A Brief History of Indian Summer

A Brief History of Indian Summer

This post is inspired by my fellow blogger, Aquinas Wired, who writes the Quark in the Road.  You can read his wonderful post, here.

We call these warm fall days Indian Summer, but what does that term mean, and where did it come from?

Both the Old Farmers Almanac and the National Weather Service define Indian Summer  as a brief spell of unseasonably warm,  hazy  weather in October or November, after the first hard frost of the season. Even without a frost, though, mild autumn days have a summery feel to them.

Native Americans were very aware of the warm days before the winter cold set in. This was a time to prepare for the winter. It was also hunting season. The first full moon after the harvest moon (the full moon closest to the autumnal equinox) is often called the Hunter's Moon.  About this time, the constellation Orion, the Hunter, appears again in our sky. This constellation has been interpreted as a human figure in many cultures.

Many believe the earliest reference to the term Indian Summer  is from a letter  dated  January 17, 1778 by J H St. John de Crevecoeur, a French-American farmer.  You can read more about it here.

Perhaps the most familiar reference to Indian Summer for  Chicagoans may  be "Injun Summer"  by John T. McCutcheon,  which  first appeared in the Chicago Tribune in 1907, and was reprinted every fall for years.  It was discontinued because it was considered offensive to Native  Americans, but  I have a link to it here.

If the shorter days of  autumn and  the falling leaves remind us of the impermanence of things, the warm Indian Summer days are even more fleeting.  Enjoy them while they last!



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  • Thank you for a lovely post. It was good to check in with more scholarly ideas about Indian Summer, but also with the old traditions. (I don't mind seeing how my own attitude shifts -- or doesn't!)

  • Thank you for a beautiful post. I appreciated both the more scholarly look at Indian Summer and the old-fashioned one.

  • In reply to Margaret H. Laing:

    Thanks for reading. It was fun to find out the history...Glad you enjoyed!

  • I enjoyed your post and the long Indian summer we had this year.

  • In reply to Kathy Mathews:

    Thank you! It really felt like Indian Summer this year...

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