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Indian Givers: How the Indians of the Americas Transformed the World (1988)

por Jack Weatherford

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"Beloved author Jack Weatherford's classic work is now available with a new introduction by the author. 'Indian Givers' is the utterly compelling story of how the cultural, social, and political practices of Native Americans transformed the way life is lived throughout the world."--P.[4] of cover.
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Mostrando 5 de 5
what we got from the Indians
  ritaer | May 10, 2020 |
How the Indians of the Americas transformed the world
  jhawn | Jul 31, 2017 |
I am writing this review more than a decade since my initial reading of this book. I am still fascinated by the resourcefulness of the indigenous peoples, the Indians, of both North and South Americas; yet, as I have had time to digest the knowledge shared with Mr. Weatherford, my views have somewhat tempered toward the subject matter. In hindsight, this book should be viewed as incomplete. Placing the filter to Indian Givers that many use in reviewing any book about the Founding Fathers, Mr. Weatherford neglects to include negative aspects of the First American's society. In general, this book purports native nations could do nothing wrong, and that they were victims. I won't discount the scholarship Mr. Weatherford shares in this book, yet it merely focuses on the good. ( )
  HistReader | Jan 19, 2012 |
Ch.1. SILVER AND MONEY CAPITALISM. Begins with a beautiful morning ascent of a miner up the hollowed out slope of Cerro Rico from Potosi. Tells the dramatic story of the impact of gold, and silver. The tonnage extracted by and from the Indians transformed the old mercantile system of Europe, enabling a true money economy in which the middle classes could participate. Precious metals from the New World superceded land as the basis for wealth, power, and prestige. This prepared the way for a capitalist class that would dominate the world.[15] Adam Smith noted the impact of American silver in causing worldwide inflation and creating a global economy.[16] Sadly, the Indians still languish in poverty. Spain itself bankrupted itself several times in its greed.[19] Cerro Rico remains today the first great monument to global capitalism, in supplying the primary ingredient, money.


Opens on a Spring day in a curio shop in Thunder Bay, Ontario. This store has been in continuous operation since 1670, and is part of the oldest company in the world, the Hudson's Bay Company. The world was wanting felt hats, and the best pelt for felt was beaver, because the hairs clung together, did not loose their shape, and remained waterproof. So began the Fur Trade, and the Company produced such a flood of hats by 1700 it was known as the "democratizing fur". [25]. The Company pioneered labor techniques which proved effective in modern factories in the 19th century. Company recruiters selected voyageurs of uniform height and weight to portage canoes built by Indian women around the fort. Uniforms were issued, and their regulation buckskin is now considered a symbol of "independence" and self-reliance they rarely achieved in their lives of increased indebtedness to the Company. The British used pirates and privateers to loot both America and Spain. Since the Spanish lords were to noble to engage in manufactguring or commerce, the money of Potosi quickly passed into French, Dutch and British companies set up to supply Spain with cloth, cannons, leather, and iron goods needed for colonization and enslavement of the Indian and African workers. By 1595, the Dutch had assumed effective control over the House of Trade in what has been called a "silent takeover". [27]

In addition, many non-Spanish freebooters made great profits smuggling goods into America. By the late 1700s 2/3d of the commerce with the Spanish colonies was in the cargo of smuggling ships. Francis Drake organized one of the first syndicates launching the Golden Hind for the specific purpose of plundering the silver of Potosi being shipped out of Arica, Chile. With a crew of former slave-traders, and with investors including Queen Elizabeth, Drake seized an unknown amount of booty "in the greatest act of piracy then known".[29] Investors reaped a 1000% profit.[30] Other fledgling companies expanded into the Carribean--the pirates leaving permanent settlements in Central American, Jamaica, the Bahamas, etc. After a century, trade eventually supplanted the piracy, although the trade was primarily in rum and slaves.

Thomas Jefferson lamented the fact that "an American plantation is a species of property annexed to certain mercantile houses in London".[36] The main figure in the settlement of the colonies was an investment syndicate, operating on the edge of any law.

For Adam Smith, writing in 1776, the pursuit of profit by private companies in the New World and the opening trade with Asia were the most important in human history. The ensuing trade began "to raise the mercantile system to a degree of splendour and glory which it could never otherwise have attained". [38] The capitalists had two principal supports -- the slave trade from Africa to America, and the piracy of American silver extracted from the earth by enslaved miners. They made a single economy of the world. Goods could be produced anywhere, and shipped anywhere, using standardized values of the gold and silver supplied by the New World.


