The Honorable Harvest

I am grateful to the Association of Living History Farms and Museums (ALHFAM) for this chance to share!


8V1A6818Submitted by Joel Johnson

When I moved to the Pacific Northwest and began work as an agricultural interpreter at Fort Nisqually, about eighteen months ago, I was eager to learn about the region’s history of indigenous agriculture. I grew up in Tucson, AZ, where recent excavations have uncovered 4,100 years of continuous agriculture near the Santa Cruz River. Amazed by the greenery of the Northwest, I naturally assumed the rich landscape of the Puget Sound would have a similar, if not even more abundant, history of cultivation.

In reality, quite the opposite is true. Though the indigenous camascropinhabitants of the Northwest maintained extensive camas fields to propagate the starchy native bulb and made regular trips to well-known berry stands and fishing grounds, the land was simply too fruitful to require much agricultural toil. As ethnobiologist Gary Nabhan writes in Enduring Seeds, “Why go to the trouble to domesticate a…

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