Many different types of meat were eaten by the Ojibwe, such as omashkooz (elk), mooz (moose) and makwa (bear). But deer, or venison, is one of the most commonly consumed today.
The diets of Native Americans varied with the location of each tribe. But all were based on animal foods of every kind. Native peoples diets included not only large game like deer, buffalo, wild sheep, antelope, moose, elk, caribou, and bear but also small animals such as beaver, rabbit, squirrel, muskrat, turtle and raccoon as well as many different types of fish, shellfish and wild birds including ducks and geese.
The Ojibwe traditionally hunted many of these animals. However, several of these animals have decreased in number in many areas, preferring northern lands that are less populated. Elk and moose, for example, are much less part of the diet as they once were. Today, the most commonly consumed wild game is deer, or venison, along with fish and other small game.
By Ojibwe tradition, waawaashkeshi are ready for harvest when fireflies begin making small sparks in the night air. The Ojibwe were extremely skilled hunters. They hunted all animals in a very careful way. Prayers of thanks and gratitude to the animal were extended before, during and after the hunt.
Food was hunted for the entire community. The entire animal was used, not just the muscle (meat) for food. The skin, or hide, of the deer was used to make clothes, shoes and bedding. The meat was eaten fresh and dried in long strips to eat during the long winter.
The fat of the animal was one of the most important sources of calories for the Ojibwe. Organs, tendons and bone were all utilized as well. Nothing was wasted, as that would be an insult to the animal who had given his life.
Venison was also an important part of feasts and gatherings. Today, hunting is still a widespread practice among the Ojibwe. Many people still honor the animal in the old way and venison is a tasty part of the diet!
Venison is perhaps one of the healthiest meats in the world!
It is a very good source of protein. Venison is higher in protein than beef & chicken! And, at the same time, it is lower in fat than most commercially available beef.
One 3 oz portion of venison—about the size of a deck of cards or the palm of your hand—contains about 134 calories & 3 grams of fat versus 247 calories & 15 grams of fat in the same sized portion of beef.
Venison is also a good source of iron. Again, venison beats out beef as an iron source! Iron is essential to women who are more at risk for iron deficiency. Growing children and adolescents also have an increased need for iron.
Iron is a key part of hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is the part of the red blood cell that transports oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. Iron is also essential for energy & metabolism.