If you stroll along the Kahl River at the northern border of Bavaria with Hesse, you pass through a bucolic setting reminiscent of the era of the brothers Grimm.[39] Where the Kahl meets the Main reiver, you see Germany's first atomic power plant, which opened in 1961. For thousands of years people have camped in this area, and developed agricultural life. Then suddenly in the last few centuries, the peasants stopped working in the fields and began working in factories. Every aspect of life changed. They industrialized. The rapid sequence of changes which culminated in the power plant began at the end of the 18th century with the introduction of New World crops. The potato precipitated "disastrous changes" to the economy of Kahl.[41] Also the massive influx of long-strand cotton. Suddenly weavers had more than they could weave. The mechanization of ginning, spinning, and weaving the cotton launched the industrial revolution. Cotton remains the most important and widely-used plant fiber in the world. American Indians had developed a complex technology of dyes--brazilin, achiote,. Cochineal provided the scarlet for the British army uniforms "redcoats".


"There is only one Machu Picchu, but it guards many mysteries." [59] At 8000 feet, the mountain rises sharply above the Urubamba River. The spectacular setting and the exquisitely wrought stone buildings evoke much speculation and "romantic rubbish about the purpose of the city". [59] What we know about the Inca is that they were austere and practical -- and this shows in their precise, patient, angular constructions. The Incas built hundreds of planting terraces, all of them quite small, ranging from low to high elevations. The patches, at all elevations and angles of the the sun, are visible today as a kind of agricultural testing station. No where on earth did people do more plant experimentation. They developed hundreds of kinds of crops adapted to hundreds of conditions.











With References and Index. ( )
  keylawk | Jun 17, 2011 |
An amazing and powerful read. This covered this influence of Native Americans, or Indians as the author referred to them, on almost every aspect of modern life. Indians changed what the rest of the world ate and grew permanently. I knew that, of course. I had read elsewhere about how much of what modern people eat today came from the Americas. Imagine your daily diet without any tomatoes, potatoes, chocolate, chilis, corn, beans, and much, much more. Just corn and potatoes by themselves had revolutionized agriculture forever. The author cited a comparison of European agriculture based on before potatoes and after. Compared to the wheat that was the most common staple and potatoes, the wheat was inferior in the amount of work it took to grow it, its susceptibility to weather and predators, and most especially, to the amount of calories produced versus the amount taken to work the field. Potatoes gave over three times as much return. And then the population exploded, as Europeans finally had enough to eat and to trade.

And how about modern government. Think we got that from the Greeks and Romans? Think again. The US Constitution, which became the model for many other countries, was based not on the ancients but on the Iroquis. The whole idea of a balance of powers, of electing representatives, of governing by consensus, that all came from the Indians. The movies have this example of the Great Indian Chief, but in real life, most tribes were ruled by a council of elders, not by one guy who was in charge of everything.

So why did the Europeans manage to defeat the Native Americans? The main reason, the author felt, is not that the Indians were less advanced. It was just that they had chosen to focus on different things. Europeans used animal power, which the Indians couldn't use. The largest animal on the Americas was the llama, and it's not a beast you can plow with. The Europeans also invented machines and devices to make their work easier. But Indians had life pretty easy in some ways. Plenty of food, less trouble with fitting the environment. They had focused not on machinery or animal husbandry but on medicine, agriculture, transportation. Trouble was, none of these areas of expertise helped them stand up to an enemy that had them outmanned and outgunned.

My favorite example out of this book, the one that staggered my kids when I shared with them, is about the Incan highway system. The Incans built roads and bridges all up and down South America. In fact, some of those roads were transformed into the modern roads used there today. So when a village needed to send a message, they chose one of them who had trained for this purpose. He took the message, either in written or verbal form, and ran it up to the next stop - 250 miles away! That feat was not duplicated until the US came up with the Pony Express, but the Incans had managed to do with - without the pony. That dude from Marathon that delivered some message about a battle - what a wimp!

I really, really wish that I could read an updated edition of this one. In the last chapter, Weatherford talks about how native cultures are under attack, and with every death of an elder, society is losing that store of wisdom that may not be replaceable. Now that 25 years have passed, how much more have we lost? The secrets to curing more diseases with plants? The knowledge of food that will grow under adverse conditions - maybe even in space? The ability to calculate even more complicated mathematics, like the Aztecs had? We don't know. But I am glad that I read this book. It reminded me that the history of America did not start on Plymouth Rock or Jamestown or anywhere like that. America, under one name or another, has been here for thousands of years. 4.5 stars ( )
4 vote cmbohn | Mar 28, 2010 |
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"Beloved author Jack Weatherford's classic work is now available with a new introduction by the author. 'Indian Givers' is the utterly compelling story of how the cultural, social, and political practices of Native Americans transformed the way life is lived throughout the world."--P.[4] of cover.

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