"Now is the season of hungry mice, cold rabbits, lean owls..."
~From 'Wolf Moon' by Mary Oliver
In thinking about eating local food, I came across some references to Moon Calendars of Native Peoples of North America. I was struck by the cruel fact that ancient peoples had to eat local foods or starve. Trade with distant tribes certainly happened, but only in the summer, and often for non-food items like flint, obsidian, and salt. When it came to food, it was each family and tribe's responsibility to find their own.
January was the Algonquin's "Wolf Moon", so named because in the bitter cold and snow, one could hear the wolves howling. Others called it "hard moon", "freezing moon", and "moon when the limbs of trees are broken by snow." February, with often the heaviest snow, was called "hunger moon" because food supplies were very low.
The Algonquin name for June is "Strawberry Moon". Many peoples moved to new camps for plentiful foods, and also to meet with neighbouring tribes for annual cultural celebrations. September is 'Harvest Moon, corn moon', rice moon, or 'moon when the deer paw the earth'. All tribes needed to collect their winter food supply from resources available to them.
October is also 'Harvest Moon' or 'Hunting Moon'. Bow and arrow, spears, snares and traps were used to bring in meat to dry and smoke. For the Cree, 'moon when the birds fly south' was the time when the food supply must be brought in.
The naming of the moons has everything to do with the need to survive on the land, working with nature and not against her, being at one with the reality of the seasons and the gifts of each time of year. For hunter-gatherers, survival was all about observing the rhythms of life and travelling to where the food sources would be. It may be to hunt, to fish, to gather berries, medicinal plants, or to make tools, shelter and clothing.
The peoples' great knowledge of their environment allowed them to survive and thrive for many thousands of years on what nature provided. Their ingenuity. skills and cultural habits and beliefs made life possible for generations in often difficult climates.
'All my relations' is a way of saying that the people are part of the whole earth, and that all things are connected. The Cheyenne say that when we become separated from nature, our hearts become hard. Unfortunately, we also become ignorant, and dependent on external forces to feed, clothe, shelter and entertain us. We forget to take these responsibilities upon ourselves, as the old ones did.