e Hominy Foodway of the Historic
Native Eastern Woodlands
As long as the Indian can eat and drink osa i, he will not go dead.
— Creek saying
Made from boiled maize kernels exposed to an alkaline solution, hom-
iny has been reg
arded as one of a number of maize dishes within the
culinary repertoire of the Native cook. However, this article proposes
that hominy was not a sin
ular dish but rather the life- sustainin
ple foodway for Native
roups in the Eastern Woodlands and that it
served as the basis for a number of resultin
foods. Th e importance of
this foodway, practiced well into the twentieth century by many
roups, is not just in its chemical alteration of maize but also in the
elements of sociality that envelop it, which helped perpetuate the
practices involved lon
aft er they were no
ically essential. Th is sociality includes those domestic
and community- wide practices that established a particular taste for
lye and ash, important el-ements of the foodway, as well as the role of
the hominy foodway within a broader social context.
Food plays a central role in our lives. It is not simply that we eat every
day up to several times a day. Food is much more than nourishment—
enveloping it are a number of activities, ones that involve procurement,
preparation, serving, and even disposal. As such, food is surrounded
by a number of cultural rules and guidelines that facilitate this process,
telling us what is good to eat and what is not, when it is good to eat and
when it is not, how we should eat, where we should eat, even, at times,
why we should eat. ese rules are constantly reinforced on a daily ba-
Briggs: e Hominy Foodway
sis, cementing them as “the original social glue that forms the bonds
of family and society while creating the individual.” us, food is also
shrouded in meaning, and this meaning constructs and interprets our
lives and experiences.
At this point, though, we are no longer talking about just food. We
are talking about foodways, or the activities, rules, and meanings that
surround not only food but cuisines (or the manner in which food is
prepared). Unlike studies of food, foodways studies encompass the so-
cial activities that surround a speci c food or dish, providing a means
to discuss shared, common culinary and social practices related to spe-
ci c foods and dishes. us, the distinct advantage of foodways studies
is that they are holistic, broadening the focus from the plant or animal
exclusively to also incorporate those practices surrounding their prepa-
ration and consumption, as well as the social and cultural contexts en-
An example of the important di erence between these two ap-
proaches would be the study of maize versus the study of foodways in
which maize is the central foodstu . Studies of the maize plant have
long stressed its versatility as a food product and its productivity as a di-
etary staple. Ubiquitous throughout the New World at the time of Euro-
pean contact, maize is heralded as a plant full of possibilities, serving as
the backbone for the rise of complex societies in the Americas, as a di-
etary staple of European peasants from the seventeenth century on, and
now as the third most utilized human food source in the world ( rst for
ere is no question that maize was a staple among the indigenous
peoples of the Eastern Woodlands. From the chroniclers of Hernan-
do de Soto’s entrada to the letters of Jesuit missionaries to the journals
of the naturalist William Bartram, the prevalence of maize was noted
throughout the region. In addition, explorers and colonists comment-
ed on the numerous, diverse ways Natives prepared the plant. Jean-
François- Benjamin Dumont de Montigny is o en cited to the e ect
that among the Natchez there were at least forty- two di erent ways of
preparing maize, each with a di erent name. From a food studies per-
spective, this statement is understood to indicate that there were many
unique and varied dishes that could be made with maize. However, from
a foodways perspective, we begin to understand that this statement may
have another meaning. Instead of forty- two wholly separate dishes, this
statement more likely indicates that there were forty- two dishes stem-
ming from a far smaller number of common, basic foodways that incor-
porate speci c materials, follow similar rules, and hold similar mean-
ings by those who prepared those dishes.
Ironically in the case of maize, nutritional studies indicate that, by
itself, this plant is actually not a biologically life- sustaining food. Un-
less maize is properly prepared or supplemented, a diet high in maize
will lead to rampant malnutrition, which, if le untreated, is fatal. us,
contrary to popular thought, maize itself is not a life- giver; instead, the
foodways associated with maize are the life- givers, especially those that
incorporate alkaline cooking, also known as nixtamalization. Nixtamal-
ization is a cooking technique that not only a ords a processing advan-
tage by so ening the pericarps (or hulls) of mature maize kernels but
also, and perhaps more importantly, nutritionally enhances the plant ker-
nels by increasing the available amount of essential amino acids and B vi-
tamins. e word nixtamalization is derived from the Nahuatl nixtamalli,
formed from nextli, meaning “ashes,” and tamalli, meaning “unformed
corn dough,” or tamal. In modern- day Mexico, nixtamal speci cally re-
fers to maize products produced by either soaking or boiling maize in an
alkaline solution, while nixtamalization refers to the process of alkaline
cooking. First recorded among the Aztecs by Spanish chroniclers, nix-
tamalization is best known as the rst culinary steps of the tortilla and
tamale foodways and their resulting foodstu s, but it also makes up the
primary steps in the hominy foodway of the Eastern Woodlands.
is article proposes that the hominy foodway, not the maize plant
per se, was the dietary life- sustaining staple of the historic indigenous
groups of the Eastern Woodlands. Hominy is a dish of boiled maize
kernels, either ground or whole, that have been nixtamalized. As Jesu-
it missionary Father Paul du Poisson noted, “ e most ordinary food
of this country— almost the only one for many people, and especially
for travelers— is gru [hominy].” is sentiment was echoed by Pierre
François Xavier de Charlevoix, who referred to sagamité (the French
term for hominy) as “the most common food of the Indians.” Howev-
er, while hominy has been regarded as the principal Native food dish,
even as the primary cuisine, throughout the Eastern Woodlands, few re-
searchers have referred to the dish as a foodway, missing the import-
ant distinction between maize- based versus hominy- based subsistence.
is oversight is perhaps best demonstrated by the Smithsonian Insti-
Briggs: e Hominy Foodway
tution series Handbook of North American Indians: both the Southeast
and the Northeast volumes lack indexical entries for hominy.
Instead of acting only as a stand- alone dish, the hominy foodway was
a practice akin to the tortilla foodway of Mesoamerica, in which the
rst few steps for making tortillas involve nixtamalizing dried, mature
maize kernels and then grinding them. From this base, numerous dish-
es can be made, leading to a plethora of related but separate foodstu s,
much like the way pastas are the basis for a number of resulting Italian
dishes. In the case of the hominy foodway, the result is a collection of
dishes stemming from a common, life- sustaining culinary practice that
was inseparable from the social and cultural contexts enveloping it, re-
sulting in a surprisingly conservative tradition perpetuated throughout
the historic Eastern Woodlands.
While hominy is referenced far less than the maize plant itself within the
ethnohistorical record, there is still a sizeable number of references that
discuss the steps involved in its preparation, as well as the history, tradi-
tion, and sociality surrounding the dish (table ). In addition to provid-
ing the basic outline of steps and ingredients of the foodway (discussed
below), these references span a considerable geographic and temporal
range, encompassing most of the historic Eastern Woodlands while ex-
pressing an equally impressive amount of consistency. ese factors in-
dicate a broadly shared and practiced hominy foodway (table ).
Before outlining the basic culinary steps and materials of this food-
way, it is necessary to discuss nixtamalization, which is the key proce-
dure transforming maize into a life- sustaining staple food. Stressing
and outlining the role of nixtamalization has generative features for re-
searchers interested in both food and foodways studies.
Nixtamalized dishes are those that follow procedures resulting in the
nutritional enhancement of maize kernels, transforming them into a
complete dietary staple. In order to increase the nutritional quality of
the product, two basic steps must be performed either in succession
or in combination: rst, maize kernels must be exposed to an alkaline
solution, and second, they must be boiled. e chemistry behind this is
twofold: while all variants of maize have kernels that are naturally high
. Historic terms for hominy in the historic Native Eastern Woodlands
Group Common names
for hominy and
Sample description Additional citations
which the English
word hominy is
“ is is Indian Corn soaked, broken in a Mortar, husked, and then boil’d in Water over
a gentle Fire, for ten or twelve Hours, to the consistence of Furmity: e in of this is
what my Lord Bacon called Cream of Maise, and highly commends for an excellent Sort
of Nutriment” (Beverley  , ).
