How Native American Diets Shifted After European Colonization

Native people pass down information—including food traditions—from one generation to the next through stories, histories, legends and myths. Native elders teach younger generations how to prepare wild game and fish, how to find wild plants, which plants are edible, their names, their uses for food and medicine, and how to grow, prepare and store them.

As European settlers spread throughout America and displaced Native American tribes, Native food customs were upended and completely disrupted. The evolution of Native American cuisine can be broken down into four distinct periods, described below.