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Indigenous Permaculture- What, where, how, who and why?  RSS feed

 
Isawela Yonah
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Hi Everyone,
I'd like to get a discussion going about "indigenous permaculture" who's doing it, what they are doing, what that phrase means, people's experiences so far, projects, plans, etc.

I know of a couple of groups that are working on projects with Native Americans (individuals or tribes) in the US and this particular subject is where my heart is, so I'm trying to learn from those that are already doing.

Mr. Mollison did point out that the indigenous peoples have been sustainably feeding themselves for thousands of years, successfully, and since time has gone by and MOST Of us (at least in America) have lost a lot of those skills, I really feel like it's important to re-gain the knowledge and share it, especially with our youth, and especially among the indigenous groups that have lost at least food security if not the knowledge...it's not really lost, it just has to be brought back into common practice.

This year at the Permaculture Gathering in NC, several of us came together in an affinity circle to discuss Indigenous Support by the Permaculture community. Some voiced concerns that a lot of what's lacking is the Spiritual (truly spiritual-not new-agey) connection in Permaculture, and the indigenous folks still have-or have regained the spiritual side, but have largely stopped farming and gone the way of most other Americans-to the grocery store.

Anyways, it's a big deep subject.

Your thoughts?

'dohi' (Peace),
Isabel
 
Neal McSpadden
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If I recall my history correctly, most of the eastern tribes engaged in a serial corn based progression.  Move to a new place, slash a clearing in the forest, plant corn for a few years until the soil was exhausted, move to a new place, hunt at the old place when the wildlife came in to forage on the new forest growth, repeat. 

It certainly worked for them in a low population density situation, but I don't know that this is a system you'd want to reinstate as it was.  Of course there are lessons to be learned from everything.
 
Isawela Yonah
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Yep. And I'll keep being the one to point to the ugly elephant in the room, that the biggest problem on Earth IS the population density.  Makes me extremely unpopular though.

I guess another point of Indigenous Permaculture can/should be that many tribes have totally left behind farming or food production of any kind, and from a "food security" point of view, that's not good. If we're going to re-localize, that means on the rez. too.
 
Tyler Ludens
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I'm pretty unpopular too, Isabel!    I'm always on about population, and especially about overpopulation in the developed world.  For instance, the US uses about 25% of the entire Earth's resources, with only about 5% of the population.  If we want to be able to keep this standard of living and we want to be fair to the rest of the Earth's population, then the US needs to reduce our population to 1/5 of what it is currently.      And that is just being fair - using only 5% of the Earth's resources instead of 25%.  But even that is not sustainable, because the human population is now using more than one Earth's resources.  So we would need to reduce our population still further, or also reduce our use of resources.  We need to match our use of resources to our biocapacity.

Note:  by "reduce population" I don't mean "kill people" I mean a lower birth rate.

http://www.footprintnetwork.org/en/index.php/GFN/page/world_footprint/

http://www.footprintnetwork.org/en/index.php/GFN/page/trends/unitedstates/

Hunter-gatherer populations were generally on the average about 1 person per square mile of land.  It may turn out that is the carrying capacity for humans on the planet, just one per square mile, to allow enough room for the rest of the living things upon which we depend.  This doesn't mean we all need to be one square mile away from the next human, just that the number of people compared to the amount of land might need to be somewhere around 1 square mile per person.

Hope that makes sense! 
 
tel jetson
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I think it's important to value indigenous knowledge and skills without falling into the traps similar to what Edward Said described in Orientalism and the old "noble savage" caricature.  I don't know exactly how to do that, but walking onto the nearest reservation and asking folks to act more traditionally definitely isn't going to work.

this is a great topic that should be explored more fully.  I don't have a whole lot to add other than encouragement.  acknowledging that indigenous folks, despite having a much better record than Western civilization, have still made plenty of ecological mistakes seems important to me.
 
Tyler Ludens
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tel jetson wrote:
I think it's important to value indigenous knowledge and skills without falling into the traps similar to what Edward Said described in Orientalism and the old "noble savage" caricature.