Gerard ; Pargellis ;
Catawba kusimeyü, kuspi
“Recipe for Lye Hominy. Husked corn is corn with the skin or shell removed. We put it
in ashes and boil it well. e corn skin is good. So we shell the corn, pour it out and eat
it” (Speck , ).
Lawson ; Swanton
“ e women and girls prepared the food as is customary with other nations. e princi-
pal dish, ‘Con- nau- ha- nah’ (a hominy prepared with lye leached from green hardwood
ash) [is] made of Corn” (Keys and Kilpatrick , ).
Anonymous () ;
Walker ; Wright
Chickasaw pashofa, pishofa,
“I have eaten tom- fulla (hominy, beat and boiled, a little lye dropped in it, and turned a
little sour) with Tishomingo. Tom- fulla was a common diet among the Indians” (Barry
Hodges in Warren ).
Adair ; Speck ;
Choctaw holhponi, tafala/tan-
fola, tafula, tanfula,
“Most everybody knows how to skin corn and make what we used to call bighead
hominy. White people use canned lye to make this hominy, but Mother used lye made
from wood ashes. One kind of Tafulla was made by placing corn in a mortar, sprinkle
water on the corn a little at a time and beat with a pestle lightly, until the husk is o the
grains; then take out, put into a riddle basket and shake the husk out; place grains back
into mortar, then pound with pestle until grains are broken to desired size” (Christian
, – ).
Adair ; Brightman and
Wallace ; Byington
; Foreman ; Hud-
so i/so ey,
apaski, oa a
“ e common food of the Creek is Indian corn, pounded and boiled, with which they
mix a small quantity of strong lees of the ashes of hickory wood. It is boiled until the
corn is tender, and the liquor becomes as thick as rich soup. e lees give it a tart taste,
and preserve it from souring by the heat of the climate” (Caleb Swan in Schoolcra
Innes ; May ;
Watson ; Wright
Delaware nasaump, pxi•sk-
“ en there were set upon the oor, in the great hall, two large kettles, and many other
vessels lled with Sappaun, which is a kind of hasty pudding made of maize or Indian
corn, which grows there in abundance” (Holm , ).
Ives ; Penn
“Hominy, Onon’däät. Hominy is prepared from int corns. For a family of ve persons,
a quart of corn was thrown in a mortar and moistened with a ladleful (four table-
spoons) of water. To make the pounding easier a teaspoonful of white ashes or soda is
thrown in also” (Parker , ).
Fenton ; Morgan and
Lloyd ; Shimony ;
Natchez gru “ e most ordinary food of this country— almost the only one for many people, and
especially for travelers— is gru. Corn is pounded, in order to remove the outer skin, and
then is boiled a long time in water, but the Frenchmen sometimes season it with oil; and
this is gru” (Du Poisson  , – ).
Yuch i tso’ci, so ee “One of the chief articles of diet was the tso’ci, a kind of corn soup. To make this the
grains of corn, when dry, are removed from the cob and pounded in the mortar until
they are broken up. ese grits and the corn powder are then scooped out of the mortar
and boiled in a pot with water. Wood ashes from the re are usually added to it to give a
peculiar avor much to the native taste” (Speck  , ).
drink, hulled corn
“For the women beat in mortars their inty corn, till all the husks are taken o , which
having well si ed and fanned, they boil in large earthen pots; then straining o the
thinnest part into a pot, they mix it with cold water, till it is su ciently liquid for drink-
ing: and when cold, it is both pleasant and very nourishing; and is much liked even by
the general strangers” (Adair , ).
Carr , – ; Swanton
, ; Will and Hyde
Note: Full citations for each work mentioned in this table are provided in the works cited section following the endnotes.
. Temporal and geographic distribution of sources by group
– – – – – –
Northeast, general Charlevoix
Pargellis ; Smith
; Strachey ()
Delaware Brickell Heckewelder ;
Iroquois La tau () Fenton ; Parker ;
Southeast, general Garcilaso de
Adair ; Bracken-
ridge ; Catesby
Catawba Lawson Brickell Speck
Cherokee Bartram Keys and Kilpatrick
Chickasaw Catesby Warren Speck ; Wright
Choctaw Campbell ;
Romans () ;
Campbell Christian ;
Bartram ; Romans
Schoolcra ; Speck
Speck , ;
Natchez Dumont () ;
Du Poisson () ;
Note: Full citations for each work mentioned in this table are provided in the works cited section following the endnotes.
Briggs: e Hominy Foodway
in several B vitamins and essential amino acids, including lysine and
tryptophan (the latter of which is converted into niacin), these essen-
tial compounds are tightly locked within the kernel’s endosperm, mak-
ing them indigestible for nonruminants such as humans. Ricardo Bres-
sani and Nevin Scrimshaw demonstrated that the combination of heat
and alkaline treatment decreases the solubility of the zein portion of the
seed, which is the nutritionally poorest of the maize proteins, while si-
multaneously increasing the relative release rate through enzymatic ac-
tion (i.e., digestion) of most of the essential amino acids. e result is
an overall improvement in the nutritional quality of nixtamalized maize
compared to nonnixtamalized maize.
us, if maize is not either supplemented by another foodstu or
nixtamalized, a population subsisting principally on untreated maize
will experience high levels of malnutrition manifesting as pellagra.
Pellagra, an Italian word derived from pelle, “skin,” and agra, “rough,”
is a chronic wasting disorder brought on by severe niacin de ciency.
Although noteworthy for the rough, thickened skin developing late in
the course of the disease, pellagra has other severe symptoms, such as
chronic diarrhea and dementia, and if le untreated is in many cases
fatal. e disease was rst recognized in in the Asturias region
of northern Spain, where it was rampant for nearly thirty years. With
the extensive exploitation of maize among peasant populations, pellagra
was soon diagnosed in other areas of southern Europe, punctuated by
a few key outbreaks, such as that of “corn sickness” in late eighteenth-
century northern Italy when the staple wheat crop failed and untreated
maize became the primary foodstu . As maize was divorced from a nix-
tamalizing foodway, outbreaks of pellagra increased, eventually coming
full circle back to the Western Hemisphere in the early twentieth cen-
tury. During the Great Depression, many populations in the southeast-
ern United States increased their consumption of untreated, nonsupple-
mented maize, elevating it to a staple food. is resulted in over thirty
years of widespread, untreated pellagra, including over three million
documented cases and one hundred thousand attributed deaths.
An alternative to nixtamalization is to complement a maize diet with
either one or several other foodstu s. e most common complementa-
ry items are legumes, especially varieties of the common bean (Phaseolus
vulgaris). Some of the earliest observations by European explorers among
Native groups in the Eastern Woodlands include those of intercropping
maize, beans, and squash. Additionally, beans were a common ingredi-
ent added to maize dishes in general and hominy dishes in particular.
However, despite the relationship between these two plants at the time
of contact, they were likely separately disseminated into most parts of
the Eastern Woodlands. e common bean was not introduced into the
region until sometime around , nearly two centuries a er maize
was elevated to a dietary staple in many Mississippian communities and
a full millennium a er its initial introduction to the region.
I believe it likely that nixtamalization was an essential part of the hom-
iny foodway for generations before an appropriate nutritional comple-
ment was introduced to the agricultural system. One highly probable
by- product of this time was the establishment of a widespread cultural
taste for lye and ash that helped perpetuate this practice even during
times when it served no nutritional bene t. At the point when the com-
mon bean was disseminated to the Eastern Woodlands, instead of replac-
ing the practice of nixtamalization, the legume was incorporated into the
hominy foodway as a popular supplementary ingredient. is cultural
taste for ash in boiled corn, combined with the processing advantage
of nixtamalizing kernels, ensured that nixtamalizing components of the
foodway remained intact through most of the historic period.
