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Indian Givers: How Native Americans Transformed the World

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  1,455 Ratings  ·  116 Reviews
"As entertaining as it is thoughtful....Few contemporary writers have Weatherford's talent for making the deep sweep of history seem vital and immediate."
After 500 years, the world's huge debt to the wisdom of the Indians of the Americas has finally been explored in all its vivid drama by anthropologist Jack Weatherford. He traces the crucial contributio
Paperback, 368 pages
Published August 3rd 2010 by Broadway Books (first published December 12th 1988)
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Feb 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
We used this in teacher training on how to teach accurately about Native Americans in social studies classrooms. Weatherford has so many examples that are interesting for teacher and student alike. So often, teachers don't think to prepare young students before Native Americans come as guests, and kids ask questions like "where's your feathers?" and are disappointed and even disdainful if they're not dressed in traditional garb or talk about Indian affairs instead of doing war whoops.
Aug 19, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Yes very highly
I learned from this book about the many contributions American Indians have given not onlty the USA but the entuire world..Jack Weatherford is 100% right when he says American Indians have been underrated and mostly ignored when it comes to the contributions they have made to the world economy,food supply and overall culture..This book makes and American Indian even prouder to be an American Indian and I think every American Indian should read this book..
Janice L.
Overall, "Indian Givers" was a good book and seemingly well researched. Some of it drags, but some chapters read well. He gives many, many examples of the contributions of food, medicine, and philosophy that have contributed to world culture, but sometimes fails to acknowledge the parallels that developed in the rest of the world. For example, Mr. Weatherford extols the design and construction of the Inca roads, but fails to recognize that the Romans created an equally intricate paved road syste ...more
Apr 22, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: native-peoples
I was very interested in this book and it was a big disappointment. The topics are treated in a very superficial way and the author tries too hard to prove his points. I felt he had an offhand and unbalanced approach to the information.

I also kept coming across blunt references that I questioned. For example, early on (p. 28) he states that the Hudson’s Bay Company is “the oldest company in the world …continuously operating since May 2, 1670.” Since I was aware that the Cambridge University Pre
Jan 25, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
I was completely unaware that so many prominent European thinkers and writers (including Karl Marx) were so profoundly influenced by the American Indian form of government and political practices, especially those of the League of the Iroquois. The example of American Indian governance was a true catalyst that helped America's Founding Fathers think outside the box, beyond the Old World monarchies and limited attempts and outlines of democracy by the Greeks. The League of the Iroquois provided a ...more
David R.
A very fine treatment of Native American contributions in the realms of agriculture and pharmacology, and of abuse of native cultures. The other material is rather uneven, and in the case of politics and economy is a reach: reminds me of the old Soviet schtick about the Russians having invented everything. The footnotes are sparing and the bibliography is awfully thin, suggesting that Weatherford may be a little more imaginative than scholarship would demand.
Mar 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A great read - this book really held my attention. I had no idea what incredible agriculturalists Indians were, or that their styles of government had such a profound effect on the political structures of the US. I didn't even know that caucus is an Iroquois word. This was very eyeopening - and totally made me want to know more about these incredible peoples. Full of interesting facts - the Inca's roads through South America are still probably the best roads in many countries, and many of their ...more
Jun 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This title should read, Without the Indians of the Americas, we would still be in the Dark Ages.
Rachel Jackson
Indian Givers delves into a topic probably many Americans already know but have chosen to ignore or repress: the contributions that the first people of this country gave to the world, sometimes unwillingly, for the betterment of the modern society we have today. Author Jack Weatherford does a very thorough job digging into historical research to find just how much we take for granted today was something invented and/or perfected by American Indians.

Everything from agriculture to food to medicine
Nov 03, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating book. I learned a lot. Most interested in the way Indians influenced settlers with agriculture such as clearing areas to plant. The author did a great job of interweaving Contributions of the peoples of the Americas with the impact worldwide.