Yeah, I've found that it is almost impossible to even mention positive aspects of non-civilized cultures without being accused of invoking the "Noble Savage."  So it is almost impossible to talk about civilization compared to other cultures without that darn "Noble Savage" rearing his fictional head.    I think it's important to be able to talk about different cultures without being accused of invoking the "Noble Savage."

Some essays I like talking about civilization and other ways of life:

http://theanarchistlibrary.org/HTML/Jason_Godesky__Thirty_Theses.html#toc1

http://theanarchistlibrary.org/HTML/Jason_Godesky__5_Common_Objections_to_Primitivism__and_Why_They_re_Wrong.html
 
Isawela Yonah
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Tamo42,
Do you have any info on the fact that the lands WERE depleted when Natives moved out?
I know there Cherokees planted the 3 sisters, and hunted game, and uses wild foods too, and they lived in the same places for hundreds/thousands of years-although they may have ranged further out for game as the whites came in...but DID they leave the soil depleted? 
Or are we talking 1800-1900 when the whites had already influenced their agriculture habits and were manipulating them into dressing and growing like whites.

Any books, info, websites, etc. that people know of would be greatly appreciated....

and as for taking this idea to native peoples now, the best way I can think of is to wait for the right time and place and then find a group that I could sit down and have a discussion, in modern terms about food security and reviving cultural practices.
I am lucky in the area I am in (So. OR) there is a group that is working on these things...(www.redearthdescendants.org)

THanks everyone for the great discussion!

'dohi'
Isabel
 
Isawela Yonah
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I emailed and asked my partner, Bob Burns, a permaculture teacher about this subject and I thought I'd share his reply:


... "Swidden", I think, is the old European term for this (yes, this technique was practiced there, too), and "milpa" is the term in Central America.  "Shifting cultivation" of some sort is, or was, common in much of the world where soils are relatively infertile and natural vegetation consists of bush/forest.  It's basically an extended crop rotation, with the wild forest being the fallow/cover crop/green manure stage.  In a highly developed state, such as is practiced in Central American milpa, the forest stage is fast-tracked by favoring legume trees and other beneficial plants at higher percentages than natural regeneration would show.  After clearing, anuuals like Three Sisters might be grown for a few years, and then a food forest would be encouraged with perennial root crops (sweet potato and cassava qualify, in the tropics), and fruit trees.  The longer-lived fruit trees like avocado and mango would persist in the forest almost until the next clearing event, and might be permanently left there.  Traditionally, the burn was during the wet season, so biochar would have been produced from the long smoldering.  (In modern times, where speed and complete clearing of all logs, etc. is desired to prepare for plow or pasture, much more destructive dry-season burning is the common practice)
      It was, and is, a perfectly sustainable system, provided sufficient time between disturbance pulses is allowed.  I think 20-50 years was normal, depending on climate and soil.  Increasing populations, as well as the introduction of large amounts of non-food plantation crops (coffee, cacao, oil palm, sugar, tobacco, etc.) cause the rotation to speed up and fertility to decline. 
      Maintenance of fertility in permanently cleared fields is the challenge for maintaining higher populations....this has been going on for 200+ years in the temperate climates by means of (at first) intensive crop rotations, including pasture and livestock, intensive composting (including humanure, as in China), and, eventually,(in association with, and following, the world wars) the use of imported nutrients and chemical fertilizer.  I think I've read somewhere that, calculating from the protein biomass of the human population, it's at about 40% overshoot now...in other words 40% of the population is eating food directly produced from fertility deriving from fossil fuel.
A significant and ancient exception is the Asian wet rice-paddy system, which can produce rice year after year for thousands of years, and maintain a high population thus.  Keys to this system include the fact of it's usually being practiced in river bottoms, deltas and other naturally fertile lowlands (i.e. places where topsoil erodes to, rather than from);  a dry-season  legume rotation, and the presence of Azolla and other nitrogen-fixers in the paddy water.
      As far as North America is concerned, especially in the East, our knowledge is very poor in terms of what and how native peoples really managed land.  Peoples and cultures and languages and knowledge has been lost.  The very first European contacts in the 1500's turned loose a plague of European diseases that depopulated the countryside, perhaps by as much as 90%; so that the settlers to follow years afterward found mere vestiges of the civilizations that existed...to such an extent that the ambitious mounds and other structures were credited to the lost tribe of Israel or whoever else, usually white, came ready to mind!  We do know from archaeology that it wasn't just Three Sisters.  Sunflower, tobacco, gourds, and other plants were in the mix, too.  Three Sisters is a Mexican and Central American import that didn't spread completely through eastern North America till maybe 900-1200AD.  Before this, a set of native plants, lower in yield, had begun to be domesticated.  I think lambsquarters may have been one of these.  The long-term improvement of forests towards tree mixes favorable to game and human food was practiced....even so subtly as to burn the ground under hickory and walnut in the spring so that the sun would heat the blackened ground more than otherwise and so protect the tree bloom from late spring frost. 
        Hope that's sufficient thoughts to mull.  I'm sure a little research can turn up way more...
                                Bob
 
