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IMPORTANCE OF AGRICULTURE IN NATIVE AMERICAN SOCIETY

Throughout the history of the people who resided and lived off of the land of North America, there has been a direct correlation between agricultural and economic development. In many early societies, farming was the primary source of food. Over time, farming techniques increased, which led to more production. Trading was used to pass along surplus food. This allowed for smaller groups to be adjoined by the trade routes and share cultural practices. Also, due to areas of higher yields of crops, unbalanced wealth throughout communities began to develop and the first rulers of lands were derived from these wealthier areas. Agriculture and the need to constantly develop the lands for farming are proven to have had a clear relation to societal and economic growth for the Native Americans.

Scientific findings show that the earliest Americans, called Paleo-Indians, arrived from northeastern Asia as early as 13,000 B.C.E. These people fed on mostly marine life, birds, small mammals and wild plants. At that time the plants were not used necessarily as a food source as much as they were used for their healing abilities. There is an old Native American tradition that states, “in the old days the beasts, birds, fishes, insects, and plants could all talk, and they lived together in peace and friendship”. (Boyer et al. 2011) Over time, man killed animals for food and for their skins. After many meetings of the animals about the unfair treatment by man, they decided that diseases would be created to pay revenge on man. The plants, however, who were always friendly to man, would defeat the animals’ evil designs. “Each Tree, Shrub, and Herb, down even to the Grasses and Mosses, agreed to furnish a cure for some one of the diseases named.” (Boyer et al. 2011) This began man’s interest in plants and the need for them increased over time.

Following the Ice Age, around 4000 B.C.E, and as Earth’s temperatures began to rise, Archaic- Indians began to hone their skills at harvesting wild plants, and were able to live in the same place year round. Their advances in farming allowed for a constant supply of food. In the spring, roots and tubers were the first plant foods to become available after a long winter. Summer brought a variety of berries and other plant foods. In the fall, nuts such as walnut (Juglans nigra), pecan (Carya illinoensis), and hickory (Carya), were available. ("Archaic Economy, Food" 2000) The Archaic-Indians developed the earliest forms of irrigation and began to learn to manipulate their environments to favor the growth of plants. These people resided in Mesoamerica and as their skills became more advanced, they were able to abundantly grow maize in that area.

After 2500 B.C.E., agricultural techniques were so developed that a surplus of crops were being produced and slowly, trading began. Along the trade routes, the communities were linked by religion, political and economic views and practices. This is how the first formal confederacies and even states were formed. For the next five hundred years, farming based (specifically maize) societies spread throughout Mesoamerica. Some of these societies were able to produce such a large amount of produce, that they quickly became wealthier and more powerful than smaller societies. The communities of the Olmecs, and Chavin de Huantar are two such societies, and produced some of the first hereditary rulers who dominated over thousands of residents.

Soon, other states developed in Mesoamerica and South America. The Aztecs, who migrated from the north in the thirteenth century, had settled on the shore of Lake Taxoco. They continued to grow and conquer other cities. To support nearly two thousand residents around Tenochititlan, the Aztecs had to maximize their production of food. After draining swampy areas and creating artificial islands of rich soil from the lake bottom, farmers grew crops on the islands to supply food...
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