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.
- Cable Suspension Bridges
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.
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.
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
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.