Kay Bee
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the Buffalo Bird Woman ebook seemed pretty clear that the fertility of the crop areas were depleted over several years span.  Then a new area would be developed and the process repeated.

http://www.permies.com/bb/index.php?topic=5739.0

a fascinating read in general and it is easy to see how a few modifications/diversity efforts may make a big difference in maintaining the fertility of the land.
 
                  
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Native Americans and Vegetarianism  By Rita Laws, Ph.D.

http://www.ivu.org/history/native_americans.html

Most Permaculturists I have spoken with view Corn as a lowly food and are not really into food production, but promoting some kind of land design

another good book is  1491 ..  what was going on before the europeans got here.

 
                          
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I suppose it's simpler to view 'indigenous cultures' as being fixed in time - usually a time far in the past.  But in reality, these culture are constantly shifting in line with their environment (and other socio-political variables). 

In sub-Saharan Africa it is possible to see a different Permaculture emerging, which is relevant to all these changing conditions.  It speaks particularly to traditional farming cultures and traditions - in that Permaculture ethics resonate with what came before colonisation and industrialisation (of agriculture).  Some call it 'Africology' where care was taken for the earth, and each person/family had a plant and animal totem - which they were (are) tasked to care fo. 

Adoption and adaptation of Permaculture ethics and practice are therefore important for rebuilding links in the face of biocultural loss. 
 
                                      
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As an Indigenous Person, I get real irritated when good folks start talking about "civilized" and "un-civilized."  Recent additions to the fossil record seem to indicate that at the time what is now called Kohokia Complex was at its peak, London England could claim few inhabitants.  London at the time produced absolutely 0% of its own food, whereas, Kohokia produced 100%.  The Kohokia culture did not use up the good of the land and then just go off to start over.  Large areas were effectively rotated and evidence of succession planning has been uncovered.

Modern "Americans" have a sort of Hollywood sense of who the Indigenous Peoples are in America.  I can tell you, you won't find answers to your question on the Rez.  As far back a Pres. Grant, it was the policy of the Federal Government to displace the uncivilized "Indian" from ancestral lands, so that "tribal ways and traditions can be discouraged, and eventually obliterated."  Did my ancestors five generations back live sustainably on the land?  Absolutely!  Can anyone do more than conjecture about how they did it?  Not without leaving the comfort of the civilization (peak oil, starvation, pollution, crime, spiritual bankruptcy) to do it.  Why?  Because to practice such beliefs was a felony crime for at least three generations.

Permaculture Principles are a restoration of sanity as much to the Indigenous People of this continent as it is to the "civilized" people who conquered the land and have left such an discernible calling card on the future of our grandchildren.
 
Abe Connally
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A decent view into pre-Columbian America is the book, 1491.  Things are constantly changing in the field of American archeology, but there are some interesting views and models expressed in the book, especially the agricultural models of Native Americans.  While I don't take everything at face value when it comes to archeology, I do think some of the most recent models are showing a much different view than the contemporary model of the Americas.

At the time of Columbus, America's population was several times larger than Europe, with hundreds of millions of people. Population density was not as low as previously thought.  In central Mexico alone, there was likely more than 20 million people at around 1400 AD.  That is definitely more than 1 person per square mile.  But these were not hunter gatherers, either.  They were very advanced civilizations, rivals to anything in Eurasia at the same time period.

