How Did the Takelma Prepare Camas?

The Camas bulbs were removed from the ground with a digging stick made from mountain mahogany, fitted with a cross piece handle of carved deer or elk antler. Camas bulbs were sometimes gathered in the spring to avoid confusion with death camas, but nutrient levels were much higher in the late summer/fall, so many bulbs were collected then as well. The collected bulbs were placed in an "earth oven," a pit three to four feet deep dug into the ground with a layer of hot rocks and greens and bark on top. Once properly layered, the pit was covered with earth and the bulbs left to bake for 24 to 48 hours. Based on the length of time the bulbs were baked, they came out soft, sweet, and syrupy and ready to be eaten directly or hard, dried, and ready to be ground into flour. The flour was reheated later to make into porridge or used to make bread-like foods during the winter (Sapir 1907b: 258).

Sapir, Edward

  • 1907b Notes on the Takelma Indians of Southwestern Oregon. American Anthropologist 9(2): 51-275.
Camas digging stick Mountain mahogany with antler handle
Camas digging stick
Mountain mahogany with antler handle
Camas oven
Camas oven
Collection of Department of Anthropology Southern Oregon University

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