In order to delineate the shared elements of the hominy foodway, I ex-
tensively drew on the ethnohistoric record for the Eastern Woodlands,
supplemented at times with ethnographic sources. Doing so revealed a
basic set of nixtamalizing steps and materials. Following is the general
outline for these culinary steps:
. Dried int maize kernels are soaked, usually overnight but for at
least several hours, in a solution made from either hardwood ash-
es or lye, which is made by leaching water through ash and is thus
chemically the same as a wood ash solution. e kernels are ready
either when their hulls are noticeably loosened or when the ker-
nels begin to change color, turning light yellow or white.
. Next, the kernels are processed by any combination of rinsing,
rubbing, or grinding to remove the hulls and any excess lye or
Briggs: e Hominy Foodway
. e kernels are then boiled in an earthenware pot, a step that lasts
anywhere from one to ten hours.
e resulting product can be eaten hot or at room temperature, or it can
be used as the base for other dishes, including a kind of nourishing meal
(known to the French as farine froide and frequently eaten on journeys),
various porridges, stews, and certain breads. Some of the more com-
mon ingredients used in the foodway include hickory nuts, beans, dried
sh, bear oil, and other animal fats.
As mentioned above, dishes tting this general description are ref-
erenced profusely in ethnohistoric sources for the Eastern Woodlands.
References that describe this process include those to boiled maize,
hulled maize, maize porridge, samp, sagamité, hominy (and various
spellings of the word), and other maize dishes described as boiled with
ash or lye but not named (table ).
Of course, while there are considerable similarities, there are distinct,
signature di erences that identify di erent group traditions (table ).
Ethnographic sources indicate that the Creeks and Seminoles still make
so i by soaking kernels for a day in a solution made from hardwood
lye; the kernels are then rinsed and boiled. e Choctaws make tanfula
by following a similar set of steps: soaking dried kernels in an alkaline
solution, removing the hulls by gently beating the kernels, and nally
boiling the kernels. e Eastern Cherokees skip the soaking step alto-
gether and boil their kernels in a lye solution for several hours. One way
the Iroquois make onondäät is by moistening dried kernels with a small
amount of water and soda or wood ash, then pounding the kernels un-
til the hulls are easily removed. Among the Yuchis, tso’ci is made by rst
pounding dried maize kernels in a mortar and then boiling them with
wood ashes. While it is the variation between traditions that makes each
idiosyncratic and a marker of group identity, underlying all are the basic
steps of nixtamalization, which enable the transformation of maize into
a nutritionally complete dietary staple. ese steps are enveloped with-
in shared aspects of sociality that together de ne the regional foodway.
In the Eastern Woodlands, there is a surplus of available material
that can be used as a substrate to make an alkaline solution. ere are
natural limestone deposits and salt brines in many parts of the Eastern
Woodlands, both lime and salt being superb alkalizing agents. Ashes,
as a general class of material but speci cally those derived from plants,
are also great for alkalizing. While the ashes of some plants have high-
er concentrations of potassium and sodium and thus can be used to
make more caustic solutions, the ashes of virtually all plants, from wa-
ter lilies to shrubs to both hard and so woods, can be used as alkaline
substrates. For this reason, it is surprising that throughout the Eastern
Woodlands there is one particular material class that practitioners pre-
fer as the alkaline agent essential to nixtamalization: hardwood ash. e
most frequently mentioned hardwood ash is hickory.
While hickory stands out as the common preference, other hard-
wood species identi ed much less regularly include locust and poplar,
as well as green hardwoods in general. However, more o en than not,
unless hickory is singled out, then no particular tree is singled out, and
sources simply indicate that hardwood ashes were used (table ). Not
only is it surprising that hardwoods in general but hickory in particu-
lar was preferred but that the most numerous family of hardwoods in
the Eastern Woodlands, Quericus, or oak, is almost never mentioned.
I found only one reference to Quericus ashes used to cook hominy, re-
corded among the eighteenth- century Choctaws:
When this stew is almost done they throw into it the nest of the
corn which they have reserved for thickening, and by way of sea-
soning they have a pot hung alo in which are the ashes of corn
silk, beanpods, or nally oak ashes, and having thrown water
upon this they take the lye collected in a vessel underneath, and
with it season their stew, which is called sagamite. is serves as
their principal food.
Despite its conspicuous absence as a nixtamalizing substrate, oak does
play a role in several twentieth- century practices, serving as the pre-
ferred wood to make the large wooden mortar used to grind maize,
with hickory used to make the pestle.
In addition to the natural alkaline mediums available, baking soda,
or sodium bicarbonate, is also a viable substrate and was introduced to
the Eastern Woodlands as a modern alternative for using wood ash and
lye. However, by the time baking soda was widely available to Native
practitioners, it was only sparingly used in the hominy foodway. Soda
was and is more commonly used when cooking cornmeal or our.
Likely, soda was rst incorporated by many as part of the more specif-
ic our or cornbread foodway, functioning not only as an alkaline sub-
Briggs: e Hominy Foodway
strate but also as a leavening agent. Instead, many groups prior to the
twentieth century continued to use ash, preparing maize kernels intend-
ed for our and hominy in a similar manner.
e cornbread foodway is likely a descendant of the hominy food-
way, indicated by the fact that traditions for making cornbread tend to
specify a similar set of preparatory nixtamalizing steps early in the pro-
cess. However, there are distinct culinary di erences. Not only is a sep-
arate variant of maize used, but practitioners making our also consis-
tently ground maize kernels to a much ner texture. ough cornbreads
were sometimes boiled, more frequently they were baked in warm
hearth basins, the dough either wrapped or placed directly in the ash-
es. In addition to culinary di erences, the sociality of cornbread is dif-
ferent from that of hominy, the latter strongly associated with general
ideas of health, hospitality, and the proli c Green Corn ceremonies.
While wood ash or lye alkaline solutions are essential to nixtamal-
ization, heat treatment is an equally critical element. us, while it is
possible to combine alkaline treatment and boiling, it is not possible to
skip boiling altogether or to precede alkaline treatment with boiling and
still achieve the same nutritional bene t. Many traditions separate these
two steps: kernels are rst soaked in lye, rinsed, then boiled (table ).
ough heat is needed to nutritionally enhance kernels alone, soaking
in an alkaline solution only facilitates hull removal. Soaking tends to last
anywhere from a couple of hours to overnight or longer. In most ac-
counts, soaking errs on the side of longer periods.
Similarly, boiling accounts are highly variable and indicate that this
step could last anywhere from an hour to upward of twelve, although
these longer periods are usually intermixed with prolonged periods of
simmering. One of the factors that a ected the period of boiling time
is the type of vessel: when an earthenware pot was used, more time was
needed, but when an iron kettle was used, far less time was employed,
since iron kettles conduct heat better than earthenwares. With an
earthenware pot, cooking time would last anywhere from two to twelve
hours, with most cases falling on the longer side of that continuum.
Using an iron kettle cuts boiling time down to an hour or two, maybe
less, although overall cooking time may still be considerable. As noted,
a handful of groups combined both alkaline treatment and boiling, a
process that typically reduced total cooking time to one to two hours.
. Steps, ingredients, and sociality of the hominy foodway
indicated by sources used in this article
Lye Hardwood ash Extended boiling
Beverley , Beverley , ;
Catawba Speck , Brickell ; Lawson
Cherokee Walker , ; Key
and Kilpatrick ,
; Walker ,
; Key and Kilpat-
() , ;
Chickasaw Adair , ; War-
Choctaw Christian , –
; Foreman ,
Christian , ;
Hudson , ;
Schoolcra , ;
Cory , ; School-
Delaware Penn , ; Tanta-
Penn , ;
, ; Wil-
Iroquois Parker , Morgan and Lloyd
, ; Parker ,
Natchez Dumont () ,
Note: Full citations for each work mentioned in this table are provided in the works cited section following the endnotes.
