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Western Science Learns From Native Culture

As American Indians continue to join the ranks of U.S. scientists, many seek to remind their peers that native cultures have been contributing to Western science for half a millennium. "Indians were first-rate geneticists and agronomists," says Hopi tribal member Frank Dukepoo, an associate professor of genetics at Northern Arizona University. "If we'd been able to evolve [without European contact], we'd have had Indian scientists," he argues. "But as they evolved into being scientists, they

Rebecca Andrews
As American Indians continue to join the ranks of U.S. scientists, many seek to remind their peers that native cultures have been contributing to Western science for half a millennium.

"Indians were first-rate geneticists and agronomists," says Hopi tribal member Frank Dukepoo, an associate professor of genetics at Northern Arizona University. "If we'd been able to evolve [without European contact], we'd have had Indian scientists," he argues. "But as they evolved into being scientists, they would have had different values: Mother Earth, respect for living things, the importance of balance in nature"--values that Dukepoo says are finally beginning to take root in Western science.

In the book Indian Givers (New York, Fawcett Columbine, 1988), anthropologist Jack Weatherford looks at contributions native American cultures have made to numerous aspects of Western life, including science. For example, Indians throughout the Americas developed sophisticated corn breeding techniques, selecting seed according to various traits,...

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