In the middle of the turbulent 1960s, while many of us were eating cornflakes, watching “F Troop,” learning about the first Thanksgiving and trying to build campfires, historian Alvin M. Josephy Jr. published “The Indian Heritage of America.”
“Few persons today recognize, or are appreciative of, the vast contributions made to contemporary life by the American Indians,” writes Josephy, who enumerates what all Americans owe to the Native Americans, including corn, squash, potatoes, snowshoes, hammocks, kayaks and lacrosse.
Josephy points out that “at least fifty-nine drugs … were bequeathed to modern medicine by the Indians,” including coca, cinchona bark and ephedra, from which we moderns derive Novocaine, quinine [malaria treatment, on the World Health Organization’s Lists of Essential Medicines] and really effective nasal decongestants.
Two other Native American contributions – cotton and tobacco – have more problematic histories, although cotton seems to grow fine if you pay your workers, and no one is forced to smoke.
And then there are native-owned and operated casinos.
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