|Diorama of Iroquois Indians tending maize caption, New York State Museum|
But it is also true that Indians of what is now the Pacific Northwest were traditionally hunters, gatherers, and fishers, and most of these crops were not found in the region at the time of first white contact, Indians of the region had established economies and food cultures over countless generations before white contact, food cultures built around salmon, game, and readily available roots, bulbs, and berries. Did they have knowledge of corn? And when did tobacco arrive? Did they come through Indian trade routes, or with Delaware and Iroquois who were, by the late eighteenth century, part of the western fur trading business, or were the French and British traders themselves responsible for bringing tobacco, corn, and other domesticated vegetables West?
The subject of gardens is fascinating and complex. We know the bigger chunks of history, but we don't know much about individuals wandering around, swapping seeds and plants, tasting one thing or another privately. Food and its acquisition seems like one of the best examples of early networking and my guess is that all the stories of how it happened are true, different but true. It's a lot like family histories. Truth is usually in the details and we don't know as much as we ever could about the details. We were not there.
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