I did reach a point where I wondered if there was any bias since the author is the descendant of an American Indian. I researched the story (a short paragraph of two sentences - almost a throw away section) of Ishi, the last of the Yahi tribe. W
Kevin McAllister
Aug 07, 2010 rated it really liked it
Indian Givers turned out to be an educational and at the same time very sobering read. Because while Jack Weatherford makes a very strong point as to why the subtitle of this book "How Native Americans Transformed The World" is totally appropriate. The sad fact is that for the most part, these contributions have gone totally unrecognized. The edition I read is a re issue of the book that originally came out in 1989. Hopefully this edition will go further in getting out the message of just how vi ...more
Dec 25, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
How did the Indians of the Americas transform the world? They domesticated potatoes and maize that became staple foods of large areas of Eurasia and Africa; they discovered the healing power of the cinchona bark against malaria and of berries against scurvy; their labor mined the silver that financed the commercial revolution in early modern Europe; their political organization influenced European philosophers from Montaigne to Marx and Engels.
Deborah Spencer
Jan 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Should be assigned reading, along wth Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States", in every U.S. history course.
Aug 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Growing up in "Iroquoi lands" of upstate NY, I was always intrigued with the names of local towns and lakes, and obviously learned their origins were Native American. Weatherford's book overwhelmingly opened my eyes to ALL the contributions Native Americans have added to a better life for not only Americans but for the whole world in foods, medicines, industry and government structure. We need to recognize and honor their contributions more! And there is still much more to learn from all North a ...more
The title of the book has two inaccuracies amounting to lies, to begin with.

First and foremost, they are NOT Indian. The European migrants knew this, Columbus knew this, and for sake of keeping a falsehood so Columbus would not risk his reputation or lose his head the sailors working with him who all knew this were sworn to say the opposite. Everyone knew Columbus had not reached India, and everyone nevertheless insists on calling the natives of western continent "Indian", perpetrating a lie, n
Jun 11, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: all Americans
Recommended to Cindy by: Good Reads
Shelves: non-fiction, 2010, history
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 revo ...more
May 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
For some reason this was not an easy read for me, even though I found the subject matter very interesting.
The numerous contributions native Americans have given to the world we live in is beyond impressive.
James (JD) Dittes
This book made me proud to be an American--and even more aware that my family's migration from Europe to America may have stemmed from the dramatic innovations of Native Americans!

There are so many fascinating wrinkles to history this book brings out, I can't recommend it highly enough. I think I learned more about my European roots through Weatherford's reflections on Native American advancements than I could have from any history of Europe. From metals to agriculture to medicine, Native Americ
Zee Huxley
Oct 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Indian Givers
How the Indians of the America Transformed the World
By Anthropologist Jack Weatherford.

Ironically the term “Indian giver” is a familiar term is in reference to a person that gives a gift and then takes it back. However, this old adage has nothing to do with the title of this book.

A remarkable read. A groundbreaking book that recovers the fascinating history of the Americas and the crucial contributions that the Indians of the Americas made on a global scale. These include democratic
Will Crim
Jun 11, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The most recent book I read was a short one but it offered a new perspective which I just noticed seemed to be what I look for in a book. A major idea that attracted me right off the bat in this book was when Jack Weatherford stated "At the time of the discovery of America, Europe has only about $200 million worth of gold and silver, approximately $2 per person. By 1600 the supply of precious metals had increased approximately eightfold. The Mexican mint alone coined $2 billion worth of silver ...more
May 22, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A somewhat dated but still useful read. The work focuses on indigenous groups in Central and South America, though in places its scope extends as far north as to include territory in the southern United States. To examine historical problems, Weatherford starts each chapter with a modern anecdote, and then steps back in time to historize the issue at hand. The overarching thesis is to examine what physical and cultural resources Europeans have appropriated - uncredited - from the indigenous peop ...more
Mark Valentine
Jan 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I found this an immensely important study to read; as creative non-fiction, I found it well written and engaging. In each chapter, Weatherford presents detailed ways in which Native Americans have contributed to the well-being of our planet only to have been shunned and persecuted by--well, read any history on this topic.

