There’s an interesting book which describes the capture of frontier folks by American Indians in the frontier era. Often these captives were adopted by their Indian captors to replace family members who had died. In some cases, the captives later refused to return to European American communities when they had the opportunity. There’s a book which collects together many of their experiences (Captured by the Indians: 15 Firsthand Accounts, 1750-1870. Edited by Frederick Drimmer, 1961).
Diet Was Animal-based
The book recounts the diet of the North American Indians and the adaptation of people who were on European diets to the diets of the Indians. The Indians relied largely on animals for their food.
Differences from European Diet
The European captives seem to have suffered the equivalent of the ketogenic flu when they adapted to the Indian diet. They describe a couple of rough days at the start when they abruptly ceased to eat the European diet.
There were definite differences in diet. For example, the Europeans were used to bread at all of their meals but the Indians ate meat alone. From p 27.
This is as simple as the idea that the Indians were largely nomadic in the summer. They built shelters in the winter and stayed at those locations.
Other food they ate included:
- boiled venison (p. 33)
- buffalo (p. 34)
- deer, bear, racoon (p. 38)
- wildcat (p. 40)
- fox (p. 41)
- hickory nuts (p. 37)
- hawthorn seeds (p. 37)
- green corn (pp. 33, 41)
There are some very specific details such as this account of cooking a bear (p. 39).
See this article for more information on the dietary habits of American Indians (Guts and Grease: The Diet of Native Americans).
Consumption of Carbohydrates
For carbohydrates the women among the Indians tapped trees for sap and then concentrated the sap by heating it in bronze pots. They would dip their meat in the syrup. Here is the account of how they made syrup.
I wonder if the Indians had bronze kettles prior to the European arrival? Wikipedia indicates that there was no bronze objections created in North America prior to the European arrival. For more information on this subject see (Introduction to Contact and Precontact Period Copper & Brass Metalwork).
The Indians seemed to be aware that they needed both fat and carbohydrates to gain needed weight. There is plenty of evidence in the book that the Indians had extended times without any food (p. 40).
There is an account of how they would run down horses by chasing after them for miles (p. 42). It was easier to track them when there was a little snow on the ground.
Defined Gender Roles
Women took care of the corn and men hunted. There is an account of where the men would mock their European captives who helped the women with the corn (p. 43).