Traditional Indigenous Cultivation of Crops is Not the Same as “Agriculture”

This short article is a reproduction of something that was published about a year and a half ago by Deep Green Resistance, that I wrote in response to one of their articles. Since I still come across people who seem to equate all cultivation of food or medicine crops with commercial, or other unsustainable “agriculture,” I decided to republish the article here. I also included the links to the original articles.

Indigenous Horticulture: A Response to “Civilization Reduces Quality of Life” by Jason Godesky

July 10, 2019 Deep Green Resistance News Service Leave a comment

Editor’s Note: the following was originally posted as a comment on a recent article we shared entitled “Civilization Reduces Quality of Life.” We thought it was an insightful discussion of indigenous horticulture, and have received permission to republish it here. Image: Wild Rice by HellebardiusCC BY NC SA 2.0.

By George Price

Ever since about the time of the advent of Daniel Quinn’s novel, “Ishmael” (back in the `90s), indigenous cultivators of food crops, such as myself, have had to contend with the allegation that the cultivation of food crops, no matter how sustainably practiced, was the beginning of the grand decline and fall of our species. I realize that not every fan of Quinn’s work or every anti-civilization activist thinks that way, but the problem occurs when people fail to adequately define “agriculture” and distinguish that from sustainable traditional indigenous cultivation practices.

I define “agriculture” as the cultivation of food crops for a market economy, or for money, which is coupled with the commodification of and disrespect for the natural world. That practice, along with the invention of money itself and the failure of some early societies to maintain population levels that were consistent with the carrying capacities of their homelands, were the real culprits. Traditional first peoples would avoid over-population by several methods, including the prayerful dividing and relocation of bands within tribes in ways that would adjust for that, along with other population-regulating practices. Agriculture and money were the roots of empire and colonialism, and both were the result of unsustainable, disrespectful relationships with homeland, leading to dependence on trade and/or “conquest.”

Indigenous Horticulture

The traditional ways of indigenous cultivation more properly fit the definitions of the terms “horticulture,” “permaculture,” and “polyculture.” What those ways of cultivation have in common is that they were done for personal and community subsistence, only as needed, and in combination with sustainable practices of foraging. Whether foraging wild foods or cultivating foods that were originally found in the wild, those activities were/are done in a spiritual attitude of respect and thanksgiving toward the natural world (visible and invisible), and with a commitment to preserve natural ecological systems (1).

Our traditional practices involve working in sync with the natural world, helping to spread more of the wild-gathered foods into more of their traditional habitats. One example of that would be the Anishinabe practice of planting rice in new wetland areas created by beaver or, my people, the Wampanoags of Massachusetts, doing something very similar with wild cranberries. Corn was originally grown by many first peoples in habitats where corn’s wild grain cousins also occurred naturally. It should also be noted that many so-called “sedentary” or village-making tribes, should more accurately be defined as semi-sedentary, due to seasonal, cyclical movement of the people for the continuation of foraging practices.

Other than the omission of those distinctions, I am in general agreement with your analysis of the plague called “civilization.” I am also very pleased to see somebody else cite and quote Richard Lee, Marshall Sahlins and Walter Ong.

About the author

George Price was born in 1951 and is descended from indigenous peoples of America (Wampanoag, Massachuset, and Choctaw), Africa (tribes unknown), Scotland, England, and France. He began organic gardening and learning about natural wild foods and medicines in 1970. He lives on five acres on the Flathead Indian Reservation, north of Missoula, Montana, and works as a teacher and historian. (2)

(1) If I were to re-write this, I would add the phrase, “and local biodiversity” at this point in this sentence.

(2) I would also change the end of that short bio statement to, “worked as a teacher and historian before retiring in 2018 to focus on his other work in Earth protection, regenerative farming, and food sovereignty.”

LifeGiving Farm, 2020 tour

This is a pretty complete video tour of our farm, LifeGiving Farm, on the Flathead Indian Reservation, near Dixon, Montana and the National Bison Range. I decided to do this video because we couldn’t do our usual in-person tours this summer, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The entire video came out to be about 96 minutes long, so I had to divide it into four segments for the files to be small enough to upload onto the internet. It works best to watch the segments in their numerical order.

