Page:The American Indian.djvu/47

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.

local conditions, the following wild plants were largely used: piñon nut, mesquite, bean and saguaro. Tobacco and cotton were cultivated. Fish as food was not an important factor, in fact, it was under the ban of some tribes. Game was rather scarce, rabbits being the most numerous. Turkeys were domesticated. Of prepared foods, the most unique is the piki maize bread, made in thin, paper-like sheets.

For the remainder of the North American part of the area the Nahua and Maya may be taken as the types. Here agriculture was more highly organized than in any of the areas we have discussed. With the former, maize is made into peculiar cakes called "tortillas," which, with beans and the inevitable chili pepper, constitutes the usual menu. If we add to this cacao we have the list for the Maya also. In the lower parts, especially in Central America, there were many fruits, many of which are now cultivated by Europeans, as the mammae apple, the alligator pear, the cashew nut, together with the fleshy stalk of its tree, the tomato, pineapple, etc.

The Andean region of South America is peculiar in that at almost any point one may shift from high to low valleys, thus quickly passing through several varieties of climate. Likewise, one may, by lateral shifting, encounter deserts and the most well-watered stretches in succession. All this tends to nullify the effects of changing latitude, so that the aggregate agricultural conditions in Colombia, Ecuador and Peru can be made the same. Still we find some cultural differences.

The Chibcha peoples of Colombia in the highlands raised maize, potatoes, sweet potatoes, manioc, beans, tobacco, coca, and cotton. They did not have the llama, and game was scarce, but carefully protected and conserved. The other peoples of Colombia did more hunting, but in addition still cultivated maize. Salt was manufactured in favorable localities and formed an important article of trade.

The adjoining highlands of Venezuela formerly had a hunting and maize-growing population which was exterminated by the Spaniards.

Ecuador was partly under the control of the Inca at the Spanish conquest but, no doubt, still retained its former food