Indian Dishes

Indian Dishes for the preparation and serving of food and other purposes were manufactured by all Indian tribes. While their use as receptacles prescribes a concavity of circular, oval, or oblong outline, there is a great variety of shape, decoration, etc., according to individual taste or tribal custom, and a wide range of material, as stone, shell, bone, ivory, horn, rawhide, bark, wood, gourd, pottery, and basketry.

The vessels for serving food were not used to hold individual portions, for the Indians ate in common; but the little dishes held salt and other condiments, small quantities of delicate foods, etc. The larger dishes contained preparations of corn or other soft vegetables, and the trays and platters were for game, bread, etc., or for mixing or preparing food. In many cases the cooking pot held the common meal, and portions were taken put by means of small dishes and ladles, in which they were cooled and eaten. Some dishes had special uses, as platters, mats, and trays for drying fruits, roasting seeds, etc., arid as ceremonial bowls, baskets, etc.

From archeological sites have been collected many examples of dishes. Some made of soapstone were found in several Eastern and Southern states, and in Wyoming and California. Vessels formed of seashells, cut principally from Busycon, and also from Cassis, Strombus, and Fasciolaria, were found in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Arkansas, Georgia, and Florida. Dishes of pottery come from many parts of the United States and some made of wood from Florida.

The Indians in general used dishes of wood, and even where pottery, basketry, and bark were common, wooden vessels were made. Each region supplied suit able woods. A predilection for burl wood and knots was general. The majority of existing wooden vessels were fashioned with iron tools, but before metal was introduced they were excavated by means of fire and stone tools. Eskimo wooden dishes were sometimes cut from a single piece, but they usually had a rim of bent wood fastened to the excavated bottom and were oval in shape. Those of the N. W. coast tribes were boxes of rectangular shape, with scarfed and bent sides attached to the bottom; but the Indians also had excavated dishes carved to represent animal forms in great variety, and small bowls of horn occur. The Salishan tribes made dishes of wood and horn which were elaborately carved. The northern Athapascans as a rule used dishes, platters, and trays of birch bark folded and sewed, but among some tribes the dishes were like those of the Eskimo.

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The Chippewa had well-finished wooden dishes of rectangular, oval, or circular shape. The Iroquois made excellent dishes, cups, bowls, etc., of burl wood, and sometimes furnished them with handles. The Plains Indians also used in preference burl or knot wood, and while as a rule their dishes were simple in out line and homely, some specimens were well carved and* finished. The Virginia and other Southern Indians cut dishes, often of large size, from softwood; of these the Cherokee and Choctaw r bowls and platters made of tupelo are noteworthy. The Ute made rude oval bowls with projections at the ends, and oblong platters and knot bowls with handles. The Paiute used for dishes the carapace of the box turtle. The Pueblos, while relying mainly on pottery and basketry, had dishes wrought from knots and mountain-sheep horn. The Pima and Papago made oblong trays and shallow platters from mesquite wood. The Hupa of N. California cut large, flat trays from redwood. The tribes of the Santa Barbara region, California, inlaid wooden vessels with mother-of-pearl.

Bark dishes were extensively used by tribes within the birch area and to some extent by all the forest Indians. Those of the S. made great use of gourds.

The Pueblo Indians employed pottery and to some extent basketry for dishes, and the same is true in a lesser degree of some of the Plains and Eastern tribes. Southwestern and Californian Indians made use of basketry almost exclusively. See Bark, Basketry, Bowls, Implements, Pottery, Receptacles, Woodwork.

Hodge, Frederick Webb, Compiler. The Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico. Bureau of American Ethnology, Government Printing Office. 1906.

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