Dear CNN commentator Rick Santorum,

In recent televised comments you said that "there isn't much Native American culture in American culture," implying that Christian European settlers built this country from nothing.

To set the record straight, this is offensively incorrect. Such words indicate a fundamental misunderstanding of the melting pot of cultures that is these United States.

As a former Pennsylvanian senator and U.S. presidential candidate, you should know better.

As a current voice of conservatism with a broad platform, you must do better.

Do you enjoy corn? Or perhaps peanuts, pumpkins, squash or melons? Native Americans were responsible for the genetic selection of many crops that still permeate a typical Westerner's diet. Settlers arriving in the "New World" would never have survived if the native tribes had not shared their farming techniques with them.

How about rubber, kayaks, certain early forms of analgesic or the game of lacrosse? These tribal cultures you so readily dismissed have cast shadows stretching to today, with their discoveries and practices continuing to impact American lives.

The list of their contributions is lengthy, but perhaps the most significant impact by Native Americans involves the U.S. Constitution. Dating to 1142, the Iroquois Confederacy is said to be the world's oldest living participatory democracy. This confederacy of six Iroquois-speaking tribes in New York, Pennsylvania and Ontario, Canada, provided inspiration for the original 13 colonies of the United States to band together. To this day, the Great Seal of the United States features an eagle holding 13 bundled arrows, a nod to Onondaga leader Canassatego, who argued in the 18th century that many arrows together are tougher to snap than just one.

Not much Native American culture in American culture? Mr. Santorum, without Native Americans, American culture would not exist.

FROM AN EDITORIAL IN THE PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE