Freshwater mussels were not typically collected by coastal cultures, especially if the tastier saltwater clams were readily available [1, 2]; however Mid-Columbia Indians are reported to have consumed them on occasion . Although freshwater mussels were readily available to the Wampanoag, there is no evidence that they used them . Some freshwater mussels may have been inedible or difficult to obtain which may explain their limited use [1, 2].
Several inland cultures are, however, reported to have consumed freshwater mussels. The Kootenai (Kutenai) gathered freshwater mussels present in rivers , likely to have included a species referred to as fatmucket.
The Okanagan gathered freshwater mussels as an emergency resource only when other provisions were low [5, 6] and when preparation activities for the Dream Dance inhibited typical food acquisition tasks . The best mussel beds were reported to be located at the mouth of the Omak Creek and along the river just above Oroville , where species such as western pearlshells and California floater are likely to have been encountered.
The Shuswap gathered freshwater mussels in large quantities in spring, which were typically boiled, shelled, and fried . The species gathered was not specified but may have included the western floater.
Freshwater mussels were collected regularly by the Onondaga, who boiled them for five to six hours to reduce their toughness, then ate them with salt and butter, in soups and fried. The Onondaga also dried and stored freshwater mussels for winter . The species involved were not specified, but was likely to include several species including, perhaps, the widespread and abundant eastern elliptio. Freshwater mussel remains were found at Onondaga archeological sites including Cabin, Furnace Brook, Howlett Hill, Burke and Cemetery , as well as the Schoof and Keough Iroquois archeological sites .
Pearls from freshwater mussels were used by the Powhatan to decorate clothing and footwear ; numerous species were likely to have been used including, for example, the threeridge mussel.
1. Speck FG, Dexter RW: Utilization of marine life by the Wampanoag Indians of Massachusetts. Journal of the Washington Academy of Sciences 1948, 38(8):257-265.
2. Speck FG, Dexter RW: Utilization of animals and plants by the Micmac Indians of New Brunswick. Journal of the Washington Academy of Sciences 1951, 41(8):250-259.
3. Hunn E, Selam J, family: Animal and Plant Resources. In: Nch'i-W na "The Big River", Mid-Columbia Indians and Their Land. edn. Seattle: University of Washington Press; 1990.
4. Hewes GW: Fishing. In: Handbook of North American Indians, Volume 12: Plateau. edn. Edited by Walker DE, Jr. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution; 1998: 620-636.
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7. Bouchard R, Kennedy DID: Shuswap Stories, collected 1971-1975, vol. 1st edition. Vancouver: CommCept Publishing Ltd.; 1979.
8. Waugh FW: Iroquois Foods and Food Preparation, vol. No. 12; Anthropological Series. Ottawa: Government Printing Bureau; 1916.
9. de Laguna F: The Story of a Tlingit Community: A Problem in the Relationship between Archeological, Ethnological, and Historical Methods. Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office; 1960.
10. Tuck JA: Northern Iroquoian Prehistory. In: Handbook of North American Indians, Volume 15: Northeast. edn. Edited by Trigger BG. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution; 1978: 322-325.
11. Olsen SL: Animals in American Indian Life: An Overview. In: Stars Above, Earth Below American Indians and Nature. edn. Edited by Bol MC. Dublin: Roberts Rinehart Publishers; 1998: 95-118.