Fish Fertilizer: A Native North American Practice?

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Science  04 Apr 1975:
Vol. 188, Issue 4183, pp. 26-30
DOI: 10.1126/science.188.4183.26


The belief that the use of fish fertilizers originated among North American Indians, and was communicated as such by Squanto to the Plymouth settlers, has achieved the status of folklore and is therefore difficult to challenge. However, examination of the documentary evidence of Squanto's history and of native cultivation practices, and a cultural analysis of the implications of the use of fish fertilizer, have produced complementary lines of evidence. This evidence indicates that widely held beliefs about the "manner of the Indians" should be revised: Squanto's advice at Plymouth is probably best viewed as an interesting example of culture contact, one in which a native "culture-bearer" conveyed a technological idea from one group of Europeans to another.

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