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