Thursday, November 22, 2012

THE STORY OF THANKSGIVING, Thanking Indigenous People for the Food We Eat

From: Sid Shniad 

November 22, 2006


"It was wonderful to find America, but it would have been more wonderful to
miss it."

– Mark Twain, The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson

THE STORY OF THANKSGIVING, in the rich MaxSpeak tradition, is here.
Or maybe it's here. []

MaxSpeak Summary: the Puritan Christian fundamentalists, of whom the
Pilgrims were a subgroup, were murderous, treacherous swine who made a
treaty with the indigenous people around Plymouth until they had enough
forces to wipe them out. This they later did with smallpox and guns, unless
they were able to sell them into slavery, all of course for the greater
glory of Jesus Christ.

Wait a minute. That wasn't quite right. Let's try it again. Here's how it

The Puritans in England were subject to religious persecution, lo unto
death. They needed a homeland where they could survive as a people and live
in peace. They tried to settle in the Netherlands, but it proved
inhospitable. Only the possibility of the New World seemed to beckon. It was
a land without a people, and they were a people without a land.

Upon settling around Plymouth, the first Puritans (Pilgrims) established
amicable relations with the Wampanoag Nation. The Wampanoag had already been
depleted by disease brought by previous settlers. They were also subject to
aggression by other Native American groups, so their alliance with the
Puritans became an outpost of peace and freedom in the New World.

As more Puritans arrived, they required more breathing space. The Wampanoag,
like other indigenous peoples, lacked a modern system of property rights.
They did not see fit to build fences, put up street signs, or establish
variable-rate mortgages. The Puritans remedied these defects of indigenous
culture. It just happened that the Puritans ended up owning all the
property, and Native Americans themselves became classified as property.

Taking umbrage at this advance of Judeo-Christian civilization, the
indigenous people reduced themselves to terrorism. Some were sufficiently
maniacal as to sacrifice their own lives in order to murder innocent
settlers. There was a veritable cult of death. Underlying this irrationality
was a primitive religious belief system that celebrated exterminating one's
enemies, as well as the consumption of locoweed and psychedelic mushrooms.

In short, the natives hated the settlers for their freedom and no longer
greeted them as liberators. They meant to establish dominion over the
entirety of Europe by summoning the Great Spirit as a weapon of mass

As a matter of self-defense, the Puritans were compelled to rise to the
challenge of this clash of civilizations and wage a pre-emptive war of
extermination of both the terrorists and the societies that nurtured them.
There was no middle ground; you were either with them or against them.

Those Native Americans who were willing to live in peace were provided with
alternative living arrangements, under the protection of the new government.
Sadly, they proved unequal to the rigors of modern society and eventually
disappeared, although they were given the opportunity to experience
democracy before their demise.

Today we, "the people who build square things," celebrate Thanksgiving as a
tribute to their memory, and to the invaluable assistance they unselfishly
provided for the Christian arrival to America.

Now please pass the gravy.


* * *



Thanking Indigenous People for the Food We Eat

By Alexis Baden-Mayer, Esq.
Organic Consumers Association: November 24, 2009

This Thanksgiving, the Organic Consumers Association gives thanks to the
indigenous people of the Western Hemisphere for their contributions to

75% of the food crops grown in the world today were first cultivated by
Native Americans. These include corn, beans, peanuts, cotton, potatoes,
tomatoes, chili peppers, avocados, blueberries, cranberries, strawberries,
squashes, black walnuts, pecans, chocolate, tobacco, rubber, and sunflowers.

In "Pristine Nature: The Founding Falsehood," Steven H. Rich explains that
the New World that European colonists believed was a miraculous wilderness
was actually a "human-created landscape full of food and useful plants":

Native Americans had managed the woodlands and grasslands to produce native
game animals, native birds and fish, berries, nuts, greens, fruits, bulbs,
corns, mushrooms, roots, basketry and cordage materials, firewood,
weapon-making and building materials, medicines and ceremonially important
plants. Many 'wild' native plants that exist today are in fact the products
of ancient Native American genetic selection and propagation projects that
favored better-tasting and more useful varieties. Popular belief that
pre-Columbian America was a "pristine wilderness" is false and based on
racist stereotypes that reduce the highly successful and extremely
intelligent adaptations and achievements of Native American societies to the
instinctual behavior of wildlife or "nobel savages in a state of nature."
Native American elders remember better times. "The white man sure ruined
this country," said Southern Sierra Miwok elder Jim Rust. "It's turned back
to wilderness. In the old days there used to be lots more game: deer, quail,
gray squirrels and rabbits." There are no "spontaneous Edens" on earth. The
New World paradises were created by the sweat of millions of Native
Americans caring for their land. Today, indigenous farmers remain the
custodians of an immeasurable wealth of biodiversity.