The reactions of the first settlers were that America was a pristine wilderness, but it was actually not a wilderness at all. But that assumption followed for several centuries.  Almost every corner of the Americas had been influenced by the inhabitants through agriculture and semi-domestication of species.

I do think there are some lessons that we can learn from these models.  If your influence results in your surrounding area appearing as pristine wilderness, I'd say you are doing something right.

Many civilizations, especially in South America were not nomadic, and farmed the same areas for quite a long time (centuries, at least, and in some cases for thousands of years).  So, the model that they exhausted one area and moved to the next didn't apply for some societies, as they were still in existence when Columbus arrived (and there is substantial evidence that they rose during the Mesopotamia era)

But, we definitely don't have a very clear picture of what the management practices were for the Americas before the European-triggered mass die-off.  Some things we do know are that the management practices were wide spread, they seemed to be sustainable, and seemed to be very successful at maintaining a large population in the Americas.  To me, there is a lot that could be learned there.
 
Abe Connally
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Native Americans and Vegetarianism  By Rita Laws, Ph.D.

Yeah, I don't know about that article.  By all means, grains and vegetables played a big role in American societies, but meat was part of the diet, no doubt.

The great pre-Inca society was almost completely fed from seafood, and their agriculture really only extended to basic crops, and cotton, in particular.  In most of the South American societies, fish were farmed extensively, and even the Mexican societies had huge man-made swamps and lakes for the fish/aquatic animal husbandry.  I can't imagine that eating and cultivating animals didn't travel alongside the corn to the northern societies.
 
Isawela Yonah
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Yes, it does seem that article is trying to "promote" vegetarianism, from a long-time vegetarian, but there is a good measure of truth to that.
I mean, game was generally hunted in the winter. Foods were seasonal. Deers could be wormy in Summer-and processing meat in a Southern summer was an invitation to disease, so they prob. ate more corn etc. in the summer. Seasonally! Remember they didn't have refrigerators, freezers or canning, only drying and storage, and maybe salting or storing in oil.
I also know that the old strains of corn, which were used in certain ways-especially with the ash (lime) and other protein rich foods like beans and especially acorns, so one could TOTALLY subsist on corn and other "veggies" but I am sure it was a matter of "both/and"...seems history is generally not that extreme.

Good conversation though, everyone-thanks!
 
Abe Connally
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without a fridge, they made pemmican, the ultimate trail food.

Many cultures "raised" (more like managed wild populations) animals in the Americas, that is well documented.  Sure, they might have been mostly fish or birds, but in many places, they were a major part of the diet.

Processing meat in the summer is the easiest thing in the world.  It drys fast!

But, I agree that a lot of foods were seasonal in the North.  Meat would have definitely been a staple during the winter.

You can "survive" on corn and beans, but have you ever tried it?  It is no fun, and leaves you craving for something else.  You also lack a lot of vitamins and trace minerals on that sort of diet.  But throw in a fish or rabbit, and you are set!
 
Isawela Yonah
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vela-
meat in the South in the summer does not dry.  Like I said, the OLDER strains of corn (hard, high lysine) with ash, and the dense beans that the native used actually DO have a lot more protein-and adding acorns (which store well and grow everywhere-practically) helps a lot.
These are nothing like the corn and beans we get today.
Adding all manner of roots, greens and fruits give you all the vitamins and trace minerals....

I'm NOT an advocate of vegetarianism however, and I DO think they ate fresh meat when they could/did/wanted to get it....
 
Mekka Pakanohida
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I am surprised no one has mentioned the sisters garden! 

http://www.reneesgarden.com/articles/3sisters.html

Corn, Squash and Beans...  actually there is a 4th sister for some regions.  Bee Balm.

It was actually handed down to me that when these are made, each mound that would have corn growing out of it would also get a fish buried below it.

Talk to the grandmothers...
 
Abe Connally
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Isabel -
I've lived int he south my entire life, and I've dried literally tons of meat in the summer! Sure, there are time when it won't dry fast, but lots of time when it will.  And the majority of North America is less humid than the south.

