While turkeys today conjure up thoughts of bountiful roast meat meals and deli sandwiches, Native Americans were not driven by their dinner needs. The domestic turkeys were initially raised for their feathers, which were used in rituals and ceremonies, as well as to make feather robes or blankets.
Only later, around the 11th century, did the domestic turkeys become an important food source for the Ancestral Puebloans. The connection to today’s domestic turkeys is a complicated one, because when the Spanish arrived in the New World, they transported the Aztec turkey breeds from Mexico to Europe, where they were a huge hit. Over the following two centuries, several varieties of turkey were developed in Europe. And then in the 18th century, these European turkey breeds were imported back to the United States, where they eventually became the forerunners to the turkeys we eat today.