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Grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, coyotes, cougars/ mountain lions,bobcats, wolverines, lynx, foxes, fishers and martens are the suite of carnivores that originally inhabited North America after the Pleistocene extinctions. This site invites research, commentary, point/counterpoint on that suite of native animals (predator and prey) that inhabited The Americas circa 1500-at the initial point of European exploration and subsequent colonization. Landscape ecology, journal accounts of explorers and frontiersmen, genetic evaluations of museum animals, peer reviewed 20th and 21st century research on various aspects of our "Wild America" as well as subjective commentary from expert and layman alike. All of the above being revealed and discussed with the underlying goal of one day seeing our Continent rewilded.....Where big enough swaths of open space exist with connective corridors to other large forest, meadow, mountain, valley, prairie, desert and chaparral wildlands.....Thereby enabling all of our historic fauna, including man, to live in a sustainable and healthy environment. - Blogger Rick

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Thursday, November 26, 2015

In 1621, the bounty of our eastern woodland forest (as understood and utilized by the Wampanoag Indians) was shared with the Pilgrims in what was later to become the state of Massachusetts......"The 3 sisters"(corn, beans and squash) along with venison, fowl, peanuts, pecans, sunflower seeds, peppers, tomatoes, avocados, chestnuts, artichokes, cranberries, various fish, green beans, lima beans, pumpkins(winter squash and pumpkin pie), maple syrup and walnuts graced that first Thanksgiving table..........Talk about a cornucopia of foodstuffs and yes, a big thank you to those Wampanoags(and other indians) for fostering a biodiversity regimine that all of us Americans should incorporate into our current land use policies as we give thanks during this Thanksgiving week...........Best to all of you blog readers on the best and uniquely American holiday, THANKSGIVING


Native Foods On The Thanksgiving Table

Thanksgiving-BrownscombeThe winter of 1620 nearly wiped out the Pilgrims, who were woefully unprepared for life in the New world. Many historians feel they would all have perished if not for food provided by the Wampanoags, on whose land they settled. The following spring, the Wampanoags provided the Pilgrims with seeds to plant, as well as a tutorial (possibly an App, but we can’t be sure) on the production, storage and preservation of food crops such as corn, beans, and squash.
That fall – we’re not even sure if it was October or November – the Pilgrims gave thanks for Native American agriculture, and feasted upon its bounty for three days straight. The Wampanoags probably gave thanks that there wasn’t another ship full of Pilgrims on the horizon just then.
If the Pilgrims had only known what a big deal Thanksgiving was going to become in America, they would undoubtedly have taken some pictures, or at least invited the press. As it was, the exact menu is lost to history, but Wampanoag oral history, as well as some brief written accounts, indicate that there was indeed – surprise – corn, beans and squash, in addition to fowl and venison. Beyond that there may have been chestnuts, sun chokes (Jerusalem artichokes), cranberries and seafood.
Barley was the one European-sourced crop that the Pilgrims managed to raise in 1621. Unfortunately, they seemed unaware it could be eaten. The up side of that, though, was that there was beer that Thanksgiving.The "three sis
While corn, beans and squash, “The Three Sisters,” were (and are) grown by many Native peoples in the Americas, other indigenous crops will grace our Thanksgiving tables this year. Maybe you’ll have appetizers out for company before dinner. Mixed nuts, anyone? Peanuts are a big-time Native American crop. Pecans and sunflower seeds, too. And everyone likes corn chips with dip, right? Those hot (and sweet) peppers and tomatoes in the salsa are Native American foods. Prefer avocado dip? Yep, another native food.
Of course turkeys are indigenous to the New World, but so are a lot of the “fixings.” Pass the (New World) cranberry sauce, please. How about some mashed potatoes to go with that gravy? It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without potatoes. White (“Irish”) potatoes are a New World crop, as are sweet potatoes. We can thank Native American agronomists for green beans, and Lima beans too. Pass the squash – Native peoples developed many varieties of squash, including Hubbard squash and pumpkins, which are technically a winter squash.
Which brings us to dessert. Specifically to the iconic Thanksgiving pumpkin pie – I think just about everyone is thankful for that treat. But wait, there’s more. Let’s have ice cream with our pie (provided we don’t have serious cholesterol issues). Maple-walnut, perhaps? Those two indigenous flavors go well together. Vanilla is from the Americas, and so is chocolate. If you add some toppings like strawberry, pineapple or blueberry sauce, you’ll be having more Native American foods for dessert.
I hope you have a happy and healthy Thanksgiving filled with family and gratitude. Among other things, we can be grateful to native peoples and their crops. But please, don’t blame them if you eat a little more than you had intended.
Illustration: Part of painting “The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth,” by Jennie Augusta Brownscombe (1914).

Paul Hetzler is the Horticulture and Natural Resources Educator at
 Cornell Cooperative Extension of St. Lawrence County
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