Seasonal Rounds: Charting Living in Harmony with the Land

Seasonal round on Coal River, West Virginia. Source: Library of Congress American Memory collection
Seasonal round on Coal River, West Virginia. Source: Library of Congress American Memory collection (click for large image)

Seasonal rounds can help us to live in harmony with the land. A seasonal round is a diagram of harvesting times of plants and animals which feed, heal and are useful to humans living in a specific place.

Constructing seasonal rounds is an ethnographic technique used by researchers to help understand how humans relate to and live in their environments. These diagrams can also be created by school students, homeschoolers, and naturalists as a way to understand the ecosystems in which they live.

As naturalists, we can create seasonal rounds and use them as a nature calendar and as topics for our nature journals.

I became fascinated by seasonal rounds when reading the book, North American Indian Jewelry, and Adornment by Lois Sherr Dubin.

There are seasonal rounds of many North American indigenous peoples throughout the book. It may seem odd that a book on adornment had seasonal rounds, but they put the lives of the people in the context of a specific land. This book started my seeking and studying of seasonal rounds of peoples all over the world.

The book is out-of-print, but if you have access to it through a library, it is worth a look.

This is part one of a two-part series. Part one is an introduction to the concept of what a seasonal round is and includes links to further resources. In part 2, will go through the steps more thoroughly on choosing plants and animals and filling in a seasonal round.

Researching for a Seasonal Round

Seasonal rounds are created in the shape of a circle because that is the reality of the Earth. The calendar Westerners use is the Gregorian calendar.

The Gregorian calendar is a representation of linear time but the natural world travels in circles and cycles. The Gregorian calendar was created for the scheduling of the Christian celebration of Easter, leap days and lunar moon cycles. It does not express the changing of the seasons in North America.

Here is a scenario. Say you decide to create a seasonal round for your local area. You decide to focus on edible leafy green plants, berries and fishing seasons.

The first step of research is learning about edible plants and fish in your area.

A Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants: Eastern and central North America (Peterson Field Guide) is the type of book that will be helpful. If I chose two species of plants from each season and a list of berries, then I can learn about each species, draw the plant at various life stages and use phenology to link the plant’s ripeness to our signs within the environment. Their harvest times can be mapped on a seasonal round.

Think about how much you would know about those plants. You would know what living conditions they needed, where to find them growing and when to harvest them for peak flavor and goodness.

A seasonal round can be the foundation of learning about the land how to live in harmony in it.

Seasonal Rounds of Indigenous North American Peoples

The online resources are free resources written by indigenous people of various North American tribal nations. Much of the knowledge is given by tribal elders.

“Wild Food in Its Season: The Seasonal Round of Harvest Activities in Fort Yukon”

Traditional and Contemporary Seasonal Round of the Blackfeet

“Seasonal Round” – Lower Chinook and Clatsop

“The Great Circle” – Seasonal Round of the Northern Shoshone-Bannock

“Seasonal Round of the Nez Perce”

“Seasonal Round of Activities on Coal River” (non-indigenous information)

Lesson Plans

Blank Seasonal Round Worksheet

Lesson Plans for Creating a Seasonal Round

“The Four Corners of Life: A Traditional Seasonal Round” – Traditional Athabascan lifestyle (lesson plans at the bottom of the page)

Books on Edible Plants (see the book on

A Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants: Eastern and central North America (Peterson Field Guide)

Mushrooming without Fear: The Beginner’s Guide to Collecting Safe and Delicious Mushrooms

Edible Wild Plants: A North American Field Guide to Over 200 Natural Foods (by season, across North America)

For fishing and hunting species seasons, check your state’s game commission website.

New find: Hunter, Gatherer, Gardener, Cook a blog by Hank Shaw

Tomorrow: Part Two – How to Create a Seasonal Round

See also Nature Activities for Kids and Other Beginners

Nature Journal Writing Prompts


  1. Donna you have me very intrigued…I think it is the teacher in me…I will be researching this a bit more and I think I may use it for my harvest as well as maybe focusing in on a couple of critters in the garden…

    • Hi, Donna

      I am glad you found the article interesting. To me seasonal rounds reflect a people more than just about anything else. What would seasonal rounds about the typical American community say?

      • Good question Donna. I am not sure but I have a feeling it would reflect more the society and what we do based on common practice/calendars/holidays/economy and some weather but less on nature…maybe I would be wrong…depends…I may have a better answer once I get going…

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