Segment 1:

Segment 2:

Segment 3:

Segment 4:

Garden tour, August 2019

This is a short segment of a garden tour that I gave about exactly one year ago to a group from the CSKT Tribal Education Department, four teachers and three students. This segment just shows the first 12 minutes of the approximately one-hour tour, beginning in the old part of the garden, closer to our house. I plan to video a new virtual tour soon that will show just about everything. I really miss doing these in-person tours, which I have done for many years, in this crazy Covid-19, stop-the-facists-first-then-the-rest-of-the-corporate-death-machine summer of 2020. Last summer the CSKT (Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes) Tribal Ed Dept. hired me to take my MayaPedal corn grinder to the playgrounds at all of the tribal homesites on the reservation and teach the children about how we can feed ourselves. Food sovereignty! Independence from the system! Protect the Earth! Create a new world!

My new book

“The Eastons: Five Generations of Human Rights Activism, 1748-1935”


This is a non-fiction, biographical book about some of my direct ancestors and their relatives who stood up for justice and equality and against racism and oppression, between the years of 1748 and 1935. The topics include: Indigenous land rights struggles; the original spirit and egalitarian goals of the American Revolution (before that movement was co-opted and sabotaged by the plantation aristocrats and capitalists); the anti-slavery movement; race theory and racial identities; and the ever-present American anti-racism and equality movements. Most of the action in these stories took place in southeastern Massachusetts, our Wampanoag homelands, but also in other New England locations, and in Texas, New Orleans, and California. Many of these complex-identity people of color were abolitionists, before the Civil War. This is some very important, foundational, working class, intersecting American history, with many stories that never get told in our schools but should, and hopefully now will.

Did you know that the earliest known sit-in protests in American history were against racially segregated seating in a couple of different Massachusetts churches? Those protests were led by James and Sarah Easton. Did you know that nearly half of the Revolutionary War soldiers in Massachusetts were people of color–indigenous American, indigenous African-descended and mixed? Did you know that during the early, post-Reconstruction, Jim Crow era, the Republican Party in Texas was the progressive, equality-advocating party of the people, in which many of the leaders of that party were people of color, and the Democrats there were largely white supremacists who terrorized and persecuted those Texas Republicans? Those are just a few of the many stories and facts that you will find in this book. Here is a brief description of the six chapters of the book and some of its other contents:

Chapter One, The Origins of the Easton Family and Their Activist Tradition

      This chapter includes the early history of African/Native American relations in       southeastern Massachusetts, origins of the Easton family, some history of Native American resistance to colonialist land-stealing, focused on the Wampanoag and Massachuset people of the Titticut Indian Reservation, and the Easton family’s role in that struggle.

Chapter Two, James Easton: Living the Ideals of the American Revolution

      This chapter covers the early and middle life of James Easton, including his service in the American Revolution, the several protests that he and his wife, Sarah, led against segregated seating in two churches, between 1789 and 1826, and his ascending regional reputation as a skilled blacksmith and producer of iron implements.

Chapter Three, James Easton & Sons: the business, the school, and their opposition

      This chapter details the Easton family’s struggle against racist opposition to their increasing success in the iron implements business, and to their founding of one of the earliest vo-tech type of trade schools in America, founded specifically for young men of color, to address the lack of opportunity for apprenticeships in the skilled trades.

Chapter Four, Hosea Easton: Forgotten Abolitionist “Giant”

        This biographical chapter covers the life and contributions of the best-known Easton family member, the Rev. Hosea Easton—abolitionist, uplift activist, founding member, along with David Walker and others, of the Massachusetts General Colored Association, co-founder of the National Convention of Free People of Color, frequent contributor to The Liberator, author of other publications, and frequent public speaker.

Chapter Five, Benjamin F. Roberts and the Battle for School Integration and Equality in Nineteenth Century Boston

          This chapter covers the life of Benjamin F. Roberts, a grandson of James and Sarah Easton, best known as the initiator of the Roberts v. City of Boston (1849) Massachusetts Supreme Court school integration case, but also a significant activist on several other fronts. Benjamin Roberts was a long time self-employed printer who employed and apprenticed many young men of color over the course of his career, contributed essays to The Liberator, published two of his own newspapers (the Anti-Slavery Herald and the Self-Elevator) and helped organize and publicize many activist meetings, mostly on school integration.

