More About Cherokee Cooking

The Indian Pioneer Papers are the product of a project developed in 1936. The Oklahoma Historical Society teamed with the history department at the University of Oklahoma to get a Works Progress Administration (WPA) writers' project grant for an interview program. The program was headquartered in Muskogee and was led by Grant Foreman. The writers conducted more than 11,000 interviews and after editing and typing the work, the results were over 45,000 pages long.

The following excerpt is from the interview of Jennie Hines of Westville. -

"The Cherokees at that time lived on the simplest food that they raised at home. Bean bread could be found at almost every table. Hominy, dried corn, dried fruits, and wild meats were their chief food. They did not can much food. There were no fruit jars in this country yet. They usually dried their fruits and meats.

Most of the wild meats at that time were deer, turkey, squirrels and many other small animals. There were a few buffalo in this country at that time. There were several to be found around Pryor."

She recalls the times when the Cherokees, including her father, would go on hunting trips. They usually went to the Grand River just south of Pryor. She remembers at one time these Cherokees killed four of those animals at once. The custom of the Cherokees at that time was to call all of their neighbors together when they had something good to eat.

Mr. Phillips, after arriving home, called several of his neighbors to share in the feast. The meat tasted similar to beef. These hunting expeditions would generally last about two weeks. Deer sometimes would leave this part of the country and go to the Salt Springs near the Grand River to lick the salt. Buffalos did the same. It was when this happened that the Cherokees went on these expeditions.

The meat was dried so it would keep during the summer months. In the winter they would hang this up as they do beef. She recalls at one time Uncle Adam Palone who lived on Ballard Creek, would come and trade some sorghum for buffalo meat. Palone was the molasses king at that time. Prairie chickens were numerous in the prairie where Westville is now. The Palone molasses mill was located on Ballard Creek. This was a queer outfit as we would call it now. The juice was squeezed through wooden rollers into barrel and boiled in kettles. This usually sold at forty cents per gallon. Usually this was a means of exchange for Mr. Palone. People those days traded among themselves. This was known as the old barter way. If you had any surplus you traded that for something that others had and you needed.

Information provided by the Cherokee Nation Cultural Resource Center, excerpts taken from the Indian Pioneer Papers. Please contact cultural@cherokee.org for any questions.


Cultural information may vary from clan to clan, location to location, family to family, and from differing opinions and experiences. Information provided here is not 'etched in stone'.