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Nurturing Wisdom, Knowledge and Ingenuity: Reflections on 10 Inventions by Native Americans

1. Snow Goggles – Invented by the Inuit people in Alaska and Canada

To protect their eyes from snow blindness, these goggles are made of driftwood and slivers of bone or ivory to form a frame with an adjustable leather strap.

2. Cable Suspension Bridges – Developed in South America by indigenous cultures

The method of suspended cables with a hollowed bird bone to secure them was used as early as 500 BC in the form of rope bridges. It has since been adopted and adapted by engineers around the world.

3. Raised Bed Gardening – An ancient practice of American Indians

The Iroquois and other indigenous people used the raised bed method to improve soil drainage, reduce weeds, and enhance productivity. Some of these beds were even made with logs or stones placed in a circle or square.

4. Rubber – Discovered by Amazonian tribes several centuries ago

The rubber tree was a major source of sap for the Incas and other tribes in South America. The sap was used to make everything from baby bottles to shoes, and it wasn’t until Charles Goodyear discovered how to vulcanize rubber that it became widely popularized.

5. Topical Analgesic – A pain relief used by Native Americans for external injuries

Native Americans had a range of remedies to treat pain. They used hollow bird bones for acupuncture, pounded nuts as an analgesic, and greased bear gut for wound dressings. One of the most effective remedies was salicylic acid from the bark of a sapodilla tree found in Central America.

6. Spanish Explorers’ Mapmaking Tools – Adopted and adapted from Native American inventions

Native Americans had a variety of tools to help with mapmaking, including bird’s quill pens, woven mountain grasses and other vegetation that were used as small plugs to indicate rivers, mountains and regions. The Spanish explorers adopted these methods and added their own technology like the compass that made maps even more accurate.

7. Bunk Beds & Weave Mountain Grasses – Used as beds to conserve space created by native peoples

The Native Americans used animal bladders and other materials to weave together beds that would conserve space in the home. Bunk beds were also a popular invention among tribes of the Great Plains.

8. Greased Bear Gut String – Quivers were made from bear gut string, invented many years ago

The Native Americans used bear gut string to make quivers, which were a popular invention for hunting. The strings were made by rubbing the grease from the bear’s intestines onto one end of it and then twining it tightly around itself.

9 . Salicylic Acid (Aspirin)- Used as a topical ointment for treating fevers among Native people

Salicylic acid was used by Native Americans to treat fevers and other illnesses. It was believed that this active ingredient had healing properties, and it could be applied topically as an ointment or ingested in a tea.

10 . Oral Contraceptive Pill – Harnessing natural ingredients, active ingredient was discovered among Inca People

The Inca people of South America discovered an oral contraceptive pill, which was made from a combination of natural ingredients. It is believed that this active ingredient was one of the first to be discovered and used for contraception.

 

Native American Inventors have been using their wisdom and knowledge to create inventions for centuries. From snow goggles to suspended bridges, they have a rich history of ingenuity that has shaped the world today. Their inventions are not only practical but also profound in the way that they can be adapted and adopted by others. Native American inventees continue to amaze and influence people, from Kay Marie Porterfield who patented the first all-female invention in 1868 to Emory Dean Keoke who invented a method for locating oil and gas deposits in 2005. Their examples continue to inspire us to use our knowledge and ingenuity to create something that improves lives around the world. As we reflect on their accomplishments and inventions, we can be grateful for their contributions to society and inspired to make a difference in our own lives.