Soaking Flint maize Health sociality Green Corn Ceremony
Smith , Beverley , ; Speck
Bartram , ;
Bartram , ;
Mooney , ;
Adair , Schoolcra ; Swan-
Adair , ; Bright-
man and Wallace ,
Hudson Swanton , – ;
Mooney ; Swanton
Speck , ;
Walker , ;
Bartram , ; Ro-
mans () , ;
Gatschet , ;
Schoolcra ; Speck
; Wittho ,
Bierhorst , Brickell , ; Speck
Brickell , ; Heck-
welder , – ;
Parker , ;
Fenton , ; ,
; Morgan and Lloyd
Fenton ; Parker ;
Du Pratz , Du Pratz , – ,
Swanton , ; ,
; Wright ,
Walker , Wittho
In many cases, this expedited cooking time was also partially achieved
thanks to the aid of an iron kettle.
Bressani and Scrimshaw indicate that in order to achieve a nixtamal-
ized product, maize only needs to boil for upward of half an hour. Ac-
counts indicate, however, that one of the primary goals of boiling and
soaking was to make the product “eatable,” a condition met when ker-
nel texture had changed, having so ened. us, kernels were soaked
or boiled rst until the hulls could easily be removed and second until
the kernels were so and the porridge had set. One twentieth- century
Oklahoma Choctaw account indicates that “this slow boiling continued
from twelve to eighteen hours, or until all the grains of corn were swol-
len, turned inside out, and quite so . By this time the tan fula [sic] had
acquired the consistency of a ‘thick soup.’”
Generally, there are ve recognized maize variants: sweet, our, dent,
pop, and int. Each one has characteristics that make it more or less
suitable for a particular cuisine. Of the ve, pop and int, while separate
variants, share many of the same characteristics: they have the tough-
est mature kernels and also the highest relative protein content. While
poorly known today by most maize eaters, both historically and pre-
historically, these variants were intensively used for food, undoubtedly
thanks to their high protein content.
As Francis King proposed, among many groups, int was the pre-
ferred variant for making hominy (table ). ere are several sourc-
es in which this connection is unequivocally made. For example, James
Adair goes as far as to call int hominy corn, while Annemarie Shimony
indicates that among the Six Nations, the way to prepare int- corn soup
is to “boil the corn in wood ashes and water until the hulls come o .”
Among eighteenth- century groups in the Lower Mississippi Valley, Du
Pratz describes two varieties of maize grown: “Flour- maiz, which is
white, with a at and shriveled surface, and is the so est of all the kinds;
Homony corn, which is round, hard, and shining; of this there are four
sorts, the white, the yellow, the red, and the blue.”
e long- standing cultural preference for int maize in the hominy
foodway is at least partly related to observations King made regarding
the di erences in kernel quality and texture a er being nixtamalized,
Briggs: e Hominy Foodway
during which our maize “tends to become so and mushy,” whereas
int maize remains rmer. Nixtamalization has little e ect on pops be-
cause of their extremely tough pericarps. Soaking int kernels in an al-
kaline solution facilitates the removal of their hulls, and the nal boiled
product maintains a surprising amount of body. Nixtamalization may
be a practice that was historically bound to int variants in the east-
ern United States and was thus disseminated in tandem early during the
Mississippian period of the late precontact era as part of a cohesive an-
cestral hominy foodway.
While the culinary steps facilitating nixtamalization are critical ele-
ments, divorcing the practice from the rest of the foodway highlights
it as the a priori purpose behind its perpetuation. Part of this proposal
stresses not only how the hominy foodway produced a biologically life-
sustaining food product but also how the sociality of the foodway creat-
ed a second and equally important social- sustaining quality. Because of
the deep connection food has with group identity, foodways are some of
the most persistent aspects of societies that have experienced upheaval
from migration, warfare, diasporas, or contact with new social and cul-
tural system. With European contact and subsequent colonization of
eastern North America, indigenous groups experienced dramatic pop-
ulation losses related to disease and warfare, and many also relocated,
coalescing with other groups either to ensure strength in numbers or to
increase access to new European trade items. During this time, a num-
ber of new plants and cooking technologies were introduced, including
the watermelon, the peach, rice, and the iron kettle.
However, despite the potential for change, as late as the twentieth
century Native groups still followed traditional guidelines for the hom-
iny foodway. Technological innovations like the iron kettle were only
slowly incorporated into the foodway, while the overall exploitation of
maize itself only slightly waned with the introduction of European do-
mesticates. Usually, introduced plants and animals were instead folded
into dishes built on the hominy foodway; pork, for example, became a
popular addition to soups, stews, and porridges partially as a replace-
ment for bear and other endemic animal oils. As discussed, even the
introduction of commercial baking soda as an alkaline agent was only
largely incorporated during the twentieth century, despite the fact that
baking soda is a viable, less bitter substitute for wood ash and lye.
Explaining this conservatism as the sole product of nixtamalization
misses the social and cultural roles ful lled and even generated by its
daily practice. Just as sociality was imposed on the foodway, speci c el-
ements of the foodway, on the other hand, shaped the social lives of the
people who practiced it.
Much broader than the biological enhancement of maize kernels, lye
and ash appear to have cultural connotations with and at times direct
bearings on health. ere are several references to the use of beanstalk
ash in maize dishes, usually not as a nixtamalizing agent. In these ac-
counts, beanstalk ash is added in the nal preparatory stages, indicating
that it is used more for seasoning than as an active, chemically altering
ingredient. According to William Bartram, the Creeks and the Chero-
kees had a very speci c reason for adding these ashes to their dishes:
But (besides their well- known remedy, spigelia anthelmintica), to
prevent the troublesome and fatal e ects of this disease [whoop-
ing cough], they use a strong lixivium prepared from ashes of
bean- stalks and other vegetables, in all their food prepared from
corn (zea), which otherwise, they say, breeds worms in their
While this addition may in fact have a preventative and even curative
e ect for a person plagued with worms, the relationship between ash-
es and maize dishes explicitly made here indicates a general conception
that adding ashes to food made it healthier. e speci c association
between maize and worms is also echoed by James Adair, who notes
that before the busk, or Green Corn Ceremony, Creeks were charged
not to eat any “unsancti ed, or impure food, otherwise they will get full
of worms, and be devoured by famine and disease.”
e association between maize, ash, and health is also apparent in
the sociality of the hominy foodway, speci cally the status of hominy as
a sick food:
When the natives are sick they eat no sh and very little meat, and
they even abstain from that entirely if the nature of the malady
demands it. en they take only hominy or meal cooked in meat
Briggs: e Hominy Foodway
broth. If the sick person is worse they have a small quantity of
coarse meal cooked in the same rich broth, and give of this broth
[itself] only to one who is doing well.
e only biomedical function associated with hominy in this sense
would be as an easy- to- digest, high- energy food. More likely, the sig-
ni cance of hominy in this context is to provide comfort. As the dietary
staple of the Natives of the Eastern Woodlands, hominy was very likely
associated with both childhood and the idea of home.
While we see the use of hominy as a comfort food on the individu-
al level, we also see it on a social level as well in the Pishofa Ceremony,
practiced by both the Chickasaws and Choctaws. While pishofa (hom-
iny prepared with meat) is not used as a food to nourish a patient (in-
stead, the patient must follow a strict set of food and lifestyle prescrip-
tions), it is the primary dish prepared and eaten by the attending doctor,
friends, and family who maintain a multiday vigil to provide support
for the patient.
Perhaps because of its strong associations with the home, or perhaps
simply because it was such a proli c food dish, hominy was also broadly
recognized as hospitality food, one served to any and all visitors. Ber-
nard Romans notes that when a stranger arrived among the Creeks, he
was quickly o ered the pipe, “while the good women are employed to
prepare a dish of venison and homany.” is association was and still
is so entrenched among the Northern Iroquois that the iron kettle used
by women to make hominy beginning in the twentieth century is gener-
ally viewed among the community as a sign and symbol of hospitality.
