In 1916 anthropologist Gilbert L. Wilson worked closely with Buffalobird-woman, a Hidatsa born in 1839 on the Fort Berthold Reservation in western North Dakota, for a study of Hidatsa uses of local plants. What resulted was a treasure trove of ethnobotanical information that was buried for more than seventy-five years in Wilson's archives, held jointly by the Minnesota Historical Society and the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Wilson recorded Buffalobird-woman's insightful and vivid descriptions of how the nineteenth-century Hidatsa people gathered, prepared, and used the plants in their local environment for food, medicine, smoking, fiber, fuel, dye, toys, rituals, and construction. It also details the many sources and uses of wood – a scarce resource on the northern plains.
Uses of Plants by the Hidatsa of the Northern Plains also provides valuable details of Hidatsa daily life during the nineteenth century, from courtship rituals that took place while gathering Juneberries, to descriptions of how the women kept young boys from stealing wild plums as they prepared them for use, to recipes for preparing and cooking local plants – including the roots, fruits, seeds, and sap.
Gilbert L. Wilson (1869-1930) was a well-known anthropologist whose dissertation on Hidatsa agriculture was published in 1917 and is still available in print today.
Michael Scullin is a codirector of Midwest Ethnohorticulture. His articles have appeared in the journal Plains Anthropologist and in many edited volumes.