The American Indians before 1491

A great wave of interest had been created by a new theory about the American Indians. I first learned of this theory because my Japanese wife was assigned to read a paper on this theory and answer questions about it as part of a reading comprehension test. The test was assigned, of course, by an American Indian who happens to be a college professor. That, of course, is a problem.

When I first read it, I thought that this theory was ridiculous and unworthy of consideration. I felt that it was full of holes. However, now I find that I cannot refute it or prove that it is wrong, so I will present it in summary form:

It has long been believed that when Columbus discovered America in 1492, there were about one million Indians on the Americas continents. This is the traditional view.

However, the new theory is that there were 100 million Indians and that the population of Indians in the Americas was about the same as the population of Europe.

According to this theory, within 100 years after 1492, 99 million Indians died of the White Man's Diseases, leaving only the one million that explorers encountered.

The obvious questions are why did so many die, what happened to their dead bodies and when alive what did they eat. Was there enough food to sustain a population of 100 million?

Here, in summary, are the answers provided:

The Indians died of many diseases brought by the White Men, including smallpox. However, more importantly, De Soto, one of the first explorers, brought 300 pigs. Some of these pigs had diseases. Some of the pigs escaped, reproduced rapidly and gave their diseases to other animals. This resulted in an epidemic and the deaths of millions of animals, which the Indians depended upon for food.

As to what did the Indians eat, the answer comes easily. Most of the food that we eat today are foods that the Indians gave us. Corn, tomatoes and potatoes are all foods which the Indians developed. We cannot even imagine eating a meal today without eating food provided by the Indians.

Did these foods grow by accident? No. The Indians cultivated and developed them.

Where did they grow these foods? Why, the same place where we grow them. The Great Plains of the Midwest, the breadbasket of the world, including such states as Iowa and Illinois, were all developed by the Indians.

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of this theory concerns the Amazon Rain Forest. It is a noteworthy fact that almost every tree or plant in the Amazon Rain Forest bears a fruit, nut or berry which people can eat. Amazon Rain Forest is almost completely flat, dropping only 500 feet in 2000 miles. Is this an accident of nature? No, according to this theory. The Amazon Rain Forest is a garden, planted by the Indians. All of these fruit bearing trees were cultivated and developed by the Indians.

OK, so you still do not believe it. In that case, where it is wrong? If you want to learn more about this theory, try searching under 1491.

Sam Sloan

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