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Modern plants and native roots.
Native Roots: How Indians Enriched America. Jack Weatherford. 1991, Crown Publishers, 201 E. 50th St., NY, NY 10022. Hardcover, ISBN# 0-517-57485-3

Our society owes much to the American Indians who inhabited North America before the first Europeans landed. Continuing on a theme developed in his previous book Indian Givers, the author, an anthropologist, notes many of the contributions of Native Americans to modern American culture -- names of rivers, states, cities, plants such as corn, tobacco, cranberry, squash, and much more. Excellent reading, this book points up a deep sense of acknowledgement and appreciation we should feel for Native Americans. There are interesting chapters on the fur and ginseng trades, as well as modern agricultural crops, of which the author writes: "In the four hundred years since the European settlers began coming to North America, they have not found a single America (sic) plant suitable for domestication that the Indians had not already cultivated.

"By the last decade of the twentieth century, crops of Indian origin constitued approximately one-third of the annual harvest of the United States. Corn alone accounted for nearly 15 percent of the cash receipts from all crops. According to USDA figures published in 1989, in addition to corn, cotton, and tobacco, the American Indian crops of potatoes, tomatoes, and peanuts each had cash sales in excess of billion dollars, with sunflower seeds closely trailing them. American Indian crops formed the basis on which the powerful agricultural economies of the United States and Canada developed and matured."

Article copyright American Botanical Council.