Protein is great, but vitamins and trace minerals are lacking from corn+beans.  And that has a lot do with where they are grown, rather than variety of plant.

I currently live in Mexico, so I have an idea of traditional corn and beans. Granted, they are not exactly the same, but we have closer varieties than what are available in the US.  They are great, don't get me wrong, but day to day, everyday.  It gets old, and people would have looked for alternatives and additions, including meat.

Where is the source of vitamin A and B12 in roots, greens and fruits?  And what roots, greens and fruits are available in the winter in most of the north? Meat would have certainly filled the void.

Of course someone would eat fresh meat whenever possible, and most likely, that was fairly regularly in Native culture. (especially from Mexico south, where they practiced extensive animal management).  I have yet to see any convincing evidence that suggests a primarily vegetarian diet in the majority of the Americas.
 
Kathleen Sanderson
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At the risk of opening a big can of worms, doesn't it seem like strict vegetarianism throughout the world is always based on philosophical or religious reasons?  Barring that, I would imagine that people pretty much ate whatever came to hand unless they had some taboo against it.

Kathleen
 
                                      
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As a Healer, I run amuck with vegetarians all the time.  I know of NO Indigenous cultures that do not gratefully accept and eat everything they can get their hands on that has any resemblance to food.  As a Scientist, I'm still stumped by the arrangement of human teeth - that is, if the vegetarian model is to be accepted as any kind of standard.  In any kind of comparison to the truly vegetarian species ( none of the primates are), our dental pattern just doesn't work.
 
Abe Connally
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our dental pattern just doesn't work

Neither do our behaviors, digestion systems, vitamin requirements, or cultures match a truly vegetarian species.
 
Koreen Brennan
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Eating corn ground and prepared on limestone makes more of its nutrition available, this is a traditional practice in Mexico and elsewhere. 

Also, there were four sisters most places and even five, six or seven sister - they were usually the "weeds" like amaranth (pigweed), lambsquarters, etc, which provided minerals and vitamins.  Europeans who noted the three sisters have been so blind to "weeds" as having any value they thought it was just sloppy farming. Not only do the weeds provide nutritional food for humans, but they are dynamic accumulators for the soils, pollinators, etc. The native 4-5 sisters was quite a plant guild, it had pretty much every element in it. 

We are doing a full permaculture design project at Pine Ridge Lakota reservation, including education (PDC and other), economic outreach, and trying to incorporate native wisdom into the elements.  This is in tandem with Oglala-Lakota Cultural and Economic Revitalization Initiative.  We are looking for WWOOFers and other volunteers.

Cory Brennan
permacultureguild.us

velacreations wrote:
Isabel -
I've lived int he south my entire life, and I've dried literally tons of meat in the summer! Sure, there are time when it won't dry fast, but lots of time when it will.  And the majority of North America is less humid than the south.

Protein is great, but vitamins and trace minerals are lacking from corn+beans.  And that has a lot do with where they are grown, rather than variety of plant.

I currently live in Mexico, so I have an idea of traditional corn and beans. Granted, they are not exactly the same, but we have closer varieties than what are available in the US.  They are great, don't get me wrong, but day to day, everyday.  It gets old, and people would have looked for alternatives and additions, including meat.

Where is the source of vitamin A and B12 in roots, greens and fruits?  And what roots, greens and fruits are available in the winter in most of the north? Meat would have certainly filled the void.

Of course someone would eat fresh meat whenever possible, and most likely, that was fairly regularly in Native culture. (especially from Mexico south, where they practiced extensive animal management).  I have yet to see any convincing evidence that suggests a primarily vegetarian diet in the majority of the Americas.
 
Tyler Ludens
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cory8570 wrote:
Eating corn ground and prepared on limestone makes more of its nutrition available, this is a traditional practice in Mexico and elsewhere.


