Chowanoke History -- by Duvonya Chavis

American Indians are often referred to as hunter gatherers. While this may have been partially true for some Indian tribes, the Chowanokes did not live from hand to mouth. Their Indian villages had an agricultural system that incorporated the planting and harvesting of crop several times throughout the planting season. This method sustained them through the winter months until planting season came around during the spring.  For example, various types of corn or maize were strategically planted during different stages of growth in March, April, and May. A variety of corn with different colors such as red, blue, yellow/streaked and white was planted and depending on the type of corn planted, a harvest could be expected anywhere from 11 to 14 weeks later.  We no longer see the red or blue corn varieties grown locally anymore, though efforts are currently underway to bring this variety back to the area in our Native communities.
During the planting season, Chowanoke women maintained small garden plots throughout the village entirely by themselves. However, large communal corn fields and the Chiefs’ garden were maintained jointly by men and women. The men would till and prepare the grounds while the women usually harvested the corn and would shell and dry the corn on mats. This preserved the corn and allowed it to be stored during the winter season. Corn was also often pounded into Rockahomine meal and used to make bread.
Corn was planted in a strategic manner to allow room for beans, peas, squash, pumpkin, and sunflower seeds to grow. Squash and pumpkins provided cover for the ground to control the weeds and corn stalks provided a pole for beans to grow on. Hence when grown together, “the three sisters” had a symbiotic relationship and provided nutrients and benefits for the other.
Now is the season for planting corn, squash and other vegetables. Planting techniques used by the Chowanoke Indians may indeed prove to be beneficial to those who are willing to give this method a try.
Chowanoke History -- by Duvonya Chavis Chowanoke History -- by Duvonya Chavis Reviewed by kensunm on 7:00:00 PM Rating: 5


  1. I recently learned that I am descendant of the Chowanoke Tribe. My 6th great-grand-mother was born in 1700 at the Chowanoke Colony in North Carolina .

  2. My 6th great-grand-mother was Chowanoke. Her name was Lyna Fouraker.


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