A common observation made by Europeans was that Natives frequently
salted their dishes with wood ash or lye. Rarely, however, were observ-
ers actually witnessing the addition of salt. For example, Adair noted
that domestic salt was made from “a saltish kind of grass, one that grows
on rocks,” which was also used to make lye. John Lawson stated, “ e
Salts that the Indians in these parts make use of in their Meat, Bread,
and Soup, to give them a grateful relish are Alkalies, viz, Ashes made of
the Wood of Hickery and calcin’d Bones of Deers and other Animals.”
ese observations represent the common interpretation that Na-
tives were adding substances to their dishes in order, rst and foremost,
to make them taste saltier. However, as James Mooney stated, “Lye en-
ters into almost all the food preparations of the Cherokees, the alkaline
potash taking the place of salt, which is seldom used among them, hav-
ing been introduced by the whites.” us, while adding wood ash to a
dish may make it a little saltier, doing so will also make it more bitter.
While many of these observers consider adding ash a means of salting a
dish, it seems more likely that ash and lye were added as condiments to
make the dish “much to the native taste.”
As mentioned, perceptions of food are largely social products, a pro-
cess that in turn culturally constructs taste. While Europeans and Eu-
ropean Americans favored salty dishes, Natives in the Eastern Wood-
lands demonstrated a distinct proclivity for bitter and sour dishes.
While some observers grew accustomed to the taste, the common sen-
timent is that adding ash was distasteful. One Jesuit missionary consid-
ered the addition of ashes to sagamité as a way Natives paid penance:
ese fasting women toiled strenuously all day— in summer,
working in the elds; in winter, cutting wood. ese austerities
were almost continual. ey mingled ashes in their portion of
Sagamite; they put glowing coals between their toes, where the re
burned a hole in the esh.
Regardless of whether the hominy foodway added to or established a
taste for bitter foods in the broader realm of Eastern Woodland Native
foodways, the pervasiveness of ash and lye in indigenous cuisine per-
petuated a distinct taste for bitterness, in turn contributing to the con-
servatism of the hominy and other related foodways.
While the sociality described above included daily, if not weekly,
traditions, both ash and maize play key roles in annual renewal cere-
monies, including the widely celebrated Green Corn ceremonies of
the Eastern Woodlands. ese are rst foods observances celebrated
when the rst crop of maize begins to ripen (generally sometime be-
tween July and September). Researchers have identi ed some variations
in the ceremony; among the Iroquois, for example, the Green Corn
Ceremony is a solemn event centered on giving thanks, while among
the Creeks, Cherokees, and Delawares, the ceremony focuses more on
celebration and world renewal. In all groups, however, the ceremo-
ny is a community- wide event, occupying multiple days during which
Briggs: e Hominy Foodway
that year’s maize crop is used to support a number of ritual observanc-
es, events, and feasts. Among the foods and drinks connected with this
ceremony are the famous black drink (a tea made from Ilex vomitoria),
roasted maize ears (which were only prepared before maize had fully
ripened and was in its milk stage), and hominy.
To highlight one particular tradition among the widespread practice,
Benjamin Hawkins noted that during the Creek busk held in the town
of Kasihta in the s, on the rst, second, and eighth days men would
rub ashes from the new re over their chins, necks, and bellies, then
head to the river. Ceremonial ash was speci c, and only certain classes
of ash were used during the busk. Hawkins notes that on the rst and
eighth days the ash comes from the new res started at the beginning of
the ceremony, while on the last day, ash is prepared from old maize cobs
and pine burs. Maize- ash ceremonialism is further echoed in the Creek
rite of passage into adulthood, known as the puskita, during which only
“boiled grits” are eaten, and near the end of the ritual, the initiate covers
himself with maize- cob ash.
Not only was speci c ash used during the busk, but at its annual con-
clusion, all ash generated during the ceremony was curated in a small
corner of the town’s square grounds, a collection that was carefully add-
ed to each year. Ash curation dates back at least to the late precontact
Mississippian period, during which it was an important material class in
the world renewal ceremonies underpinning the construction and main-
tenance of earthen platform mounds. World renewal is also a central
theme in the broadly shared oral Eastern Woodland maize origin tradi-
tions. Maize is a gi given to humans to keep them from starving, trans-
formed from the body of the Corn Mother. In the traditions of the Ir-
oquois, Narragansetts, and Delawares, maize is delivered to humanity
from the south by a crow. However, among many Eastern Woodland
groups, maize comes from the body of the Corn Mother, who is killed,
burned, and sometimes banished a er her children come to believe that
what she feeds them comes from her excrement. She consequently leaves
a er delivering instructions that they must now grow, care for, and pre-
pare maize themselves. In many versions, hominy is featured as the
principal maize dish that Corn Mother made for her children.
ere are notable deviations from this general outline. e Yuchis,
for instance, have an origin story that bears a closer resemblance to the
Shawnee tradition: maize was discovered one day by a man out in the
wilderness who heard a whining voice similar to that of a baby. As he
grew closer, he found a small stalk of corn behind a bush that asked for
He gave him instructions what to do
Clean up and cultivate that...
Cultivate that corn
And that little corn said:
“I’m here to help your people.”
“I am going to help you all through your life.”
“You must remember and never forget.”
“I am going to help a l l o f y o u r people.”
e Yuchis also have a second, separate origin story for hominy:
It is commonly believed, as regards the origin of this favorite dish,
that a woman in the mythical ages cut a rent in the sky through
which a peculiar liquid owed which was found to be good to eat.
e Sun then explained its preparation and use, from which fact it
was called tso’ci, inferably “sun uid.”
While the Yuchis are distinctive in having a hominy origin myth,
other deviations include having at least two separate maize origin sto-
ries corresponding to di erent maize variants. Among the Seneca, there
is one myth in which maize is given to humans by the Corn Mother,
while a second details the origin of white corn, rst given to the Tus-
caroras and then passed to the Senecas. In this instance, both stories
follow the general guidelines John Wittho outlines for Corn Moth-
er stories, making it unclear if they are, in fact, two entirely separate
traditions. However, there is a clear separation among the Koasatis. In
one story, maize is a gi , again, from Corn Mother, while in the second,
maize kernels are transformed from the blood of a hunted bear and col-
lected by a young man who has spent several nights camping with two
A common thread running through each of the above elements of soci-
ality is the link between the hominy foodway and female- gendered roles
Briggs: e Hominy Foodway
and responsibilities. Part of this relationship is derived from the sim-
ple fact that among Native societies in the Eastern Woodlands, women
not only were primarily involved in food preparation but also were the
primary caretakers of both agricultural elds and household gardens.
While men assisted to varying degrees in clearing elds, numerous ac-
counts indicate that women were the planters, the weeders, the caretak-
ers, and the harvesters of agricultural products, roles that ran contrary
to the English perception of gender division. A er harvesting, women
dried and stored maize for food preparation and for the next year’s crop.
Finally, those kernels reserved for consumption were treated as detailed
above, feeding a nearly constantly simmering pot of food found in most
Native houses, kept warm and plentiful by the women of a household.
A er European contact, maize became even more valuable to Native
women in the Eastern Woodlands as food became one of the prima-
ry goods for trade with early European explorers and colonists. Several
accounts indicate that women were able to directly trade with Europe-
ans by bartering with surplus food materials from their household sup-
plies. By doing so, women not only were granted greater individual ac-
cess to materials but also were provided a new avenue through which
they could provide for their households.
Clearly, the conservation and perpetuation of the hominy foodway
throughout the historic period are closely tied to this intimate relation-
ship between food, identity, and womanhood. Maize and maize products
were the primary medium through which women were able to ful ll their
social duty to their family and their community. us, while warfare and
the hunt were essential activities that de ned Native manhood, maize
agriculture and food preparation were those essential activities that bol-
stered Native womanhood. e corn origin stories perhaps best encap-
sulate this relationship— through the fruits of her body, Corn Mother is
able to provide for and nourish her children until the day they become
skeptical and unappreciative of her work. is connection fostered the
connotations of hominy as healthful, nourishing, and comforting, carry-
ing several of the de ning characteristics of Native womanhood.
