ESSAY Corn Killed The Indians
Disclosure: This was a College Research Paper where we had to pull inspiration for our midterm and final essays from a book titled “Omnivore’s Dilemma”. In an attempt to stand out from the copious amounts of researched papers involving grassfed cattle, free range chickens, organic, non-organic, chemicals being used and so on, I latched onto one sarcastically made comment that I felt suggested something more and was out of place in a paragraph. Below was the result of researching to prove how this dramatically embellished title could be “researched and proven” for an opinion angled essay.
Reading the Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan there is a statement so wild that it suggests that corn, literally, killed the Indians. Pollan writes “…maize, the one plant without which the American colonists probably would never have survived, let alone prospered, wound up abetting the destruction of the very people who had helped develop it.” Stunningly, he was right with his assumption. Corn brought destruction to the Indians by making them dependent on it, feeding the very pilgrims that would later lead to near extinction and the interesting way this all came about through the skilled hands of Squanto, Corn’s puppet.
Corn’s first Native American victims were the Wampanoag. These people once inhabited an area that reached from Weymouth, MA to Nantucket to Warren RI with an estimated population of 50,000 to 60,000 (Growing Food). It is shocking to think that even in the early 1600’s, corn made up 70% of this tribe’s diet (Growing Food)! Corn was so important that the Wampanoag’s other farmed plants such as pumpkins, squash and especially beans depended on the corn stalks to vine on as well as provide each other with nitrogen and other nutrients (Growing Food). Without their stable on the “indian corn,” these people would not be surviving or living in such large numbers.
Europeans were coming to the Wampanoag’s shores in droves, and finding that the American soil was not providing the same for need for their European plants like wheat and herbs. The contact made with these Europeans was devastating to the tribe in 1616 through 1618 when reports of disease killed thousands with something similar to smallpox or tuberculosis (Mayflowerhistory.com). Early settlers had found buried corn in baskets on what they conveniently named “Corn Hill” where they had stolen from burial grounds (Mayflowerhistory.com). Already corn was calling to the harbingers of the tribe’s death and feeding them in small bursts in the beginning. At this point in history, European’s had a diet heavy in meats unlike the less than 20% of their Wampanoag neighbors (Growing Food). By laws of nature, the settlers should have never made it.
Now enters dear Squanto. He had fallen in the lines of being the one to transfer corn away from the Indians and into the settlers hands back between 1620 to 1621 (Squanto). Amazingly, he was not a native Wampanoag, but from a tribe called Pawtuxet (Squanto). Early in his life he was taken to Europe back in 1605 and lived overseas a majority of his life. He moved in with the Wampanoag in 1619 only to move onto the European settlement in 1621 (Squanto)! Corn had used this man as a vessel, and to make matters worse, the tribe had signed a Peace Treaty in 1620 with the settlers (Wampanoag). This secured that corn growing was mastered to the point that the colonist were growing too much, trading it to the Wampanoag for furs which they turned to sell to Europe for money for spices, gunpowder and the latest advancement in weapons (Growing Food). The moment the chief who signed the Peace Treaty passed away, the settler made quick work of almost bringing the tribe to extinction (Wampanoag). They took over their lands, and the many corn and vegetable farms. Corn had killed the Indians.
In conclusion, the initial shock of the statement by Pollan had struck as odd and a bet embellished. After much research, one can see clearly that corn had killed the Indians and brought a drastic change in the history books within a little over 20 year span of events. Corn had lured the Indians to rely on it, fed their enemies, the colonist and then took advantage of the pro- European Squanto to seal its fate in changing sides and the future of modern day America. It may not be written as bluntly in the books as it is here, but the fact is: Corn Killed the Indians.
Growing Food | Plimoth Plantation. (n.d.). Plimoth Plantation | . Retrieved May 20, 2012, from http://www.plimoth.org/learn/just-kids/homework-help/growing-food
MayflowerHistory.com. (n.d.). MayflowerHistory.com. Retrieved May 20, 2012, from http://www.mayflowerhistory.com/History/BiographyTisquantum.php
Pollan, M. (2006). The omnivore’s dilemma: a natural history of four meals. New York: Penguin Press.
Squanto. (2012). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved from http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/561611/Squanto
Wampanoag. (2012). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved from http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/635211/Wampanoag
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