men return from temporary camps to the village to help bring in the harvest and to take part in the Green Corn ceremony which celebrates the first fruits of the season. Many tribes also had ceremonies for seed planting to ensure healthy crops as well as corn testing ceremonies once the crops were harvested.

Flint Corn

Flint corn is one of the oldest varieties of corn known for its hearty nature and high nutrient value. Flint Corn, also known as Calico Corn, or Indian Corn is a variant of maize that was grown by Native Americans living in Connecticut. Native Americans taught colonists how to cultivate this type of corn that helped to keep them alive over the winter in Jamestown in 1608 and 1620.  Flint corn was primarily used to make cornmeal and hominy, a staple food in America since pre-Columbian times.



Flint Corn has multicolored kernels of red, purple, blue, gold, and white and is named because of its kernels that are as hard as flint.  These kernels contain a small amount of starch and are dent free, which means they shrink uniformly when drying making them less prone to spoiling.  Today flint corn is grown and milled into cornmeal, flour, hominy, and polenta. 



There is a movement today among numerous Native Groups to recover heirloom seeds and foods with American roots that Native Americans have relied on for centuries.  Seed Banking is important for tribes to plant and save American heirloom seeds as ceremonies, songs, and stories are linked to the planting and harvesting cycles of certain crops like corn.

  

 Medicinal, Culinary  & Household Uses 

Corn was not used as a major medicinal plant but it did have major health benefits for Native Communities because this crop produced more food that lasted for a longer period of time than could be achieved by hunting and gathering.  Corn was dried on woven mats and Native Americans in New England would store the surplus corn in underground storage pits that were lined with grass to prevent mildew so that it could be eaten in the winter. The main benefits of the cultivation of corn were that the tribe experienced lower infant mortality rates and lower levels of malnutrition.  




Medicinally, Native Americans used corn in several ways.  Corn silk is a mild stimulant and diuretic that was made into a tea and used to treat bladder and kidney irritations. An infusion of corn was used to help relieve nausea and vomiting.  Cornmeal is an excellent binder for poultices and was used as an emollient poultice for rheumatic pain.  It was also made into a nutritionally rich gruel that was fed to convalescents.  




 The husks of corn were braided and used in a variety of ways including sleeping mats and made into cornhusk dolls and shoes.  The corncob was used to make darts or burned as fuel. Sometimes corncobs were tied together and would be shaken together like a rattle that would be used in ceremonies.