Did you know that potatoes were not on the first Thanksgiving menu in 1621? Everyone knows it’s not Thanksgiving without potatoes, but most people don’t know how America’s favorite vegetable ended up on our plate for this uniquely American holiday. The Native Americans and Plymouth settlers likely feasted on food like venison, dried fish, eels and a native variety of corn in the form of porridge. We know children across the country are grateful they don’t have to say, “Please pass the eels!” While the pilgrims may not have had potatoes on their table, researchers from Utah have discovered that Native Americans in the western U.S. ate wild potatoes nearly 11,000 years ago! But it wasn’t until we were a fledgling nation that potatoes (which had come to Europe via Spanish Conquistadors in South America) started growing toward the popularity they enjoy today.
Indigenous groups in the U.S. and Canada are leading efforts to restore bison across North America more than a century after European settlers drove the species to near extinction. Tribes now have a collective 20,000 bison and that’s been growing steadily along with a desire among many Native Americans to reclaim stewardship of an animal their predecessors lived alongside and depended upon for millennia. The long-term dream for many is to return bison, also known as buffalo, on a scale rivaling the tens of millions that once roamed the continent in thundering herds that shaped the landscape itself.