I'm not sure, but I think you might be thinking of corn prepared with lime, not on limestone. 

http://www.motherearthnews.com/Real-Food/2004-04-01/Make-Masa-Nixtamalize-Your-Corn.aspx
 
Koreen Brennan
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Ludi Ludi wrote:
I'm not sure, but I think you might be thinking of corn prepared with lime, not on limestone.   

http://www.motherearthnews.com/Real-Food/2004-04-01/Make-Masa-Nixtamalize-Your-Corn.aspx


It is made by soaking in limestone not grinding on it, excuse me. They also sometimes ground it on limestone as well.  Here is more info on the whole nutritional thing (starting at the "Grains" section).  I've helped prepare and eaten corn chips and tortillas made in this way and they are absolutely rich and delicious. Very robust flavor, almost nutty in taste.

http://www.enotes.com/food-encyclopedia/mexico-central-america-precolumbian

Cory
 
                  
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velacreations wrote:
Meat would have definitely been a staple during the winter.

You can "survive" on corn and beans, but have you ever tried it?  It is no fun, and leaves you craving for something else.  You also lack a lot of vitamins and trace minerals on that sort of diet.  But throw in a fish or rabbit, and you are set!


I completely disagree

How do you know ....... " It is no fun, and leaves you craving for something else.  You also lack a lot of vitamins and trace minerals on that sort of diet."

The 3 sisters was the staple throughout the Americas



of course they ate meat ,fish, eggs ,  insects , etc,  but the staple was the 3 sisters

3 sisters does not mean thats all they ate.



"How well we know the stereotype of the rugged Plains Indian: killer of buffalo, dressed in quill-decorated buckskin, elaborately feathered eaddress, and leather moccasins, living in an animal skin teepee, master of the dog and horse, and stranger to vegetables. But this lifestyle, once limited almost exclusively to the Apaches, flourished no more than a couple hundred years. It is not representative of most Native Americans of today or yesterday. Indeed, the "buffalo-as-lifestyle" phenomenon is a direct result of European influence, as we shall see.

Among my own people, the Choctaw Indians of Mississippi and Oklahoma, vegetables are the traditional diet mainstay. A French manuscript of the eighteenth century describes the Choctaws' vegetarian leanings in shelter and food. . The principal food, eaten daily from earthen pots, was a vegetarian stew containing corn, pumpkin and beans."

http://www.ivu.org/history/native_americans.html

 
Abe Connally
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How do you know ....... " It is no fun, and leaves you craving for something else.  You also lack a lot of vitamins and trace minerals on that sort of diet."

The 3 sisters was the staple throughout the Americas


I now it is boring, because I have eaten that way for long periods of time.  Corn and beans day in and day out is no fun, unless you have ample other additives. Add some rabbit meat or some fish, and you can go for a lot longer.

The 3 sisters may have been a significant addition to the diet of many areas, but it was not a staple food for the majority of people in the Americas. There are some major vitamin deficiencies on that diet, and we don't find evidence of major vitamin deficiencies in the Native populations. So, they had to be eating other things, in enough amounts, to offset the deficiencies of the 3 sisters.  Most likely, many native nuts would have been staples in many areas, along with meats and/or fish.

In large areas of South America, agriculture was limited to growing non-food items, and the 3 sisters is non-existent.  Their staples were sea-based (and fresh water as well), and those civilizations were very large and widespread. Food revolved around aquatic fauna, not flora.

The vast majority of Native North American clothing is leather-based.  That suggests that meat was consumed in ample quantities to keep up a supply of leather.

In some areas, the 3 sisters were probably a big portion of the diet, but not in most areas.  Other staples would have had to fill the space, and nuts seem like the most likely candidates.  There is no evidence that suggests a vegetarian culture in any part of the Americas.  Every major American culture consumed meat.
 
Koreen Brennan
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What gives people the idea indigenous agriculture or diet was simple? They grew lots of stuff, or gathered it and monitored it in forests. Many of the tribes ate lots of nuts, many ate meat or sea food or both, they ate fruit, a variety of root crops and other veggies, etc.  Here's one article of thousands about Indian food. The incas had an incredible food system that is still fertile and producing today. Very sophisticated growing and harvesting methods among many of the tribes, from small to large and powerful.