Chapter Six, William Edgar Easton: Still Fighting the Unfinished Revolution

      This chapter provides the first chapter-length scholarly biography of a man who was a very well-known and highly-respected civil rights activist in his day and for decades afterward. William Easton was the great-grandson of James Easton’s brother, Moses Easton, who left Massachusetts in his early twenties to commit his life to “racial uplift”work—first as a teacher, then a newspaper editor, playwright and Republican Party leader in post-Reconstruction Texas, and later, after fleeing Texas for his life, as a writer and political activist in California.


The Appendix of the book includes a transcription of the Petition of Wampanoag sachem and preacher, John Simon of Titticut, for protection from the Massachusetts government against land stealers; a detailed list of Wampanoag and Massachuset families and individuals residing at Titticut and Assawompset who sold land, from 1732 to 1786, with Plymouth County land deed file numbers; an impressive list of Easton family property confiscated by the Bridgewater sheriff in 1819, for which the family successfully appealed for restitution in the Plymouth County court; a reproduction of a published account, written by abolitionist Lydia Maria Child, describing some of the details of the Easton family church seating protests; and a few other interesting items.

I also include a section in the book, “Some Notes on Research Methods, Sources, and Interpretation,” in which I provide some useful advice on doing biographical research on historically marginalized and omitted people of color in America.

The price of this paperback book is $24.00 plus a shipping charge of $4.00 per book. Purchasers can pay by credit card, using Venmo, @Barbara-Price-38, or by mailing a check to me at:

George Price

11486 MT Hwy 200

Dixon, MT 59831

Your questions and thoughts can be left in the comments below, and I can also be reached by email at,

Easton book back cover, smaller


Buffalo, Llama, Eagle, Condor

Buffalo, Llama, Eagle, Condor

The harvest is in now, so it is time to give something back to the Mother of our corn and all the other gifts of Life. We were blessed this year to be able to trade with a new friend for Llama manure, as well as with our old friend for the Buffalo manure that we have been using for many years. As I was shoveling it into the wheel barrel today, I was reminded of the joining of the peoples of the Eagle and the Condor, of Northern Turtle Island and Southern Turtle Island, which includes the people of the Buffalo and of the Llama. What future gifts can we bring to each other and to our greatly endangered world? What will our story become?

Buffalo (American Bison) manure
Llama manure
mixed together

Blog improvement announcement

I just added a new page to this blog’s menu, a table of contents. Right now, it is just a list of titles and dates in chronological order, but I will add descriptive comments to each item, soon. You can just click on the title in the table of contents and it will take you right to the article!

As of 1-13-19, I just upgraded my account with WordPress to remove all advertising from my blog. I basically started paying them an annual fee for what I have been getting for free for the last six years, so that you, the reader, can have one more place to go to on the internet where you will NOT be bombarded with disgusting and invasive, predatory capitalist advertising. If you ever see any advertising on this blog, please let me know and I will see to it that WordPress treats us right. So far, they’ve been great.

Who is the “Baby?”

(I posted the following on my Facebook page in early October, 2018. It seemed to resonate with many people, so I decided to post it here, too. I am transitioning toward spending more time with the blog and less time on Facebook, even though my FB posts seem to reach more people. I think that can change, and the blog will attract more people who want to engage these topics in more depth.)

Who is the “Baby?”

I attended a workshop on alternative eco-friendly communities at the Permaculture Convergence in Hot Springs a couple of weeks ago and the discussion moved around sustainable, Earth-friendly alternatives in farming and building. I suggested that we add alternative, sustainable economics and currencies, or natural economics without currency, to the discussion. I then went on to say that, rather than seeking to raise funding for green projects like these from wealthy corporate agents of the current economic system that is destroying life on Earth, we should work towards shutting that system down while we simultaneously create new, local, Earth-centered economic systems and cultures.

Soon, one of the other participants was evidently agitated by my suggestions and cried out that we should “not throw out the baby with the bathwater,” and then explained that we still need money and charitable funding from corporations for our green ventures at this point in time, implying that at some unknown point in the future we would somehow become able and willing to magically wean ourselves from dependency on corporate grants.

As often happens, I was unable to formulate an adequate “comeback” or useful response at that moment, but thought of something later, after the conversation was long past. My thought was, who is this precious “baby” that we must cling to and protect, without question, no matter what the consequences may be? The toxic, life-destroying, military/industrial capitalist system? Or is the ancient “baby” that we really must protect and serve our only source of healthy life—Mama Earth/Water’s interconnected natural systems? It can’t be both, because one will ultimately destroy the other.

baby and bathwater