In pre-European settlement times, the Hidatsa cultivated sunflowers in the following ways (Wilson 1917):
1) Garden plots were created from wooded and brushy areas in river bottomlands.
2) Brush cleared for planting was spread over the plots and burned, for it was conventional wisdom that burning trees and brush “softened the soil and left it loose and mellow for planting”. Burning also added nutrients to the soil.
Before setting fire to the fields, the dry grass, leaves, and brush were removed from the edges of the fields so the fire wouldn’t spread.
3) Plots were allowed to lay fallow, and were taken out of production for two years to let them rejuvenate.
4) Sunflowers were the first seeds planted in the spring. Planting was done using a hoe. Three seeds were planted in a hill, at the depth of the second joint of a woman’s finger. The three seeds were planted together, pressed into the loose soil by a single motion, with the thumb and first two fingers. The hill was heaped up and patted firm. Sunflowers were planted only around the edges of a field. The hills were placed eight or nine paces apart.
There were several varieties of sunflowers; black, white, red, and striped colors occurred in the seeds.
5) Seeds were harvested by spreading sunflower heads on the roof to dry. The heads were laid face downward, with the backs to the sun. After the heads had dried for four days, the heads were threshed by laying them on the floor face downwards and beating them as a stick. An average threshing filled a good-sized basket, with enough seed left over to make a small package.
6) Parched sunflower seeds were pounded in the corn mortar to make meal. Sunflower meal was used in a dish called four-vegetables-mixed; it included beans, dried squash, pounded parched sunflower seed, and pounded parched corn.
7) Sunflower seed balls were made of sunflower seed meal. In the olden times, every warrior carried a bag of soft skin with a sunflower-seed ball, wrapped in a piece of buffalo-heart skin. When worn with fatigue or overcome with sleep and weariness, the warrior took out his sunflower-seed ball, and nibbled at it to refresh himself.
Each garden plot was “owned” and tended by a woman who cleared it. It was kept cleared of weeds and birds were chased off.
No one has provided updates yet.