Why argue about the three sisters? It was a staple, there is no doubt. But it was easy for Indians to supplement because the ecosystems were abundant with food, everywhere you looked!  Even if you didn't farm, there were berries, fruit, nuts, animals, etc, etc.

http://www.aztec-history.com/aztec-agriculture.html

Cory Brennan
permacultureguild.us

jmy wrote:
I completely disagree

How do you know ....... " It is no fun, and leaves you craving for something else.  You also lack a lot of vitamins and trace minerals on that sort of diet."

The 3 sisters was the staple throughout the Americas



of course they ate meat ,fish, eggs ,  insects , etc,  but the staple was the 3 sisters

3 sisters does not mean thats all they ate.



"How well we know the stereotype of the rugged Plains Indian: killer of buffalo, dressed in quill-decorated buckskin, elaborately feathered eaddress, and leather moccasins, living in an animal skin teepee, master of the dog and horse, and stranger to vegetables. But this lifestyle, once limited almost exclusively to the Apaches, flourished no more than a couple hundred years. It is not representative of most Native Americans of today or yesterday. Indeed, the "buffalo-as-lifestyle" phenomenon is a direct result of European influence, as we shall see.

Among my own people, the Choctaw Indians of Mississippi and Oklahoma, vegetables are the traditional diet mainstay. A French manuscript of the eighteenth century describes the Choctaws' vegetarian leanings in shelter and food. . The principal food, eaten daily from earthen pots, was a vegetarian stew containing corn, pumpkin and beans."

http://www.ivu.org/history/native_americans.html


 
Matt Ferrall
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I was told by local tribe members that they had a form of vegetarian here that involved only eating creatures without a sex(slugs and mullusks)as to avoid strong hormonal influences.Im bored with every thread being turned into vegi debates though.I just thought Id chime in on indigenous civilized agriculture. While it certainly developed in some areas,much of NA were horticulturalists/forest gardeners.As I understand it,the expansionist agricultural empires were fighting with the forest cultures in the NE.The entire west coast went a diferent route being horticulturist as a direction not just emenent/emergent agriculture .It seems more diverse than the 3 sisters over the continent.I personaly find the West coast indigenous land management practices to be very much closer to forest gardening /permaculture than the agricultural models.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Mt goat, do you know if that vegetarian diet was for certain times of the year, or for certain tribe members, or was it a diet followed all year by everyone?

Indigenous peoples around here ate a varied diet but had a primary staple food which they harvested from the wild, the plant Sotol, which has an edible stem.  To my knowledge none of the people here farmed, they were either hunter-gatherers (Apache) or raiders (Comanche).
 
Matt Ferrall
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Slugs are seasonal here so that diet probably was practiced seasonaly.I would guess to assist in clarity of mind(like most cleansing diets)but not sure.Eating little was a highly valued trait here,as light eaters were believed to have better access to the spirit realm(not to dissimilar to many spiritual traditions arpund the world).
 
                                      
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hmmm yep, lets all get over the whole veggie thing (both sides) there is allready a topic for that...

typical this thing about not eating hormones, im also curious if this was for both sexes?

if i recall it right from the movie 'from the heart of the world, the elder brothers warning' about the kogi, who are descendants from the tairona people, is that they considered it a trait if males put extra effort in not giving in to their hormones.

they actually prepare some sort of powder that men are expected to always carry with them (in the movie you see them constantly eating it with some sort of stick) to suppress typical male urges that would be inappropriate 

I think this movie is also one to watch if one is interested in indigenous permaculture. one can obtain it from the tairona heritage trust:
http://tairona.myzen.co.uk/
 
                          
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Vegetarian societies existed only because they could produce more offspring in a given area.  This is where the whole population got out of whack.  Early vegetarian societies were generally malnourished  (as found in anthropological  research world wide), but their population advantage easily allowed them to wipe out or dislodge hunter gatherers.  These societies created taxes, slavery, class distinctions, and organized warfare.  I can't understand why anyone would admire them.
 
