Inventiveness and ingenuity from North America's First Nations.
Everyone knows that moccasins, canoes and toboggans were invented by the Aboriginal people of North America, but did you know that they also developed their own sign language, as well as syringe needles and a secret ingredient in soda pop?
Depending on where they lived, Aboriginal communities relied on their ingenuity to harness the resources available to them. Some groups, such as the Iroquois, were particularly skilled at growing and harvesting food. From them, we get corn and wild rice, as well as maple syrup.
Other groups, including the Sioux and Comanche of the plains, were exceptional hunters. Camouflage, fish hooks and decoys were all developed to make the task of catching animals easier. And even games-lacrosse, hockey and volleyball -- have Native American roots.
Other clever inventions and innovations include:
- Hair conditioner
- Surgical knives
With descriptive photos and information-packed text, this book explores eight different categories in which the creativity of First Nations peoples from across the continent led to remarkable inventions and innovations, many of which are still in use today.close this panel
I would like to extend my warmest greetings as you explore this book of innovations developed by Native peoples in North America. My name is Rocky and I am an Ojibway band member from a small community in Northwestern Ontario in Canada.
As a young boy growing up in Northwestern Ontario, I was able to experience a wide range of traditional activities that had been passed down by my ancestors. I remember spending many hours watching both my grandparents as they prepared the skins and meat of the game caught by my grandfather and uncles. When I was old enough, I was allowed to start my own trapline to catch squirrels and weasels near our cabin. However, I was not given the task of scraping the meat from the hide -- that was my grandma's job. I would learn how to do this later. There were many traditional skills I was expected to learn by the time I became an adult.
In later years, I learned to appreciate even more the traditional knowledge that had been passed down by my ancestors. In my studies at university, I also learned about the traditions of other Native groups in North America. From creating tools to developing a wide variety of uses for plants, Native peoples showed their ability to adapt to different environments and to make the most of the resources nature offered. And because they had great respect for what nature had given them, Native peoples were careful to use these resources wisely, in order to make sure they would last for use by future generations.
Native communities in different areas of North America were successful at different types of innovations. Some communities were excellent toolmakers, while others had a talent for creating forms of transportation, such as the toboggan and birchbark canoe. Some groups were especially good at farming, developing new techniques for planting and harvesting crops. Others learned how understanding the migration patterns of animals could make them more effective hunters.
Most of the innovations you will read about in this book were developed before the arrival of Europeans in 1492. Some innovations, such as the toboggan and snowshoes, have changed very little over the centuries and are now used by people of many cultures. Other innovations have been adapted over time. For example, modern canoes are made from different materials, yet the basic design is still very much like Native canoes developed long before Europeans came to live in North America.
Now I invite you to join me on a journey to explore, enjoy, and wonder at the innovations of Native peoples in North America.
Rocky Landon is an Ojibway band member from Northwestern Ontario. He taught junior high students for 11 years before working as a Native Studies consultant. He currently works with at-risk students.
David MacDonald is a freelance editor and author of several children's books. He lives in Toronto.close this panel
All of this history teaches the reader that Native America is not one homogenous culture, rather a plethora of cultures spread across an enormous continent.