On the contributions of indigenous Americans to human technology & civilization

Indian givers cover

An old post reminded me about the writings of Jack Weatherford, a retired professor from Macalester College in Minnesota. He has written several popular histories of achievements, technological inventions, agricultural developments, & governmental forms (republic & confederacy) which European colonizers pirated from indigenous tribes throughout the Americas. These include fabrics, foods (corn, beans, potatoes, tomatoes), culinary arts, medicines & medical practices, metallurgy, the invention of rubber.

European colonizers brought these back to Europe where they were adapted to emerging manufacturing & industrialization & also introduced some of the agriculture to other parts of the world under European colonialism. According to Weatherford, the industrialization, development, & wealth of Europe was dependent on those technologies claimed by Europeans as their own.

All his books are worth reading but the most notable is “Indian Givers: How the Indians of the Americas Transformed the World.” He is of course using the term “Indian givers” ironically. He is highly respected by Native Americans & for many years was a featured speaker at Indian cultural events in the Twin Cities.

Another of his notable books is “Genghis Khan & the Making of the Modern World” where he discusses Mongol influence on European civilization. He has also been honored by Mongolia for his contributions to correcting the Eurocentric view of Genghis Khan. He actually lives in Mongolia now part time.

Weatherford’s historical approach has been criticized by some historians but his method is respected by Indians & Mongols who do not think him patronizing but in fact deeply respectful–unlike mountains of history about indigenous peoples, Latinos, & Blacks before the civil rights movement which were mountains of racist horse manure.

(Photo is cover of Indian Givers_