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.

MARIA TALLCHIEF

Maria Tallchief | American dancer | Britannica
Elizabeth Marie Tall Chief (1925-2013)

Above all, I wanted to be appreciated as a prima ballerina who happened to be a Native American, never as someone who was an American Indian ballerina

Maria Tallchief

Born in Fairfax, Oklahoma on an Osage Indian reservation, Maria Tallchief (born Elizabeth Marie Tall Chief) and her sister, Marjorie, began dancing as children and both would later find themselves dancing on stage. As her career began, many tried to persuade Tallchief to change her last name so that dance companies would not discriminate against her. Tallchief refused. Maria Tallchief’s life was permanently changed in 1948 when she became not only the first prima ballerina of Native American heritage of the New York City Ballet, but the first prima ballerina of the New York City Ballet. Tallchief’s role as the Sugarplum Fairy is also credited as one of the reasons that The Nutcracker is one of the most famous in the world. She helped break down ethnic barriers in the world of dance and was one of the first American ballet stars in a field long dominated by Russian and European dancers.

About the Quote

Maria Tallchief said that no matter where she performed, she wanted to be judged on the merits of her dancing alone. She believed that one should identify themselves by what they love rather than society’s preconceived notions.

Also, I wanted to include this google doodle which has more information about Tallchief coming from her family and other indigenous artists.

https://www.google.com/doodles/celebrating-maria-tallchief

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 HISTORY OF THANKSGIVING

Growing up, one is always taught about the First Thanksgiving as a celebratory feast that the Native Americans welcomed the Pilgrims to. After this, the pilgrims hand off America to white people so they can create a great nation dedicated to liberty, opportunity and Christianity for the rest of the world to profit. However, this story is riddled with historical inaccuracies.

The Native Americans that the pilgrims who landed at Plymouth met with were the Wampanoags. The pilgrims landed in 1620 and the chief (sachem) Ousamequin offered them an entente—a friendly understanding or informal alliance—as a way to protect the Wampanoags against their rivals, the Narragansetts. This was not because he wanted to be friends; he and his people had been decimated by an epidemic disease and the English would be able to help him fend off his tribal rebels.

Moreover, the arrival of the Mayflower is not the first instance of the Wampanoags coming into contact with Europeans. Prior, they had been in contact with Europeans, but not in a friendly way. This history involves slave raiding and violence.

The result of telling and retelling the false origin of Thanksgiving is deeply harmful to the Wampanoag Indians whose lives and society were forever damaged after the English arrived in Plymouth. Some adults have said that they remember sitting in school during Thanksgiving and feeling invisible. Not only their classes, but society in general was making light of the historical trauma which weighs around their neck. The traditional narrative paints a deceptively sunny portrait of relationships between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag people, concealing the long and bloody history of conflict between the Native Americans and European settlers.

For more information about the first Thanksgiving, please check out this article! In it, David Silverman discusses his book This Land is Their Land: The Wampanoag Indians, Plymouth Colony, and the Troubled History of Thanksgiving.

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.

UPDATE: NATIVE AMERICAN HERITAGE MONTH

Hello World! November is coming to an end, and that means Native American Heritage Month is coming to an end. To celebrate this month, I will be posting daily about Native American culture, history, people, etc. so stay tuned!

This month is meant to, according to the Nation Congress of Native Americans, “celebrate rich and diverse cultures, traditions, and histories and to acknowledge the important contributions of Native people. Heritage Month is also an opportune time to educate the general public about tribes, to raise a general awareness about the unique challenges Native people have faced both historically and in the present, and the ways in which tribal citizens have worked to conquer these challenges.” My mission is to educate and celebrate Native Americans through my posts.

My Experience: Growing up, my school district covered Native American tribal land, so I went to school with members of the Oneida Nation. At my school, the language was offered as a “lunch-time class” where they were able to learn it during their lunch breaks. Like any language, these classes were not enough to make them fluent. It is crazy to me to think that Native American languages are rapidly dying out as a result of colonialism. As a child, I rejected my parents’ native language. Now, I wished I had learned it, and I assume that this feeling perpetuates throughout the world, no matter the culture.