In the focus on food, it is easy to lose sight of how culturally and so-
cially enmeshed our food choices are. Historically, the intensi cation
of maize agriculture has undeniably at times fostered social complexity.
But the irony is that alone, maize cannot sustain human life. at is why,
in major parts of the Americas, maize is tied to nixtamalizing foodways,
a tendency that may point to a larger phenomenon taking place prior
to European contact during which maize was primarily disseminated
through the Western Hemisphere not as a plant but as various food-
ways. While local groups incorporated these foodways into their dietary
systems in di erent ways, adding ingredients and altering steps to make
the nal product more to their liking, many of the basic, primary prac-
tices used to process maize remained the same.
As a result, in postcontact times, hominy was the principal nixtamal-
izing foodway among indigenous groups in the Eastern Woodlands,
serving as the dietary staple throughout the region, and perpetuated
even a er the common bean was widely adopted. A er the dissemina-
tion of the bean, there would have been little biological or even func-
tional reason to continue nixtamalizing maize kernels. us, if the only
motive behind alkaline treatment was chemical alteration or even pro-
cessing, it is unlikely that practitioners would have continued to add
wood ash or lye to their kernels once a suitable complementary food-
stu was available.
As demonstrated, though, there was a shared hominy foodway prac-
ticed throughout the historic Eastern Woodlands that was based on a
fundamental set of culinary practices, resulting in a nixtamalized maize
product. To explain this perseverance, we must look at the sociality of
the foodway. First, we must not dismiss the conservative emotional
attachments granted to the culinary tastes of Native foodways, which
placed a premium on bitter, sour, even tart items, especially those that
included lye and wood ash. In addition, to a greater degree than any
other regional foodway, the hominy foodway has extensive associations
with sociality, both domestically and communally. It is not only a com-
fort food but also a special occasion dish, not only a hospitality food but
also a feasting food, one served to family, to friends, and to strangers
alike. anks to this sociality, even when nixtamalization was no lon-
ger a critical nutritional practice, the activities and ingredients associ-
ated with it were inseparable from the larger cultural and social role the
foodway played, a ording it an incredible amount of conservatism.
us, for all the focus on the importance of maize as a cultigen in the
Briggs: e Hominy Foodway
Eastern Woodlands, there are perhaps greater reasons to refocus our at-
tention on the importance of the hominy foodway.
ank you rst and foremost to Jim Knight for his unwavering guid-
ance and support throughout this research. Ian W. Brown, John Blitz,
Robbie Ethridge, and Greg O’Brien all provided helpful comments and
suggestions at various stages through this process. is manuscript is
only the better thanks to comments from three anonymous reviewers.
Finally, I am grateful to Andrew Draughon for all his patience, reading
and wading through a hundred visions and revisions.
Epigraph. Muriel H. Wright, “American Indian Corn Dishes,” Chronicle of
Oklahoma (): .
. Mary Douglas, Purity and Danger: An Analysis of Concepts of Pollution
and Taboo (London: Routledge, ); Douglas, “Deciphering a Meal,” in Food
and Culture, ed. Carole Counihan and Penny VanEsterik (New York: Rout-
ledge, ), – ; Claude Lévi- Strauss, e Raw and the Cooked (New York:
Harper and Row, ); Roy A. Rappaport, “Ritual Regulation of Environmen-
tal Relations among a New Guinea People,” Ethnology , no. (): – ;
Mary Weismantel, Food, Gender and Poverty in the Ecuadorian Andes (Prospect
Heights: Waveland Press, ).
. Sonya Atalay and Christine A. Hastorf, “Food, Meals, and Daily Activities:
Food Habitus at Neolithic Catalhotyuk,” American Antiquity , no. ():
. See also Pierre Bourdieu, Outline of a eory of Practice (Cambridge: Cam-
bridge University Press, ).
. Paul Welch and C. Margaret Scarry, “Status- Related Variation in Foodways
in the Moundville Chiefdom,” American Antiquity , no. (): – .
. For example, see Frederick W. Waugh, Iroquois Foods and Food Prepara-
tion (Ottawa: Government Printing Bureau, ), .
. Jean- François- Benjamin Dumont de Montigny, e Memoir of Lieutenant
Dumont, – : A Sojourner in the French Atlantic, trans. Gordon M. Sayre
and Carla Zecher (; Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, ),
. Sophie D. Coe, America’s First Cuisines (Austin: University of Texas Press,
), . Margaret Beck, “Archaeological Signatures of Corn Preparation in the
U.S. Southwest,” Kiva , no. (): – . Coe provides a cursory over-
view of nixtamalization among the Aztecs, while Beck details the nixtamalizing
foodways of the Southwest.
. Father Paul du Poisson, “Report by Paul du Poisson,” in Jacques Bigot, e
Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents: Travels and Explorations of the Jesuit Mis-
sionaries in New France – , ed. Reuben Gold waites (; Cleveland:
Burrow Brothers, ), :– .
. Pierre François Xavier de Charlevoix, Journal of a Voyage to North-
America Undertaken by Order of the French King: Containing the Geographical
Description and Natural History of at Country, Particularly Canada: Together
with an Account of the Customs, Characters, Religion, Manners and Traditions
of the Original Inhabitants, in a Series of Letters to the Duchess of Lesdiguières
(London: R. & J. Dodsley, ), :– .
. ose sources that cite hominy as the principal Native food are William
N. Fenton, “Northern Iroquoian Culture Patterns,” in Northeast, ed. Bruce G.
Trigger, Handbook of North American Indians, vol. (Washington, : Smith-
sonian Institution, ), – ; Ives Goddard, “Delaware,” in Trigger, North-
east, – ; Charles Hudson, e Southeastern Indians (Knoxville: University
of Tennessee Press, ); John R. Swanton, Indians of the Southeastern United
States, Bulletin of the Bureau of American Ethnology (Washington, : Gov-
ernment Printing O ce, ), . David J. Hally, “ e Identi cation of Vessel
Function: A Case Study from Northwest Georgia,” American Antiquity , no.
(): – , cites hominy as the primary cuisine. Finally, the only source that
argues for a hominy- based subsistence is omas Myers, “Hominy Technology
and the Emergence of Mississippian Societies,” in Histories of Maize: Multidis-
ciplinary Approaches to the Prehistory, Linguistics, Biogeography, Domestication,
and Evolution of Maize, ed. John E. Staller, Robert H. Tykot, and Bruce F. Benz
(Berlin: Academic Press, ), – .
. Raymond Fogelson, ed., Southeast, Handbook of North American Indi-
ans, vol. (Washington, : Smithsonian Institution, ); Trigger, North-
east. While both volumes have ample indexical entries for maize, neither has an
entry for hominy.
. Ricardo Bressani and Nevin Scrimshaw, “E ect of Lime Treatment on In
Vitro Availability of Essential Amino Acids and Solubility of Protein Fractions
in Corn,” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry , no. (): – .
Few researchers have been able to expand on their research.
. Solomon M. Katz, M. Hediger, and L. Valleroy, “Traditional Maize Pro-
cessing Techniques in the New World,” Science, n.s., (): – .
. Bressani and Scrimshaw, “E ect of Lime Treatment,” . See also Ricar-
do Bressani, R. Paz y Paz, and Nevin Scrimshaw, “Chemical Changes in Corn
during Preparation of Tortillas,” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry ,
no. (): – .
