Page:The American Indian.djvu/48

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
22
THE AMERICAN INDIAN

habits. Its population was almost exclusively agricultural. Maize was the staple except on the highest levels, where quinoa was substituted. Potatoes were universal, and coca, peppers, and other plants in the lowest valleys. On the coast there was fishing.

To the south was the Inca empire with its highly organized agriculture. Here the crops were about the same as for Ecuador, but in favorable places manioc, ground nuts, beans, gourds, tomatoes, guava, and fiber plants were raised. Hunting was carried on in an organized manner, large drives being made over great areas. The game animals were chiefly the guanaco and vicuña, of which the flesh was often dried and stored for the use of the army. The familiar term "jerked meat" is believed to have come from the charqui, as this dried meat was called in Peru. Birds were taken in nets, and on the coast there was some fishing.

The great basin of the Amazon with the adjoining coast is one of the world's most typical tropical areas, but almost everywhere throughout there was some native agriculture. As a whole, the area presents some geographical variety, for the eastern part of South America also has its highlands, though far less pretentious than those of the West. Here, however, the elevation was much less; consequently, maize did not become the chief cultivated food, manioc, or cassava, taking its place. Otherwise, the range of plants was about the same as in the Andean region. Tobacco, potatoes, and cotton were common. The celebrated maté, or Paraguay tea, and the edible clay of the Botocudo peoples are the principal unique features. Yet, in no case were the tribes of these highlands so dependent upon agriculture as were those of the west coast. In this respect they present a close analogy to the eastern maize users of North America, with whom they are geographically connected by the West Indies. Further, the almost complete delegation of agricultural responsibilities to the women is in itself an indication of the large part hunting played in their sustenance.

Finally, we come to the interior of the continent where high temperature, low elevation, and abundant moisture combine