Ethnobotony Seminole Ethnobotany Amongst the Thesis

Excerpt from Thesis :

In the case of the corn woman, food and god herself are the same. The love of the life-sustaining corn woman underlines the particular social and economic importance of corn in the tribe. Cooking corn, which is eaten green or boiled and roasted on the cob, is a daily part of the tribe's traditional activities. Corn is also pounded into meal with mortar and pestle to make flour meal, which was then, as one observer noted: "sifted through an open-mesh basket and then winnowed by being tossed into the air, the breeze carrying away the chaff, while the heavier, edible portion of the corn falls back into the flat receiving basket. In this condition the meal is mixed with water and boiled to make sofki. This is the name applied primarily to this corn soup, of which, in addition to the kind mentioned, there is fermented or sour sofki, and soup made from parched corn, which is by far the most savory of the three." Sofki is obviously the most labor-intensive of all of the preparations, but corn can be consumed whole, and immediately from the cob.

For the Seminole, food is consumed communally and enjoying the fruits of nature in a communal setting is just as important as the sustenance derived from the food: "One of the houses of the village (usually the largest one) is reserved for eating and here food, generally sofki, venison, biscuits or corn-bread, and coffee, is always ready for the hungry. Twice a day, in the morning and evening, the Seminole have regular meals, but eating between times is a constant practice." Eating reaffirms the participation in the common life of the tribe, and the central importance of corn, the gift of the soil to the Seminole. Visitors are constantly encouraged to eat of the staple, central crops of the tribe, as a way of affirming their friendship and commonality with the tribe. Thus eating corn communally has a spiritual as well as a sustenance function in the daily lives of the tribe, which is explicitly religious in the case of the story of the corn woman, and in a way that had an implied social sacredness.

Herbs are used in medicine as well, a practice still continued amongst many tribal members: For example of "Red Bay:" is said to be a pediatric aid when the leaves are burned and smelled by a baby with diarrhea, while an infusion of leaves taken by babies can be taken to combat a child's appetite loss. Most herbs have a psychological and spiritual power as well as provide physical remedies, unlike modern medicine -- the red bay leaves, for example, are said combat insanity when burned and when put into a charm can combat a baby's bad dreams about raccoons or opossums. Once again, the line between religion and food, medicine and food, and religion, medicine and socialization, so carefully demarcated in modernity, do not have similar boundaries in Seminole culture.

Works Cited

Greenlee, Robert F. "Folktales of the Florida Seminole." The Journal of American Folklore.

58. 228 (Apr. - Jun., 1945), pp. 138-144. Accessed on October 21, 2008 through JSTOR at the stable URL:

Macaulay, Clay. The Seminole Indians of Florida. Kessinger Publishing, 2006.

Schmid. Rudolf. Review of Native American Ethnobotany by Daniel E. Moerman. Taxon. 47. 4 (Nov., 1998), pp. 980-981. Accessed on October 21, 2008 through JSTOR at the Stable URL:

Skinner, Alanson. "Notes on the Florida Seminole." American Anthropologist. 15. 1 (Jan. - Mar., 1913), pp. 63-77. Accessed on October 21, 2008 through JSTOR at the stable URL:

Robert F. Greenlee, "Folktales of the Florida Semiole," the Journal of American Folklore, 58. 228 (Apr. - Jun., 1945), pp. 138-144, accessed on October 21, 2008 through JSTOR at the stable URL:

Greenlee, p.138

Greenlee, p.144

Greenlee, pp.144-145

Greenlee, p.144

Clay Macaulay, the Seminole Indians of Florida, Kessinger Publishing, 2000, p. 489.

Alanson Skinner, "Notes on the Florida Seminole," American Anthropologist, 15. 1 (Jan. - Mar., 1913), p.77 Accessed on October 21, 2008 through JSTOR at the stable URL:,

Skinner, p.71

Rudolf Schmid,

Review of Native American Ethnobotany by Daniel E. Moerman, Taxon, 47. 4 (Nov., 1998), pp. 980, Accessed on October…

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