Weatherford wrote about how the American (North and South) natives had already established trails for our "discovers" to travel, how they had used plants to develop what we now
Kate Lawrence
Jan 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: american-history
Often native Americans are perceived as primitive people who historically had nothing to contribute to world culture that could possibly compare to the knowledge, skills, and technology of their European conquerors. This volume sets that myth decisively to rest, and keeps the reader entertained along the way.
Much of the information concerns native cultures in Central and South America, among whom the author traveled extensively, rather than North America. Even at or before the time of European
Dec 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
While it sometimes feels like it's overstating it's position to make it's point, there's no doubt that both the natural resources and cultural contributions from the Americas had profound influences on the development of our current civilization. A predecessor to Charles Mann's 1491 and 1493 (those books published in 2006 and 2011, this one's from 1988), Weatherford's Indian Givers covers a lot of the same territory - particularly when it comes to the effects of America's silver on the world eco ...more
Oct 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a well-organized and detailed account of the many contributions Native Americans gave to the world. It is also the sad history of their near extermination by European conquerers. The author, Jack Weatherford, is an anthropologist who presents the material from the point of view of one observing a number of cultures and the influences each had on the other. He travels the globe to show how far-reaching were the influences of Indian contributions in so many diverse areas.

I was aware of muc
Sep 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I rarely give a book 5 stars, but this was superb. Although I've heard about accomplishments of North and South American Indians, never before have they been grouped together to have this much impact. It is truly stunning when you read about the agricultural, building, and health discoveries and innovations we trace to Indians. And, as a person of European descent, it is heartbreaking to realize how our cultures plundered these often-advanced cultures and destroyed the knowledge they had accumul ...more
Jul 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Most readers will be surprised to discover how many things we take for granted in the fields of food, medecine, economics etc. that did not exist before the discoveries of the Americas. Well-written, individual chapters delve into these topics and others.

One of the chapters led to a personal epiphany for me. My favorite style of church architecture is romanesque, and in Europe I have always sought out the pure, sparse beauty of these medieval churches. Sometimesthe Romaesque is hard to find, be
May 15, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Miki, Barb, Lori
Shelves: non-fiction
Very fascinating book. The author did a lot of research. The book tells of the influence that American (both North and South) Indians have had on the world, and shows how our high school history books have omitted 99% and the other 1% is greatly slanted...against all American indigenous peoples. From. modern medicine, agriculture, architecture, to our democratic way of life, the Indians achieved a great level of sophistication....most of that has been forgotten, or just buried, deliberately.

Kristin Traylor
Sep 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was incredible to me. Europeans came to the Americas in 1492, and immediately began to take all they could, starting with the mining of precious metals - gold and silver. This book explains the huge influence the Indian culture had on Europe and the US, starting with an immense infusion of silver, which brought silver coins/capitalism to the people, on to the potato which saved the lives and increased the populations of many countries, notably Ireland and Poland, herbal medicines, whic ...more
Tito Quiling, Jr.
Sep 21, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
I had a few reservations in reading the title and the back cover at first. Even if this was printed in the 1980s, the inappropriately-termed "Indian Givers" for the Native Americans of today's North America and the indigenous groups of present-day South America is a pervading sentiment in the West. Although, 30 years on and there are improvements as far as the term goes. But that mild uncertainty was slowly replaced by approval as the author unfolded all of these stories.

I particularly liked how
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Jack McIver Weatherford is the former DeWitt Wallace Professor of anthropology at Macalester College in Minnesota. He is best known for his 2004 book, Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World. His other books include The History of Money; Indian Givers: How the Indians of the Americas Transformed the World; and The Secret History of the Mongol Queens: How the Daughters of Genghis Khan Rescu ...more
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“Even in this high-tech age, the low-tech plant continues to be the key to nutrition and health.” 2 likes
“The Greeks who rhapsodized about democracy in their rhetoric rarely created democratic institutions. A few cities such as Athens occasionally attempted a system vaguely akin to democracy for a few years. These cities functioned as slave societies and were certainly not egalitarian or democratic in the Indian sense.” 2 likes
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