4,200 Years of Farming on the Colorado Plateau

On the Colorado Plateau farming has been an unbroken cultural tradition for
at least 4200 years. The Navajo, Zuni, Apache, Hopi, Paiute and Tewa have
cultivated the most diverse annual crop assemblage in the New World north of
the Tropic of Cancer. Some of the very same fields documented as cultivated
four centuries ago by Zuni (and perhaps by Hopi) remain in use today,
without soil erosion, nutrient depletion or salination noticeably
diminishing their food producing capacity.

The 30 ecosystem types on the Colorado Plateau collectively harbor some
2,500 vertebrate species, well over 1,100 invertebrate species, and over
16,000 plant species. Despite the Anglo-American bias of assuming that this
diversity is associated with "pristine" landscapes, it is more likely due to
the traditional land use practices of the people who have managed the
landscape for centuries. For instance, of the Colorado Plateau's 300-some
endemic plants, roughly 2/3 (188) have been kept in fields, orchards and
corrals by the region's indigenous farmers and ranchers.

You can learn more about the Little Colorado River Watershed (Arizona, USA)
on the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nation's Globally
Important Agricultural Heritage Systems site.

Today, the indigenous people of the Colorado Plateau are passing their
agricultural traditions to a new generation. In September, students at
High School
won two first-place and two third-place ribbons at the New
Mexico State Fair. The student's state fair entries included produce from
the horticulture class's "waffle gardens," a traditional Zuni method of
garden construction consisting of a series of parallel, square or
rectangular depressions dug into the ground, creating a waffle-like pattern
that maximizes use of water.

Students from the STAR School, located just off the Navajo Reservation near
Leupp, Ariz., and residents of the Village of Hotevilla on the Hopi
Reservation created a gardening project where students learn food and
farming traditions by helping Hopi elders tend their gardens.

The Wayana's Cultivated Eden

The farming system of Wayana society of French Guyana is based on shifting
cultivation, with a characteristically high agrobiodiversity. Agriculture
forms part of a complex system of activities taking place within the habitat
where Wayana obtain a significant portion of their subsistence requirements
through gathering, fishing and hunting. In fact, there is not a clear limit
between cultivated and wild area, which can be considered as a single

The Milpa System and 20,000 Varieties of Corn Milpa is the most evolved
farming system in the world. It create relatively large yields of food crops
without the use of artificial pesticides or fertilizers, and is
self-sustaining. Milpa crops are nutritionally and environmentally
complementary. Maize lacks the amino acids lysine and tryptophan, which the
body needs to make proteins and niacin, beans have both lysine and
tryptophan, and squashes provide an array of vitamins. The milpa, in
maintaining soil fertility, providing a variety of healthy foods, and
limiting environmental impacts of food production, may well be one of the
most successful human inventions ever created. There are over 20,000
varieties of corn in Mexico and Central America. In southern and central
Mexico, approximately 5,000 varieties have been identified. In one village
in Oaxaca, researchers found 17 different environments where 26 varieties of
corn were growing. Each variety has been cultivated to adapt to elevation
levels, soil acidity, sun exposure, soil type, and rainfall.

Andean Agriculture (Peru)

"In the Andean region, generations of farmers have domesticated thousands of
potato varieties. Even today, farmers cultivate up to 50 varieties on their
farms. In the biodiversity reserve of the Chiloé archipelago in Chile, local
people cultivate about 200 varieties of native potato. They use farming
practices transmitted orally by generations of mainly women farmers."

Potato and Biodiversity, the Global Crop Diversity Trust and FAO's Plant
Production and Protection Division, 2008

"A long list of cultural and agriculture treasures from the Inca
civilization has been carefully preserved and improved over centuries to
guarantee living conditions over 4000 meters above sea level.

"One of the most amazing features of this heritage is the terracing system
used to control land degradation. Terraces allow cultivation in steep slops
and different altitudes. From a range of 2800 to 4500 meters, three main
agricultural systems can be found: maize is cultivated in the lower areas,
potato mainly at medium altitudes. Above 4,000 meters the areas are mostly
used as rangeland, but can still be cultivated with high altitude crops as
well. In the high plateau, around Lake Titicaca, farmers dig trenches
(called "sukakollos") around their fields. These trenches are filled with
water, which is warmed by sunlight. When temperatures drop at night, the
water gives off warm steam that serves as frost protection for several
varieties of potato and other native crops, such as quinoa."

Chiloé Agriculture (Chile)

The Archipelago of Chiloé, in the south of Chile, is one of the center of
origin of potatoes and is an extraordinary biodiversity reserve: its
temperate rainforests hold a wide range of endangered plant and animal
species. The Chilotes –Huilliche indigenous populations and Mestize– still
cultivate about 200 varieties of native potatoes, following ancestral
practices transmitted orally by generations of farmers, mostly women.

Chiloe Island is one of the centers of origin of crop diversity.

It is a centre of origin of potatoes (Solanum tuberosum), and a centre of
mango (Bromus mango) and strawberry (Fragaria chiloensis). Some 200
documented varieties of native potatoes are still managed today, together
with a variety of garlic (Ajo chilote) that is unique to the islands and its
volcanic soils.

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