Jack Weatherford - Indian Givers: How the Indians of the Americas Transformed the World

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Indian Givers: Why America Hasn't Really Been Discovered Yet~

Apr 13, 2005
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Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:very well-researched and organized with insight to engage and inform

Cons:it could depress some people

The Bottom Line: The American Indian IS the bottom line.

How many of you know the great contributions the Native Americans of the Americas have given the world? It is one of the world’s most ignored secrets that the settlers from the Old World, that of Europe, came to the New World, that of North America, in 1492 to steal ancient wisdom and already-established “Indian” settlements. Anthropologist Jack Weatherford, who most recently wrote Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World, published Indian Givers: How The Indians Of The Americas Transformed The World in 1988, in fourteen, blisteringly well-researched chapters that mesmerized me as much as it saddened me for the Indians’ fate. 90 percent died from diseases brought by the new settlers, for example.

I can only give you a hint of what these 255 pages hold with the hope that you will seek out further details of his research and travels that any lover of history will find fascinating in its application to how it created the world of today. Let me briefly take you through each chapter so you may understand the impact the book has had on me and probably will on you.

Chapter 1: Silver And Money Capitalism

It was largely due to the fortune in silver harvested in Central America like Bolivia that enabled Europe to establish its rise in capitalism. Spain bankrupted itself, 8 million Indians and Bolivia were “swallowed up,” and Dutch, British and French traders and pirates built modern navies and armies to rule the world.

Chapter 2: Piracy, Slavery And The Birth Of Corporations

Ever hear of Hudson’s Bay Company? It’s operated continuously since 1670 when capitalism began and is the world’s largest fur dealer. In 1797 the North West Company of Montreal tried to copy and compete with the older company, but was bought out. The romanticized story of Indian trappers, frontiersmen, voyagers and traders hid the fact of the commercial enterprise of the company.

Chapter 3: The American Indian Path To Industrialization

The American Indian potato spread throughout the world and stabilized economies as well as changed the world’s health. Peasants started working in factories when milled flour was no longer popular and an atomic power plant was built.

Chapter 4: The Food Revolution

The Incas built Machu Piccu with terraces in hillsides as an agricultural station, to experiment with breeding vegetables and fruits like 3000 varieties of potatoes. We have about 20 varieties in use today in North America. The Incas devised and perfected ways of using the potato and created what we know as jerky. European rulers forced Europe to plant the ugly tuber or starve.

Chapter 5: Indian Agricultural Technology

Weatherford visited a village on the banks of the Amazon where the government has set up a research center fueled by the poor natives who then become indebted financially. College-trained agronomists, botanist and foresters slash-and-burn their livelihood while following their agriculture techniques.

Chapter 6: The Culinary Revolution

On the edge of the Sahara and in Africa, villages now use American Indian peppers, tomatoes, peanuts and spices. American foods made possible the never-before-imagined development of local and national cuisines, in India, Korea, northern China etc.

Chapter 7: Liberty, Anarchism And The Noble Savage

What happens in a traditional pow-wow. The Old World’s amazement of Indians’ personal liberty, their freedom from rulers and social classes. Sir Thomas More’s Utopia inspired by the Indians. Ben Franklin, Thomas Paine and George Washington studied them and democracy and the United States of America was born.

Chapter 8: The Founding Fathers

The United States Capitol “revels in its Old World heritage,” but Native Americans are shown as savages and given no credit. The Iroquois League was a model of its system of government when the founding fathers were at a loss.

Chapter 9: Red Sticks And Revolution

The history of America is the history of ‘constant resistance and periodic armed revolution against the Old World’s forms of tyranny.’ Alexander McGillivray of the Creek Nation, Andrew Jackson, Indian chief Osceola, Karl Marx ’s notebooks before his death and Emiliano Zapata are well-discussed.

Chapter 10: The Indian Healer

Quinine, ipecac, Vitamin C for scurvy, seaweed for goiter, curare, petroleum jelly and cocaine are among the Indians’ medical contributions to the world. The Aztecs’ surgery skills surpassed only by laser surgery. Syphilis was a bad American contribution.

Chapter 11: The Drug Connection

Coca leaves, from which cocaine is derived, made the hard lives of Indian miners tolerable. ‘Tobacco was the first of the New World drugs to be widely accepted in the Old World.’ World governments ardently sought to outlaw it, but it spread more thoroughly than any other drug with the possible exception of chocolate.

Chapter 12: Architecture And Urban Planning

Buildings built by Indians did not fall to earthquakes, but the new settlers of America instead built on top of their sites in the European fashion of arches and vaulted ceilings. Cities were patterned after Santa Fe, Spain that King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella designed like a Roman camp just a year before Columbus “discovered” America.

Chapter 13: The Pathfinders

Weatherford goes to the Caribbean coast of Belize where the canoe still is the Caribbean islands’ primary mode of transportation. Columbus introduced it to Europe and until the railroad in the twentieth century, the canoe was transporting people and goods. American Indians were not sailors and did not use many land vehicles using animals. Incan armies must’ve inspired Genghis Khan (my observation).

Chapter 14: When Will America Be Discovered?

Weatherford visits a dying Yuqui Indian woman, the last of her race, and reflects on the Indian contribution to the world that may never be discovered. He reflects on how the new settlers were able to overcome the natives through force, greater domestication of animals, the use of gunpowder, cannons, swords and navigational tools.

My Thoughts

You may have noticed that each chapter built on the one before to keep the reader more engaged with the material. Frankly it was difficult for me to put the book down. Weatherford’s organization, his extensive research through history and his description of his travels made for an engrossing, informative experience from the first to the last page. I started out thinking I would only be interested in certain chapters about food and medicine, even though Weatherford captivated me with Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World, and ended up enjoying it all with his intelligent research and compassionate insights and observations.

There is so much more to this book than I have outlined. The American Indian has been around much, much longer than those who founded the United States or colonized their countries or islands. Did you know that Mexico was called New Spain for several centuries? Their vast wisdom from trial and error saved our skins in many ways, but too often it was ignored and they were painted as savages and laughable symbols of our uneducated past.

If you think you appreciate the American Indian now, your appreciation after reading Indian Givers will be incomparably more. 60 percent of food eaten on this planet has an American origin, for example, and credit belongs to the American Indian. I dearly hope that this century will be one of greater understanding of their more humane, invaluable concepts and contributions to our world. Start with this book.

Genghis Khan book:

One Man's Hero: movie about the Mexican-American Revolution

Recommend this product? Yes

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