Indian Givers

Indian Givers by Jack Weatherford

As children, when someone gave us something and then took it away, we called them an "Indian giver."  However, a study of history shows we really should have called them a "white giver" as our culture has been far less likely to keep its word than the Native American culture. 

But what this book is really about is all the gifts that Native Americans gave to our modern world.  That's why the subtitle is "How Indians of the Americas Transformed the World."  And transform the world is exactly what Native American cultures did.

For starters, let's look at foods.  When you think of tomatos, for example, what ethnic foods do you think of?  Italian perhaps?  How about potatoes?  Irish maybe?  "French" fries? The fact is that both potatoes and tomatoes are Native American foods.  Native Americas were master agriculturalists, creating hundreds of varieties of foods that are now part of cuisines all over the world.

All varieties of potatoes, tomatoes and peppers (both bell peppers and hot peppers) came from America. Corn was also a major crop that Native Americans.  Many forms of squash (including pumpkins and zucchini) and beans (including green beans and kidney beans) were also from the Americas.  So are avacodos, sweet potatoes, cranberries, turkey, pecans, maple syrup, okra, sunflower seeds, peanuts, pineapple, papaya, cashews and pecans.

But how about "French" vanilla or "Belgium" chocolates?  The fact is that none of us would enjoy chocolate or vanilla if not for the Native Americans.  Of course, we wouldn't have tobacco either or Coca-Cola, either.

Which brings us to the part of this book which should be of intrest to herbalists, medicinal plants.  Native Americans had a vast materia medica of native remedies, which still remains largely untapped. Cascara sagrada, goldenseal, American ginseng are just a few of the many remedies we use today that were part of this materia medica.

But this is only a small part of what Native Americans gave to us.  Most of our ideals of freedom and democracy that formed the foundation of American government came from the Native Americans. If you want to learn more about how the gifts of Native American cultures transformed the world we live in, read Indian Givers: How Native Americans Transformed the World