Things That Native People Invented

Hello world! Sorry for the late post, but hopefully this longer post will make up for it.

There are tens of hundreds of inventions that we use everyday. These things are so fundamental to our daily routine that we never stop to think of their origins. Some of these useful everyday things were actually invented by Native American people.

  1. Cable Suspension Bridges
Q'eswachaka Inca Bridge: The 500-year-old tradition is still alive.
Q’eswachaka Inca Bridge; pic creds: Inkayni Peru Tours

Rope suspension bridges have a long history of use within the Americas, most notably with The Inca people. They had originally weaved mountain grasses and other vegetation into cables—which could be as thick as a human body—to build strong suspension bridges that spanned across gorges. One of these bridges is still standing in Peru’s Canas Province and is pictured above. Today’s modern steel suspension bridges draw on the Inca design as the model.

2. Aspirin

The salix nigra willow tree’s bark was used by many different native tribes for particular ailments. Native Americans recognized the many useful medicinal and technological qualities of the willow tree. The inner bark and leaves of many willows contains the medicinal extract, salicin, or salicylic acid which is an active ingredient in common aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid). The Native Americans would chew or boil a tea from the willow’s leaves or inner bark to relieve fever or minor pains like toothaches, headaches, etc. This is why the willow was given the nickname “toothache tree.”

Though the Native Americans technically were not the first ones to discover this, I would like to emphasize how important traditional medicine is and how it has impacts modern medicine. In ethnobotanist and explorer of the Amazon Mark Plotkin’s talk, he discussed the significance of indigenous medicine and how things like deforestation and the rubber trade put the uncontacted tribes and their knowledge in danger. Within the Amazon Rainforest is thousands of plants and animals that are used to treat people. The venom from the Brazilian pit viper is the source of one of the most commonly prescribed drugs for hypertension, captopril. And yet, this area is getting ripped apart and chopped down. The Brazilians did not get a nickel from this.

Take a moment to reflect on yourself: what do you think of when you think of indigenous tribes? Are they people who have their own culture and knowledge, like the Akuriyos who have 35 words for honey? Or are they seen as primitive because they “didn’t know how to make fire”? These tribes are dying out, and with them the cultures that once danced, prayed to the gods, hunted for food. All that is left is an imprint in stone, and sometimes nothing more. Plotkin emphasizes that isolated tribes should be left alone, left to flourish. There is no need for us to change the way in which they live. There is a business called human safaris in which they take you to the isolated groups to take their picture and give them goods and tools, and subsequently, diseases. There is no reason for this infringement on to these people.

3. Kayaks

http://intellectuelbouffon.lemultiblog.com/fichiers/intellectuelbouffon/images/ kayak-inuit-gd.jpg | Kayaking, Sea kayaking, Canoe and kayak

The first kayaks were made by the kayaks from natural materials such as wood, whalebone, and sealskin. They were the main method used to travel for many coastal tribes and benefited from their small size which contrasted the large European ships. Also because of their small size, they could navigate choppy rivers and narrow canals.

4. Snow Goggles

First Sunglasses Were Used 2,000 Years Ago By Iniuts
Snow goggles; pic cres: themindcircle

Carved from wood, bone, or seal ivory, the goggles were invented by the Inuit people and allowed a limited line of sight to come in through slits which minimized the harm done to the eyes by UV rays and prevented snow blindness (photokeratitis) when outdoors. These goggles were the precursor to today’s snow and sunglasses.

HOW TO HONOR INDIGENOUS PEOPLES THIS THANKSGIVING

Today is Thanksgiving. I hope all of you can celebrate with your family whether it be virtually or in person. Reminder: the virus does not stop just because it’s a holiday! This holiday can be emotionally complex as it is a day of mourning for Indigenous and First Nation Folks. Here are some ways we can honor Indigenous folks, disrupt erasure and tokenization, interrupt false narratives and move towards reparations.

  1. Decolonize your historical lens. Check out my last blog post or do your own research about the real history of Thanksgiving and the Wampanoag tribe
  2. Support Indigenous Business and Buy Indigenous Goods
  3. Verbally acknowledge the land you are on and which tribe inhabits it
  4. Raise awareness of the current disenfranchisement and racism facing Indigenous peoples to family and friends who may not be educated on the subject

If you want to check out some Indigenous artisans and artists, please check out @kinsalehues on Instagram! Her insta highlights have plenty of resources to support artists and her community. I have linked her account down below.

https://www.instagram.com/kinsalehues/

THE SIGNIFICANCE OF HAIR IN NATIVE AMERICAN CULTURE

Throughout Native American Culture, there are many teachings and practices that vary depending on location and culture. One of the many things important to Native Americans’ cultural identity is their hair. Hair is seen as an intimate extension of the self as well as a connection to the world. Long hair signifies a strong cultural identity in many tribes. One typically cuts their hear only if he or she has experienced a significant loss like the death of a family member, traumatic event or significant life change.

Furthermore, grooming another’s hair represents a nurturing bond between persons. The braid signifies the sacredness of relationships. Single strands of hair are weak when tugged on; however, when you pull all of the hair together in a braid, the hair is strong. This is a representation of the value of family and tribe along with the connection to all of creation.

Julian Brave Noisecat, a member of the Canim Lake Band Tsq’escen Nation says that he wears his hair long because it is “an expression of cultural and political pride and defiance against a brutal history of forced assimilation through boarding and residential schools where our grandparents were incarcerated, forced to cut their hair and become white. It’s a subtle way to flip the bird to the white men who tried to kill and assimilate our ancestors.”

Throughout history, there are numerous instances where indigenous persons face discrimination for their hairstyles. Indian boarding schools—institutions established in the early 20th century as a way to “kill the Indian and save the man”—were brought to schools and forced to assimilate into foreign culture and cut their hair and throw it away. To the Native Americans, throwing their hair away is a form of personal disrespect. Some cultures burn the hair with sage or sweet grass and their prayers rise with the smoke to the Creator. By throwing away the hair, the culture and value of everything the person had been taught was thrown away. Today, there are still instances where children are sent home from school because of their hair. Long hair shouldn’t be seen as a “rebel” act; it is a religious right.

Note: do not touch someone’s hair without permission!! Some might even find that asking permission is a form of disrespect.

Indigenous Peoples Day

Red Cloud - Wikipedia
Red Cloud; picture credentials: Wikipedia

They made us many promises—more than I can remember— but they never kept but one; they promised to take our land, and they took it

Red Cloud, a leader of the Oglala Lakota from the years 1868-1909

This past Monday, October 12, was what is commonly known as Columbus Day, or in some states, Indigenous Peoples Day. Fourteen states —Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wisconsin— plus the District of Columbia and more than 130 cities observe Indigenous Peoples Day instead of, or in addition to Columbus Day. Personally, I do not recognize Columbus Day as a day that should be celebrated. Listed below are the reasons why. This topic might be triggering as it deals with rape and murder; if it is to you, please do not click further!