Category Archive 'Indians'
01 Feb 2018
Lost Indian crops of North America: a) goosefoot (Chenopodium berlandieri); b) sumpweed/mars helder (Iva annua); c) little barley (Hordeum pusillum); d) erect knotweed (Polygonum erectum); e) maygrass (Phalaris caroliniana).
We Europeans got potatoes, tomatoes, sweet corn, and tobacco from the Indians, but they apparently also cultivated a wide repertoire of crops which nobody adopted and which have been entirely forgotten.
Adventurers and archaeologists have spent centuries searching for lost cities in the Americas. But over the past decade, theyâ€™ve started finding something else: lost farms.
Over 2,000 years ago in North America, indigenous people domesticated plants that are now part of our everyday diets, such as squashes and sunflowers. But they also bred crops that have since returned to the wild. These include erect knotweed (not to be confused with its invasive cousin, Asian knotweed), goosefoot, little barley, marsh elder, and maygrass. We havenâ€™t simply lost a few plant strains: an entire cuisine with its own kinds of flavors and baked goods has simply disappeared.
By studying lost crops, archaeologists learn about everyday life in the ancient Woodland culture of the Americas, including how people ate plants that we call weeds today. But these plants also give us a window on social networks. Scientists can track the spread of cultivated seeds from one tiny settlement to the next in the vast region that would one day be known as the United States. This reveals which groups were connected culturally and how they formed alliances through food and farming.
Natalie Mueller is an archaeobotanist at Cornell University who has spent years hunting for erect knotweed across the southern US and up into Ohio and Illinois. She calls her quest the â€œSurvey for Lost Crops,â€ and admits cheerfully that its members consist of her and â€œwhoever I can drag along.â€ Sheâ€™s published papers about her work in Nature, but also she spins yarns about her hot, bug-infested summer expeditions for lost farms on her blog. There, photographs of the rare wild plants are interspersed with humorous musings on contemporary local food delicacies like pickle pops.
Indigenous to the Americas, erect knotweed grows in the moist flood zones near rivers. Itâ€™s a stalky plant with spoon-shaped leaves, and it produces achenes, or fruit with very hard shells to protect its rich, starchy seeds. Though rare today, the plant was common enough 2,000 years ago that paleo-Americans collected it from the shores of rivers and brought it with them to the uplands for cultivation. Archaeologists have found caches of knotweed seeds buried in caves, clearly stored for a later use that never came. And, in the remains of ancient fires, theyâ€™ve found burned erect knotweed fruits, popped like corn.
Mueller told Ars Technica that erect knotweed was likely domesticated on tiny farms on the western front of the Appalachians. There are clear differences between it and its feral cousins. After years of comparing the ancient seeds with wild types, Mueller has found two unmistakable signs of domestication: larger fruits and thinner fruit skins. We see a similar pattern in other domesticated plants like corn, whose wild version with tiny seeds is almost unrecognizable to people chomping on the juicy, large kernels of the domesticated plant.
Obviously, bigger seeds would make the erect knotweed a better food source, so farmers selected for that. And the thinner skin means the plants can germinate more quickly. Their wild cousins evolved to produce fruits tough enough to endure river floods and inhospitable conditions for over a year before sprouting. But farm life is cushy for plants, so these defenses werenâ€™t necessary for their survival under human care.
Still, even the domesticated fruits of the erect knotweed have skins so tough that Mueller has not been able to crack them using the stone tools typical of the Woodland era. Working with a team at Cornell, sheâ€™s been trying to reverse engineer how they could have been eaten.
â€œThe fruit coat is really hard, and it would have been necessary to break through it,â€ she mused. â€œItâ€™s like buckwheatâ€”the sprouts are nutritious. So maybe they ate the sprouted version.â€
As for whether early Americans ate popped knotweed like popcorn, she was less certain. â€œThe only way to preserve it is to burn it, so [the remains we find] could have been accidents while cooking. It might have been for drying.â€ But yes, people from long ago might have munched on popweed.
Another possibility is that the seeds were soaked in lime before being turned into a hominy-style porridge. Ancient Americans used limeâ€”the chemical, not the fruitâ€”to soften the hulls of maize before cooking it, in a technique called nixtamalization. Itâ€™s very likely the Woodland peoples used this prehistoric form of culinary science on other plants, too. So people 2,000 years ago may have been eating a rich, knotweed mush.
Mueller is currently cultivating her own erect knotweed to test various forms of preparation, but sheâ€™s not quite ready to go into the kitchen yet. â€œIâ€™m trying to be a good farmer and put my seeds back first,â€ she said. â€œIn five years of looking, Iâ€™ve only found seven populations of this plant. I want to conserve the seeds as much I can.â€ Sheâ€™s going to accumulate a sizable cache of seeds before wasting them on dinner.
29 Nov 2011
The discovery of a new mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) subclade (C1e) in Iceland of Haplogroup C, characteristic of population groups found in Northeast Asia and of Amerindians is identified in a new paper in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology as likely evidence of the presence in Iceland of matrilineal descent from American Indians encountered by Viking explorers of North America around the year 1000 A.D.
