Evidence exists that Indians, far from being innocent inhabitants of a pristine landscape, were instead keen manipulators of their environment and sculpted it to meet their needs.
Indications of well-tended “garden” Americas include:
- Descriptions of a lack of undergrowth among the “primeval” forests of eastern North America, often described as “park like.” These woods may have been cultivated with fire, thus benefiting and encouraging certain plants and animals over others;
- Evidence of careful soil modification and fruit crop cultivation in the Amazon Basin; in essence, the rainforests we know today might actually be like weeds growing in an abandoned flowerbed;
- Evidence of deliberate and specific burning of the Great Plains to cultivate pasturage for bison.
Indians may have managed animals on a grand scale. Instead of “ranching” livestock like Europeans, they transformed ecosystems by natural forces like fire to encourage the growth of species—like buffalo— they found useful.