The Strawberry Festival

© 1994 The Gobbler: Spring Flower

by Linda Pascatore


The Strawberry Festival was celebrated by the local Seneca Indians every year. The Senecas live in western New York and are part of the Iroquois Confederacy. The Festival was held when the wild strawberries ripened, sometime in June. Strawberries are the first fruits of spring in this area. For the Native Americans in the past, they must have been a fresh delight after the long winter months of dried foods.


Traditionally, the women and children would go to the meadows and fields to collect the berries. Special berry picking baskets made of bark were used. Then they would make a drink to be used later in the ceremony. This was done by mixing the strawberries with water and a little maple syrup.


The entire village would turn out for the festival. There would be dancing, music and singing. Then the ceremony would begin. Two children would be chosen to carry the strawberry drink. They would offer it to each member of the tribe. Each person would give thanks as they received the drink. Strawberries were considered medicinal and the juice made a healing tonic; a gift of the spring season. Feasting would follow, with more strawberries to be eaten raw or cooked in a variety of recipes.


The Senecas also dried strawberries. They would spread them out in flat baskets and dry them in the sun or by a fire. Another method used was to mash the berries and make small cakes. These cakes would be put on large basswood leaves to dry, and stored in covered baskets or boxes made of elm bark. When neeeded, the cakes would be reconstituted by soaking in warm water and used in coooking. They were often added to corn bread. The dried cakes were also used as a travel food.


Take some time this spring to enjoy some wild strawgberries. They still grow profusely in this area. They are a little tart and quite small compared with the cultivated variety. But they certainly give you a rush of spring flavor when you happen upon them while walking through a sunny meadow. We find an abundance of them in our gas well field in mid to late June. You'll see the white blossoms first; then watch for the strawberries to form and ripen. Happy picking!




Iroquois Foods and Food Prepartation, by F. W. Waugh; 1916 Reprint by Iroqrafts Ltd.

Taditional & Ceremonial Iroquois Crafts & Arts from the Six Nations Reserve Ontario, Canada