                                    
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i had to log back in to say:  wow.  that is quite an opinion you've shared tinknal. 

i haven't done a complete survey of the anthropological research so anything i'd say would be speculation.  i have read that, for instance, the brahmins, the upper caste in india, were more likely to be strict vegetarians and by virtue of being the ruling class they were doing the slaving, taxes, etc.  however, i don't know that one follows from the other & i can't wrap my brain around how a group of malnourished people could outpopulate a nourished one, but maybe i am missing something.

primitivists blame society's ills on agriculture and think we ought to go back to hunting and gathering.  they tend to blame agriculture rather than vegetarianism for "taxes, slavery, class distinctions, and organized warfare."  maybe yours is a variant on primitivism.

as for the actual topic it is sad that we don't know more about indigenous agriculture (or food forests etc).  can anyone point to literature on the topic?  someone has to have a good collection of academic papers online...
 
Tyler Ludens
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There's pretty good anthropological evidence that  agricultural peoples had poor health compared to hunter-gatherer or horticultural peoples.  But I don't know that many agricultural peoples were vegetarian.

Thesis #9:  http://theanarchistlibrary.org/HTML/Jason_Godesky__Thirty_Theses.html#toc1

I'm not a primitivist, by the way.  I think one can see drawbacks to civilization without being a primitivist. 

 
                                    
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does permaculture count as agriculture?  does hunting and gathering count as permaculture?
 
Tyler Ludens
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christhamrin wrote:
does permaculture count as agriculture?  does hunting and gathering count as permaculture?


Here's another Godesky essay which might answer those questions      :  http://kennysideshow.blogspot.com/2008/05/agriculture-or-permaculture-why-words.html
 
                          
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christhamrin wrote:
i had to log back in to say:  wow.  that is quite an opinion you've shared tinknal. 

i haven't done a complete survey of the anthropological research so anything i'd say would be speculation.  i have read that, for instance, the brahmins, the upper caste in india, were more likely to be strict vegetarians and by virtue of being the ruling class they were doing the slaving, taxes, etc.  however, i don't know that one follows from the other & i can't wrap my brain around how a group of malnourished people could outpopulate a nourished one, but maybe i am missing something.

primitivists blame society's ills on agriculture and think we ought to go back to hunting and gathering.  they tend to blame agriculture rather than vegetarianism for "taxes, slavery, class distinctions, and organized warfare."  maybe yours is a variant on primitivism.

as for the actual topic it is sad that we don't know more about indigenous agriculture (or food forests etc).  can anyone point to literature on the topic?  someone has to have a good collection of academic papers online...


There is pretty strong evidence from the bones of early agricultural societies that they suffered from many deficiency diseases.  They were not vegetarian by design, most of the poorer folks were vegetarian because of economic factors.  Families became larger because children (little farm hands) were an asset.  Someone with 10 kids can raise and sell more grain than a family with 2 kids.  Of course contagious disease became more common because larger numbers were living in close proximity.  Famines were also more common because people lost their mobility.  Most hunter gathers were nomadic or semi nomadic and with sparse populations it was much easier to find "greener pastures".

The fact that grain had to be stored, defended, distributed,  infrastructure had to be created, and so on society changed from egalitarian to being more class oriented.  This isn't a bash on agriculture, and most anthropologists believe that agriculture was an accidental thing that occurred incrementally.  Hunter gatherers didn't just up and decide to plant wheat, it was a progression.
 
Matt Ferrall
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Somehow I saw that link coming Ludi,thanx again.It is now believed that virtually all peoples managed their landscapes.Beavers and deer do it .Why would humans be not bright enough to encourage what they liked and discourged what they didnt.It really is as simple as where you place your foot and which plant you choose to crush.The roving/non managing hunter gatherer is somewhat a figment of our imaginations(IMO).The idea that agriculture is a natural progression from `hunter gather`is another myth.Many tribes ,no doubt,had access to agricultural genetics and practice but chose not to.Many `converted` to agriculture unwillingly either having their cultures destroyed by `power over`agriculturists or european conquerers and their private property models. While few people on here would advocate a ` hunter gather` existance,a critique of agriculture brings many(looking for alternatives)to permaculture.
 
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I don't aspire to be a hunter-gatherer (not enough land) but I do aspire to be a permaculturist! 
 
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