Briggs: e Hominy Foodway
. Katz et al., “Traditional Maize Processing,” ; Roy Waterson, “Kwash-
iorkor,” , no. , (): , indicates that another disease that can
be brought on by subsisting largely upon a diet of nonnixtamalized maize is
kwashiorkor. Kwashiorkor, from the Ga language and roughly translated as
“the sickness a baby gets when another baby comes along,” was rst diagnosed
during the early half of the twentieth century and develops in children shortly
a er they are weaned. While the etiology of the disease is still unknown, it is no
longer thought to be related to a high carbohydrate / low protein diet. ough
there is some correlation between consuming a high level of nonnixtamalized,
nonsupplemented maize and kwashiorkor, the nature of this relationship is
. Elizabeth Chacko, “Understanding the Geography of Pellagra in the
United States: e Role of Social and Place- Based Identities,” Gender, Place, and
Culture , no. (): – ; Jurai Hegyi, Robert A. Schwartz, and Vladimir
Hegyi, “Pellagra: Dermatitis, Dementia, and Diarrhea,” International Journal of
Dermatology (): – .
. For histories on the occurrence of documented pellagra, see Betty Fus-
sell, “Translating Maize into Corn: e Transformation of America’s Native
Grain,” Social Research , no. (): – ; Alan Osborn, “Limitations of the
Di usionist Approach: Evolutionary Ecology and Shell- Tempered Ceramics,”
in e Transfer and Transformation of Ideas and Material Culture, ed. P. J. Hugill
and D. B. Dickson (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, ), – .
See also Chacko, “Understanding the Geography.”
. Sources that discuss the timing of the common bean include John P. Hart
and C. Margaret Scarry, “ e Age of the Common Bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) in
the Northeastern United States,” American Antiquity , no. (): – ;
Richard A. Yarnell, “ e Importance of Native Crops during the Late Archaic
and Woodland Periods,” in Foraging and Farming in the Eastern Woodlands, ed.
C. Margaret Scarry (Gainesville: University of Florida Press, ), – . For
a discussion of the earliest occurrence of the common bean in Mississippian
communities, see C. Margaret Scarry, “Domestic Life on the Northwest River-
bank at Moundville,” in Archaeology of the Moundville Chiefdom, ed. Vernon J.
Knight, Jr., and Vincas P. Steponaitis (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press,
), – . For information on the introduction of maize in the Southeast,
see omas Riley, Gregory Waltz, Charles Baries, Andrew Fortier, and Kathryn
Parker, “Accelerator Mass Spectrometry () Dates Con rm Early Zea mays
in the Mississippi River Valley,” American Antiquity , no. (): – .
. While animal protein, including deer and sh, is also an excellent com-
plementary foodstu for diets high in nonnixtamalized maize, it is extremely
di cult to intensify the exploitation of wild taxa to levels that would adequately
nourish large populations.
. Elizabeth Benchley, “Mississippian Alkali Processing of Corn,” Wisconsin
Archaeologist , no. (): – .
. Anonymous, e Cherokee Perspective: Written by Eastern Cherokees
(; Boone: Appalachian Consortium Press, ), ; Robert Beverley, e
History of Virginia, in Four Parts (; Gale Editions Online, ), ;
John Lawson, e History of Carolina Containing the Exact Description and
Natural History of at Country Together with the Present State ereof and a
Journal of a ousand Miles Traveled through Several Nations of Indians, Giving
a Particular Account of eir Customs, Manners, &c., &c. (Raleigh: Strother &
Marcom, ), ; Henry Rowe Schoolcra , Historical and Statistical Informa-
tion Respecting the History, Condition and Prospects of the Indian Tribes of the
United States (Philadelphia: Lippincott, ), :.
. Anonymous, e Cherokee Perspective, ; Lucy Keys and Jack Frederick
Kilpatrick, e Wahnenauhi Manuscript: Historical Sketches of the Cherokees;
Together with Some of eir Customs, Traditions, and Superstitions (Washing-
ton, : Government Printing O ce, ), .
. Richard J. Preston, Jr., and Richard Braham, North American Trees
(Ames: Iowa State University Press, ).
. John R. Swanton, Source Material for the Social and Ceremonial Life of
the Choctaw Indians (Birmingham: Birmingham Public Library Press, ), ;
Daniel Usner, Jr., Indians, Settlers, and Slaves in a Frontier Exchange Economy:
e Lower Mississippi Valley before (Chapel Hill: University of North Caro-
lina Press, ). Both indicate that this quote comes from an unknown French
. Annemarie Shimony, Conservatism among the Iroquois at the Six Nations
Reserve, Yale University Publications in Anthropology, no. (New Haven :
Yale University Press, ), ; Wright, “American Indian Corn Dishes,” .
. Fussell, “Translating Maize into Corn,” .
. Anonymous, e Cherokee Perspective, – ; Wright, “American Indi-
an Corn Dishes,” – , .
. Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking: e Science and Lore of the Kitchen
(New York: Scribner, ).
. Elizabeth Tooker, e Iroquois Ceremonial of Midwinter (New York: Syr-
acuse University Press, ), , discusses the culinary technique of boiling
cornbread among the Iroquois. For sources that discuss cooking cornbread in
hearth ashes, see Beverley, e History of Virginia, – ; Goddard, “Delaware,”
; John Gottlieb Ernestus Heckewelder, Manner, and Customs of the Indian
Nations Who Once Inhabited Pennsylvania and the Neighboring States (Philadel-
phia: Historical Society of Pennsylvania, ), ; omas Campanius Holm,
“A Short Description of the Province of New Sweden,” in Memoirs of the His-
torical Society of Pennsylvania, trans. P. S. DuPoncean (Philadelphia: Ameri-
Briggs: e Hominy Foodway
can Philosophical Society, ), ; Arthur C. Parker, Parker on the Iroquois
(Syracuse, : Syracuse University Press, ), ; Bernard Romans, A Concise
Natural History of East and West Florida (; White sh: Kessinger Publishing,
. T. N. Campbell, “Choctaw Subsistence: Ethnographic Notes from the
Lincecum Manuscript,” Florida Anthropologist , no. (): – ; G. A. Cros-
sett, “A Vanishing Race,” Chronicles of Oklahoma , no. (): .
. Anonymous, e Cherokee Perspective, ; Wright, “American Indian
Corn Dishes,” .
. Parker, Parker on the Iroquois, .
. Bressani and Scrimshaw, “E ect of Lime Treatment,” indicates that only
thirty minutes are needed for nutritional enhancement.
. George F. Will and George E. Hyde, Corn among the Indians of the Upper
Missouri (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, ), – .
. Edwin James, Early Western Travels, Vol. : Part I of James’s Account of S.
H. Long’s Expedition, – , ed. Reuben Gold waites (Chicago: Lakeside
Press, ), ; Schoolcra , Historical and Statistical Information, .
. Campbell, “Choctaw Subsistence,” .
. Coe, America’s First Cuisines, ; McGee, On Food and Cooking.
. John E. Staller, Robert Tykot, and Bruce Benz, eds., Histories of Maize:
Multidisciplinary Approaches to the Prehistory, Linguistics, Biogeography, Do-
mestication, and Evolution of Maize (Burlington: Academic Press, ).
. Francis King, “Variability in Cob and Kernel Characteristics of North
American Maize Cultivars,” in Corn and Culture, ed. Sissel Johannessen and
Christine Hastorf (Boulder, : Westview Press, ), – .
. Shimony, Conservatism, . See also James Adair, e History of the
American Indians: Particularly ose Nations Adjoining to the Mississippi, East
and West Florida, Georgia, South and North Carolina, and Virginia (London:
Edward and Charles Dilly, ), .
. Antoine- Simon Le Page du Pratz, e History of Louisiana, trans. Joseph
G. Tregle, Jr., Louisiana American Revolution Bicentennial Commission (;
Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, ), .
. King, “Variability,” .
. Rachel V. Briggs, “ e Hominy Foodway in the Historic Eastern Wood-
lands,” paper presented at the st Annual Southeastern Archaeology Confer-
ence, November , , Greenville, South Carolina.
. Atalay and Hastorf, “Food, Meals, and Daily Activities”; Pierre Bourdieu,
Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste (Cambridge, : Harvard
University Press, ).
