Northwest Indians

Food Sources




The diet of the coastal tribes was heavily dependent upon fish, acorns, and camas root. The camas was eaten in its natural state or cooked, either by boiling or baking. The flavor of a cooked camas resembles that of a baked sweet potato. The indians preserved the cooked or sun-dried bulbs by pressing them into cakes called pasheco. Sometimes they added a cake of pasheco for flavor when boiling salmon. Camas soup was also a popular dish. There were almost as many names for the camas as there were indian tribes.

The coastal tribes were skillful in hunting porpoises, seals, and sea otters, as well as in catching salmon, halibut and cod. They also gathered great quantities of clams, oysters, mussels and crabs. Few tribes were adventurous enough to hunt the large whales. One tribe that was skilled at this feat were the Makah.

Inland tribes also depended on fish to a great extent, especially salmon. However, meat, berries, nuts and roots formed a greater part of their diet than of the diet of the coastal tribes.

Berries were eaten fresh or cooked into a pulpy mass that was then poured into wooden frames lined with skunk cabbage leaves where they remained until dry.

While the coastal tribes depended heavily on the camas root, acorns were predominent in southwestern Oregon. They were soaked, hulled, ground to a meal and washed to removed the bitter acids. The meal was cooked into a tasteless but nourishing gruel.

During spring and summer runs, Indians took large quantities of salmon from the streams. They smoked or dried everything that they did not eat fresh.

Meat was also a part of the diet of the various tribes. In the mountains they found elk, antelope, big horn sheep, and mountain goats. Rabbits and other small game were plentiful on the prairies. Only the eastern tribes hunted buffalo. A buffalo hunt was a great occasion. The men of the tribe were away for weeks at a time because of the long distance across the Rocky Mountains that they had to travel to get to the plains where the buffalo grazed.


My name is Stephenie Flora. Return to [
Home Page ] All [ Comments and Inquiries ] are welcome.