Traditional Indian food included nopales
(cactus) which is cooked in various ways.
Above you see that the nopales are grilled.
When the Lipan Apache were exiled to the
reservations and sedentary life, they had to
be taught how to grow gardens and crops,
because they had always relied on foraging
for food. They had such an extensive
knowledge of wild plants, they could easily
find a feast, even in the barren deserts.
Like their prehistoric predecessors, native
groups of the Plateaus and Canyonlands
lived, in many cases, in temporary shelters
constructed of branches
and reeds or even more
simple wickiups (lean-
tos), such as those
shown in this image of a
encampment in Utah. As
noted in historic
accounts, this simple
mode of shelter enabled
native peoples to move frequently from
place to place as resources, such as cactus
fruits, nuts, or deer,
For example, many cacti are nutritious and
tasty. Above you see Belen Anaya
Did you ever eat chopped up green
nopalitos in a Mexican food breakfast?
That’s the prickly pear (opuntia). You can
eat the flat green cactus pad (once you
remove the thorns!) and the red fruit is very
According to historic accounts, the ripening
of fruits, such as the red "tunas of the
prickly pear cactus, brought hunting and
gathering groups together seasonally to
harvest the fruit and to socialize with other
peoples. In some cases, territorial warfare
among native groups erupted over areas
with the largest cactus fields.
Plants provided food and medicine, too. For
example, oak bark contains tannic acid
which is astringent and antiseptic- or in
other words, is an agent that kills germs
and cleans wounds.
Don’t forget plants were important for
making things like cords for stringing bows.
Since they didn’t use nails or duct tape to
hold things together, they used the fibers
from tree bark and plants twisted together
to provide strength to lash things together.
For example to hold the poles and
branches together for making shelters, they
might use rope made from the twisted fibers
of cedar bark. They also might use leather
for lashing or sinew.
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Lipan Apache Band of Texas
Pictured on right red tunas
of the prickly pear cactus.
Photo courtesy Texas
Parks and Wildlife
Click on photo to enlarge.