Although most mtDNA lineages observed in contemporary Icelanders can be traced to neighboring populations in the British Isles and Scandinavia, one may have a more distant origin. This lineage belongs to haplogroup C1, one of a handful that was involved in the settlement of the Americas around 14,000 years ago. Contrary to an initial assumption that this lineage was a recent arrival, preliminary genealogical analyses revealed that the C1 lineage was present in the Icelandic mtDNA pool at least 300 years ago. This raised the intriguing possibility that the Icelandic C1 lineage could be traced to Viking voyages to the Americas that commenced in the 10th century. In an attempt to shed further light on the entry date of the C1 lineage into the Icelandic mtDNA pool and its geographical origin, we used the deCODE Genetics genealogical database to identify additional matrilineal ancestors that carry the C1 lineage and then sequenced the complete mtDNA genome of 11 contemporary C1 carriers from four different matrilines. Our results indicate a latest possible arrival date in Iceland of just prior to 1700 and a likely arrival date centuries earlier. Most surprisingly, we demonstrate that the Icelandic C1 lineage does not belong to any of the four known Native American (C1b, C1c, and C1d) or Asian (C1a) subclades of haplogroup C1. Rather, it is presently the only known member of a new subclade, C1e. While a Native American origin seems most likely for C1e, an Asian or European origin cannot be ruled out.
Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.
20 Dec 2007
The Lakota Indians, who gave the world legendary warriors Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, have withdrawn from treaties with the United States.
“We are no longer citizens of the United States of America and all those who live in the five-state area that encompasses our country are free to join us,” long-time Indian rights activist Russell Means said.
A delegation of Lakota leaders has delivered a message to the State Department, and said they were unilaterally withdrawing from treaties they signed with the federal government of the U.S., some of them more than 150 years old.
The group also visited the Bolivian, Chilean, South African and Venezuelan embassies, and would continue on their diplomatic mission and take it overseas in the coming weeks and months.
Lakota country includes parts of the states of Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana and Wyoming.
The new country would issue its own passports and driving licences, and living there would be tax-free – provided residents renounce their U.S. citizenship, Mr Means said.
The treaties signed with the U.S. were merely “worthless words on worthless paper,” the Lakota freedom activists said.
There’s some pretty darn good pheasant hunting in Lakota-stan. They also have sharp-tailed grouse, some prairie chicken, and a lot of pronghorns and mule deer. No income taxes, all that hunting, plus casino gambling! The Sioux have got a pretty tempting offer on the table, alright.
12 Dec 2006
In the current age of political correctness, legislatures eagerly swoon and concede any current compensation for ancient injuries demanded by favored victim groups.
The most ludicrous cases can be found in the Eastern United States, where handfuls of ordinary people claiming minute traces of Indian blood from centuries-ago-vanished tribes, vanquished in wars of the 17th century, are now vigorously lobbying for recognition as “tribes.”
The most spectacular confidence job occurred in Connecticut, in reference to the Pequots, the local tribe defeated in a war they started with English colonists in the 1630s. Surviving Pequots were absorbed centuries ago into the emancipated African-American population of layabouts, laborers, and local drunks. The Colony of Connecticut settled Pequot land claims in the 18th century conceding to some Pequots a small reservation of 989 swampy and remote acres. That reservation was reduced by land sales to 213 acres by the mid-19th century. By the 20th century, one elderly woman (possibly very remotely connected to Rhode Island’s one-time Narragansett tribe) resided in a humble, ordinary house on the so-called Indian reservation.
Then along came the rise of leftism in the ’60s, and with it activist lawyers like Tom Tureen. In 1973, Tureen persuaded Skip Hayworth, the woman’s grandson, an itinerant welder, to move onto the “reservation,” and lay claim to an additional 800 acres of neighboring suburban houses on the basis of Indian Nonintercourse Act of 1790 which required that every sale of tribal land be approved by federal treaty.
A lot of Connecticut suburbanites found their homes’ titles clouded, and howled for government intervention. The Great White Father in Washington should have declared war on Connecticut’s insurgent wannabe redskins, and sent some cavalry to drive them off the reservation, back to the ordinary suburbs where they belonged, but instead Congress hurriedly surrendered in 1983 to the imaginary Pequots. Without bothering even to verify genealogical claims, Congress granted tribal recognition and a nine hundred thousand dollar settlement.
The “Pequots”‘ lawyers then demanded tribal exemptions from state regulatory oversight, which included gambling exemptions. And, voilÃ¡ , in 1992 Foxwood Casino opened, growing in a few years to a facility featuring 24 restaurants, three hotels, 17 shops, a golf course, a state-of-the-art Pequot museum, and producing profits of more than $1 billion per year.
This same kind of nonsense is spreading to Virginia, and the Washington Post is lending a helping hand. Today, we are bringing back to life the dead Mattaponi Indian language.
Just wait until the activist leftwing lawyers show up, and start lodging land claims against suburban residents of a couple of dozen counties lying between Hampton Roads and the Potomac in search of a deal for compensation and gambling rights.
Ever wonder about Native American Indians history? It is a fascinating and multi-faceted story unable to be told in one sitting. Some of the beautiful things they made include American Indian jewelry and tools.