Gratitude to the Indians of the Americas for their many contributions to our tables

Miigwech (Anishinaabe), Pidamaya (Dakota), Gracias (Latinx), Thank you!

On August 3, 1990, the United States President George H. W. Bush declared the month of November as National American Indian Heritage Month, there after commonly referred to as Native American Heritage Month. Henry High honors our students and staff with roots in North, Central and South America. 

Many of us have stuffed ourselves recently, perhaps for Thanksgiving. Stop to consider that much of what we ate is food developed or cultivated by the Indians of North and South America. The smoked turkey wings, collards, mashed potatoes, sweet potato pie,  green beans, Pepsi (ingredients from the Indigenous people), cake rich in chocolate, vanilla in ice cream, the tomato sauce topped pizza, and many more foods were gifted by American Indians. Dozens of items were displayed at Henry High as shown in the accompanying photograph. 

Food contributions of the Indians of the Americas

42% of food eaten in world by weight.

48% of $ value of food produced in the U. S.

corn, popcorn, original Cracker Jacks, wild rice

14 varieties of beans including kidney, string, snap, Mexican frijol,

butter, common, lima, navy, pole, French, and Rangoon

3,000 varieties of potatoes including the “Irish potato,” sweet potatoes

maple syrup, maple sugar, pumpkins, squash, chayote

turkeys, clam bakes, pemmican, jerky

tomatoes, passion fruit, pomegranate, persimmon, plantains, avocado

guacamole, papaw (papaya), cranberries

cassava for meat tenderizers, dried red peppers, cayenne, paprika

gumbo file’, tabasco sauce

maize (corn), cornbread, amaranth, quinoa, sunflower, Jerusalem artichoke

pecans, cashews, chocolate

carrots, beets, succotash, sweet peppers, Brunswick stew

food production using technological processes, freeze-dried foods

preparation of seafoods, achiote coloring for oleomargarine

extraction of flavorings and spices, vanilla, curry, ginger

 mints, wintergreen, Jamestown weed

chocolate drink, sassafras tea, sarsaparilla tea, root beer, tonic water

original ingredients for Coca-Cola, Dr. Pepper, and Pepsi:

(peppermint, opium, caffeine, cola, cocaine), snow cones

specialized fishing and hunting techniques

food storage methods, smoking foods, wind ovens

Contribuions of American Indians in the field of agriculture

3/5 of world’s crops now in cultivation

base for modern genetics

domestication and development of plants

natural bug repellent

hilling, polyculture, milpa (careful seed selection), hybridization of crops

conuco (planting by cuttings), partner planting, nitrogenous fertilizer

model for canal system and irrigation, fishmeal fertilizer, bean & other plant names

experimental agricultural stations, most modern oyster hatchery in the U.S.A.

Note:  Many Henry students and their families who identify as African Americans can trace their ancestry in part to a Native American nation. Historian Carter G. Woodson believed that relations with Native American nations sometimes provided an escape hatch from slavery: Native American villages welcomed fugitive slaves and, in the antebellum years, some served as stations on the Underground Railroad.Google the African American Registry for more info regarding the ties of African Americans and American Indians.

Research and content by Susan Curnow Breedlove, educator from North Minneapolis.