INDIAN GIVERS: How the Indians of the Americas Transformed the World by Jack Weatherford

INDIAN GIVERS: How the Indians of the Americas Transformed the World

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Weatherford (Anthropology/Macalester College), author of Tribes on the Hill and Porn Row, piles up the evidence in this forceful presentation of how American Indians have shaped the world's economy, cuisine, politics, medicine, and architecture. Weatherford chooses as the first of his many symbolic figures Rodrigo Cespedes, a Bolivian who toils in the mines at Potosi but gains no wealth from his labor. Instead, the mountain of silver he works enriches, as it has for centuries, the churches and treasuries of Western Europe. Almost all the heroes of European exploration plundered the Americas, bringing gold, silver, and furs back to the Old World. They also brought crops--above all, the incredible potato (""without the potato the Soviet Union would never have become a world power, Germany would not have fought two world wars. . .""), but also cotton, robber, fabric dyes, sugar cane. Indian political structures influenced Ben Franklin and other patriots. Indian health remedies included quinine for malaria, evergreen needles for scurvy. Frank Lloyd Wright and Buckminster Fuller drew heavily on Indian architectural schemes. And then, alas, there's the downside: cocaine, peyote, tobacco, and other Indian drugs, although here again, according to Weatherford, Europe is the heavy, refining innocent coca leaves into devilish cocaine. Weatherford concludes with a plea for more research into Indian culture, claiming that ""Columbus arrived in the New World in 1492, but America has yet to be discovered."" The claim is extravagant but compelling. Although Weatherford tends to see things in black-and-white, this wide-ranging, hard-hitting, intelligent brief makes a convincing case for the stunning originality of Indian culture.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1988
ISBN: 0307755398
Publisher: Crown