It is unclear exactly how the expression came to be, but the consensus is that it is based on American Indians having a distinctly different sense of property ownership than that of European ancestry. One theory is that early European settlers in North America misinterpreted the aid and goods they received from local Indians as gifts, when in fact they were intended to be offered in trade. Many tribes operated economically by a form of barter system, or a gift economy, where reciprocal giving was practiced.
Since the phrase was likely a cultural misunderstanding that unfortunately denigrates American Indians and no known English synonyms seem to exist, a group of freecyclers invented the new word "ersatzgiver" to replace it (ersatz means "substitute" or "replacement" in German).
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