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Genesis 2:15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.

When you think of Indians—REAL Indians—what do you see? Most of us see bare chested warriors on painted ponies, chasing buffalo across the great planes. The truth is that ancient Native Americans were some of the greatest farmers the world has ever known. Even nomadic tribes usually spent part of the year farming.

How advanced were they?

Ten thousand years ago Native Americans were growing maize (corn). Here’s the thing: there is no such thing as wild maize in nature. It was created when Native botanists crossed teosinte—a short desert grass with edible seeds—with tall prairie grasses. The result was a strong stalk bearing ears of corn.

And maize was not the only remarkable success story on this side of the Atlantic.

Nightshade is a noxious weed which can cause convulsions and death. But Native American gardeners tamed nightshade, creating strains like potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, bell peppers, chili peppers, tobacco, and petunias. Can you imagine Thai food with no peppers, Italian food with no tomatoes, or drive in food with no fried potatoes? All of these things are Native American foods. In fact, botanists say that 60% of the world’s table vegetables were first grown by Native American farmers.

So Indians were good at hybridizing plants, way back to the dawn of civilization. But what else could they do?

Well, farmers in the Andes mountains were the first people on earth to build terraces on the mountains to create more tillable land. They also knew how to freeze dry potatoes to make them last for years. That’s right: the next time you look at a box of instant potatoes in your grocery store, remember that’s a Native American treat.

All these horticultural facts are just background for an essential Native American belief.

Our Creator loves and trusts human beings so much that he gave us much of his creative power. God calls us to be co-creators. In fact, God has given us so much creative power that there are some things the Creator cannot do without our partnership.

The place where we see the most evidence of this is called the garden.

In the beginning God put us in the garden to help him create. The garden nurtures body, mind, and soul. Without God’s blessing the gardener labors in vain. Without the gardener, there would be no maize, or tomatoes, or peppers.

These days our food comes in plastic wrap and styrofoam shells. We can enjoy a strawberry 12 months a year. We do not easily think of food as a miracle. But God still calls us into partnership, to become co-creators. The more time we spend in the garden, the more we learn about the Creator, and ourselves.

O Lord, you have set us in a wondrous garden so goodly planted. We know you need our hands, heart, and soul to keep the garden growing which we call earth. Help us to grow new life with you.