If you’re not familiar with this website, you need to check it out. It is a comprehensive digital library of women’s writing which is freely available (copyright expired) as well as links to current women authors. For example, I’m listed on this page. But what is so exciting about this site are the ebooks. You can browse or search by name, country, ethnicity, or time period.
It is exciting because women’s voices are so often lost or dismissed and here they are, gathered into one place, impressive with the depth and breadth and variety. Browsing at random within two minutes I came across Buffalo Bird Woman’s Garden As Recounted by Maxi’diwiac (Buffalo Bird Woman) (ca.1839-1932) of the Hidatsa Indian Tribe. Here is an excerpt:
Soon after they came to Like-a-fishhook bend, the families of my tribe began to clear fields, for gardens, like those they had at Five Villages. Rich black soil was to be found in the timbered bottom lands of the Missouri. Most of the work of clearing was done by the women.
In old times we Hidatsas never made our gardens on the untimbered, prairie land, because the soil there is too hard and dry. In the bottom lands by the Missouri, the soil is soft and easy to work.
My mothers and my two grandmothers worked at clearing our family’s garden. It lay east of the village at a place where many other families were clearing fields.
I was too small to note very much at first. But I remember that my father set boundary marks– whether wooden stakes or little mounds of earth or stones, I do not now remember–at the corners of the field we claimed. My mothers and my two grandmothers began at one end of this field and worked forward. All had heavy iron hoes, except Turtle, who used an old fashioned wooden digging stick.
With their hoes, my mothers cut the long grass that covered much of the field, and bore it off the line, to be burned. With the same implements, they next dug and softened the soil in places for the corn hills, which were laid off in rows. These hills they planted. Then all summer they worked with their hoes, clearing and breaking the ground between the hills.
Trees and bushes I know must have been cut off with iron axes; but I remember little of this, because I was only four years old when the clearing was begun.
I have heard that in very old times, when clearing a new field, my people first dug the corn hills with digging sticks; and afterwards, like my mothers, worked between the hills, with bone hoes. My father told me this….
It was our Indian rule to keep our fields very sacred. We did not like to quarrel about our garden lands. One’s title to a field once set up, no one ever thought of disputing it; for if one were selfish and quarrelsome, and tried to seize land belonging to another, we thought some evil would come upon him, as that some one of his family would die. There is a story of a black bear who got into a pit that was not his own, and had his mind taken away from him for doing so!