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Native Roots: How the Indians Enriched America

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“Gracefully written . . . thoroughly researched . . . America is a banquet prepared by the Indians—who were forgotten when it was time to give thanks at the table.”— St. Paul Pioneer-Express

“Well written, imagery-ridden . . . A tale of what was, what became, and what is today regarding the Indian relation to the European civilization that ‘grafted’ itself onto this ‘ancient stem’”— Minneapolis Star Tribune

In Indian Givers, anthropologist Jack Weatherford revealed how the cultural, social, and political practices of the American Indians transformed the world. In Native Roots, Weatherford focuses on the vital role Indian civilizations have played in the making of the United States.
Conventional American history holds that the white settlers of the New World re-created the societies they had known in England, France, and Spain. But, as Weatherford so brilliantly shows, Europeans in fact grafted their civilizations onto the deep and nourishing roots of Native American customs and beliefs. Beneath the glass-and-steel skyscrapers of contemporary Manhattan lies an Indian fur-trading post. Behind the tactics of modern guerrilla warfare are the lightning-fast maneuvers of the Plains Indians. Our place names, our farming and hunting techniques, our crafts, and the very blood that flows in our veins—all derive from American Indians in ways that we consistently fail to see. In Weatherford’s words, “Without understanding Native Americans, we will never know who we are today in America.”

320 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1991

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About the author

Jack Weatherford

15 books554 followers
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 Rescued His Empire.

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Displaying 1 - 12 of 22 reviews
Profile Image for Wade.
26 reviews1 follower
March 29, 2009
One mark of a good book is that you just keep thinking about it in between the times you are actually reading it, and then again after you've read it. This is one of those books.

The inside cover of the book sums it up extremely well: "...foreigners 'grafted European society, language, and culture, onto an ancient stem" which is now America.

The combination of first reading Indian Givers by Weatherford and then Native Roots provides such a rich, detailed, and fair backdrop to the events of American history.

One great benefit to reading this book is that you really get a feel for what it's like to be a cultural anthropologist. I will never again travel to another part of the United States or any of the Americas without thinking about the Native American foundation that preceded the present day settlements.

145 reviews1 follower
March 28, 2018
An Enriching Read

This book is obviously well researched. It gives a very different view of native history than many students of the 1950's through 1970's were taught in school. Well worth the time to explore this information packed read! I learned a lot, understood some things better and left with a desire to delve deeper... Always the signs of a good book!!!
404 reviews66 followers
February 10, 2017
Hundreds of years ago, Europeans descended upon America, seeking wealth, resources, and freedom. Wow!, they said, look at all this empty land, naturally beautiful. It's got all these great trees and buffalo and horses. A few natives here and there, but they're basically just animals. They're ignorant, and not doing anything useful with the land.

This is still the history, as far as a lot of people are concerned. This book explains that the land wasn't lush and beautiful just because that's how it was, but because there have been generations of natives tending and maintaining the land, building it up. They knew what they were doing. They knew the territory. They knew the animals. Many of the white settlers depended on the natives to teach them. A lot of things we depend on now and take for granted have native roots.

This book is very "earthy." I could almost taste the wind and feel the dirt under my bare feet. The author has incredible grasp of language that really makes everything come to life. Here's my favorite passage, which captures what I'm talking about perfectly:

At the Santa Barbara Mission, before the sun rises and before the noisy traffic begins the daily commute down the mountain to work in the town below, a visitor can almost hear the whispered groans of the thousands of Chumash who lie buried in unmarked graves in the mission graveyard. The mission exudes an eerie quiet in the early-morning stillness. The night fog recedes back toward the ocean after providing the meager moisture for the imported trees and plants that suck droplets of mist from the damp night air. The lingering fog obscures the rising sun, making it hard to tell exactly when day begins, but gradually light descends and the rays mop up the air to reveal a spectacular view of the town and and ocean below.

Despite the incredible writing, I found myself having trouble staying interested. Actually, I was usually pretty bored with it. It's no fault of the author. I just think I'm not the target audience for it.
Profile Image for Renee.
154 reviews
May 5, 2012
This is a very good beginning of trying to untangle Truth from perception (I know perception is truth, so notice I spelled truth with a capital 'T') in the gifts given to our modern world by indigenous peoples. If you liked this book you should definitely read Craig Childs "House of Rain"...there is much more work that needs to be done in this area but Jack Weatherford has laid a good foundation. If you know only what you think you know from movies and TV, read this book.
Profile Image for Ushan.
801 reviews67 followers
December 25, 2010
How did the Indians enrich America? White America owes them place names such as Seattle, the help they gave to the explorers and early settlers, the labor done by Indian slaves (of whom there were quite a few in the 19th century and before, though not as many as of African slaves), the hunting and fishing techniques the white pioneers borrowed from them.
Profile Image for Mo.
392 reviews2 followers
August 25, 2008
I read this one a few years ago, as I remember it did offer some really good insight to my understanding of Native Americans, but I also remember thinking it was a rather dry read.
Profile Image for Andrea.
880 reviews70 followers
October 28, 2008
Interesting and well written. Gives evidence for the Native American influence on the landscape and on later inhabitants.
Profile Image for Chris.
107 reviews
July 12, 2012
I love Jack Weatherford's books. It would be such a privelege to take one of his classes.
Displaying 1 - 12 of 22 reviews

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