. Robbie Ethridge, From Chicaza to Chickasaw: e European Invasion
and the Transformation of the Mississippian World, – (Chapel Hill: Uni-
versity of North Carolina Press, ); Marvin Smith, “Aboriginal Population
Movements in the Postcontact Southeast,” in e Transformation of the South-
eastern Indians, – , ed. Robbie Ethridge and Charles Hudson (Jackson:
University Press of Mississippi, ), – ; Hudson, e Southeastern Indians.
. For example, see Anonymous, e Cherokee Perspective; Peter J. Hudson,
“Choctaw Indian Dishes,” Chronicles of Oklahoma , no. (): – ; Park-
er, Parker on the Iroquois; Wright, “American Indian Corn Dishes.”
. For citations on the use of earthenware pots versus iron and copper
kettles, see Charles H. Fairbanks, “Excavations at Horseshoe Bend, Alabama,”
Florida Anthropologist , no. (): – ; Wright, “American Indian Corn
. Du Pratz, e History of Louisiana, ; Wright, “American Indian Corn
. William Bartram, “Observations on the Creek and Cherokee Indians,
,” Transactions of the American Ethnological Society (): .
. Gladys Tantaquidgeon, A Study of Delaware Indian Medicine Practice
and Folk Beliefs (Philadelphia: Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania
Historical Commission, ), .
. Adair, e History, . A third reference to the association between
maize and worms was given by Will West Long, a member of the Eastern Cher-
okee who noted that a prophylactic medicine prepared and taken before the
Green Corn Ceremony was intended to “prevent the increase of stomach and
intestinal worms, which otherwise would ourish on this choice food.” How-
ever, there is no indication that either ash or lye is part of the treatment. See
John Wittho , Green Corn Ceremonialism in the Eastern Woodlands, Occasion-
al Contributions from the Museum of Anthropology of the University of Mich-
igan, no. (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, ), .
. Du Pratz, e History of Louisiana, – .
. For a citation on the use of hominy as a high- energy food, see William
Bartram, Travels through North and South Carolina, Georgia, East and West
Florida (Philadelphia: James and Johnson, ), . For an excellent source
on comfort food among college freshmen, see Julie L. Locher, William C. Yoels,
Donna Maurer, and Jillian van Ells, “Comfort Foods: An Exploratory Journey
into the Social and Emotional Signi cance of Food,” Food and Foodways: Ex-
plorations in the History and Culture of Human Nourishment , no. ():
. John R. Swanton, Chickasaw Society and Religion (; Lincoln: Univer-
sity of Nebraska Press, ), .
. Romans, A Concise Natural History, . For a source on hominy as a hos-
pitality food, see B. Hen- Toh Walker, “Mon- dah- min and the Redman’s Old
Uses of Corn as Food,” Chronicles of Oklahoma , no. (): .
Briggs: e Hominy Foodway
. Fenton, “Northern Iroquoian Culture Patterns,” .
. For example, see Jacques Bigot, e Jesuit Relations and Allied Docu-
ments: Travels and Explorations of the Jesuit Missionaries in New France –
, ed. Reuben Gold waites (Cleveland: Burrows Brothers Company, ),
:; John Brickell, e Natural History of North- Carolina. With an Account
of the Trade, Manners, and Customs of the Christian and Indian Inhabitants (Ra-
leigh: North Carolina Public Libraries, ), ; Du Pratz, e History of Loui-
siana, – ; Walker, “Mon- dah- min,” .
. Adair, e History, .
. Lawson, e History of Carolina, .
. Bigot, e Jesuit Relations, vol. ; Mark Catesby, e Natural History
of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands: Containing the Figures of Birds,
Beasts, Fishes, Serpents, Insects, and Plants: ...To Which Are Added Observa-
tions on the Air, Soil, and Waters: With Remarks upon Agriculture, Grain, Pulse,
Roots &c. To the Whole, Is Pre xed a New and Correct Map of the Countries
Tre ated Of, http://xroads.virginia.edu/~ma/amacker/etext/home.htm, ,
:– ; omas Hariot, A Briefe and True Report of the New Found Land of
Virginia, Complete eodor de Bry Edition (; Charlottesville: University
of Virginia Press, ), – ; James Mooney, Myths of the Cherokee and Sa-
cred Formulas of the Cherokees (Nashville: C. Elder Bookseller, ), .
. Mooney, Myths of the Cherokee, .
. Frank Speck, Ethnology of the Yuchi Indians (Lincoln: University of Ne-
braska Press, ), .
. See Bourdieu, Distinction.
. e quote is from Bigot, e Jesuit Relations, :– . For a source on
European colonists growing accustomed to the taste, see Charlevoix, Journal,
. Swanton, Indians of the Southeastern United States; John Wittho , Green
Corn Ceremonialism in the Eastern Woodlands, Occasional Contributions from
the Museum of Anthropology of the University of Michigan, no. (Ann Ar-
bor: University of Michigan Press, ), .
. Wittho , Green Corn Ceremonialism.
. Stephanie May, “Alabama and Koasati,” in Fogelson, Southeast, ;
Schoolcra , Historical and Statistical Information, :; Frank Speck, Oklaho-
ma Delaware Ceremonies, Feasts, and Dances, Memoirs of the American Philo-
sophical Society (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, ).
. Benjamin Hawkins, Creek Confederacy and a Sketch of the Creek Coun-
try in the Years and (; Kraus Reprint Company, ), – . For
the use of ash from old maize cobs and pine burs during the Green Corn Cere-
mony, see Hawkins, Creek Confederacy, . For initiates eating boiled grits, see
Hawkins, Creek Confederacy, .
. Wittho , Green Corn Ceremonialism, .
. Jo re Coe, Town Creek Indian Mound: A Native American Legacy (Chap-
el Hill: University of North Carolina Press, ), ; Vernon J. Knight, Jr., “ e
Institutional Organization of Mississippian Religion,” American Antiquity ,
no. (): – .
. Wittho , Green Corn Ceremonialism, ; Greg Urban and Jason Baird
Jackson, “Mythology and Folklore,” in Fogelson, Southeast, .
. Jeremiah Curtin and J. N. Hewitt, Seneca Fiction, Legends, and Myths,
Bureau of American Ethnology Annual Report (Washington, : Govern-
ment Printing O ce, ), – .
. Mooney, Myths of the Cherokee, – ; John R. Swanton, Myths and
Tales of the Southeastern Indians, Bulletin of the Bureau of American Ethnology
(Washington, : Government Printing O ce, ), , – .
. Swanton, Myths and Tales.
. Jason Baird Jackson, Yuchi Ceremonial Life: Performance, Meaning, and
Tradition in a Contemporary American Indian Community (Lincoln: Universi-
ty of Nebraska Press, ), – . Following David Dinwoodie’s recommen-
dations, Baird recorded the oral traditions of the Yuchi in a manner that in-
dicates the di erent voices and speech acts inherent in and essential to each
story. us, when the small stalk of corn speaks, this is spaced farther right
than the narrator’s speech, while “a l l o f y o u r p e o p l e” is spaced to express
the momentousness of this segment of the story. David Dinwoodie, “Textuali-
ty and the ‘Voices’ of Informants: e Case of Edward Sapir’s Navajo Field
School,” Anthropological Linguistics (): – .
. Speck, Ethnology, .
. Curtin and Hewitt, Seneca Fiction, – , – .
. Swanton, Myths and Tales, – .
. C. Margaret Scarry and John Scarry, “Native American ‘Garden Agri-
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. Rountree and Turner, Before and A er Jamestown, – .
. Lawrence A. Clayton, Vernon J. Knight, Jr., and Edward C. Moore, e De
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Colonial Southeast (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, ).
Briggs: e Hominy Foodway
. See LeMaster, Brothers Born, ; Usner, Indians, Settlers, and Slaves.
. For a discussion of gender roles among the early historic Powhatan, see
Rountree and Turner, Before and A er Jamestown, – . See also Kathryn
E. Holland Braund, Deerskins and Du els: e Creek Indian Trade with Anglo-
America, – (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, ), for a compre-
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