Native American contributions

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Science and technology
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Native American contributions
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Technological and industrial history
Inventions by date
(before 1890)
(after 1991)


abstract art- Abstract art was used by nearly all tribes and civilizations of North and South America. Native American art was believed to be primitive until the 1990s, when it served as inspiration for the modern American abstract art movement.

adobe- Adobe was used by the peoples from South America, Mesoamerica, and up to Southwestern tribes of the U.S. It is estimated that it was developed around the year 3000 BC.

almanacs- Almanacs were invented independently by the Maya. Their culture arose and they began using them around 3,500 years ago, while Europeans are known to have created written almanacs only after 1150 AD. Almanacs are books containing meteorological and astronomical information, which the Maya used in various aspects of their life.

anesthetics- American Indians used coca, peyote, datura and other plants for partial or total loss of sensation or conscious during surgery. Western doctors had effective anesthetics only after the mid-19th century. Before this, they either had to perform surgery while the patient felt pain or knock the patient out.

aspirin- Native Americans have been using willow tree bark for thousands of years to reduce fever and pain. When chemists analyzed willows in the last century, they discovered salicylic acid,. the basis of the modern drug aspirin.[1]


balls, rubber- The Olmec produced rubber balls around 1700 BC. They were the first people to develop and play with rubber balls as well as manufacture other objects of rubber.

balsa wood-


The Aztec Calendar

calendars- Were developed by throughout North America, Mesoamerica, and South America. They are known to have been in used since 600 BC. American Indian calendars were so precise that by the 5th century BC they were only 19 minutes off.

chewing gum- American Indians in New England introduced the settlers to chewing gum made from the spruce tree. The Mayans, on the other hand, were the first people to use latex gum; better known to them as chicle.

chocolate- The Mayans were the first to drink cocoa. This tradition was later passed on to the Aztecs who called the beverage xocalatl. Natives in mesoamerica introduced it to the Spanish and Portuguese, but they kept the beloved xocalatl from the rest of Europe for nearly a century.

corn (maize) - The domestication of maize, now cultivated throughout the world, is one of the most influential technological contributions of Mesoamericans.

compulsory education - The Aztec Triple Alliance, which ruled from 1428 to 1521, is considered to be the first state to implement a system of universal compulsory education.[2][3]



dog breeds- Dog breeds believed to have been bred by Native Americans are the xochiocoyotl (coyote), xoloitzcuintli (known as xolo or Mexican hairless), chihuahua, the Carolina dog, and the Alaskan malamute.


embalming – Egyptians are known for mummification, which began around 2000 BC. In what is now Chile however, the Chinchoro are known to have been embalming and mummifying their dead since 5000 BC, which would make them the world's earliest embalmers.[citation needed] Embalming is using preservatives to prevent decay of the body.



Geographical Names- Native Americans have had a major impact in names of locations and places commonly used today. There are 26 states in the United States alone whose names derive from Native Americans. Most notable however, are the countries of Canada and Mexico. Names do not limit themselves to political states; there are also mountains, rivers, cities, lakes, and counties deriving from indigenous terms. For a full list see Native American Geographical Names.

Gold plating - The Moche dissolved gold using an Alum/Saltpetre/Salt mixture which was then deposited onto copper vessels.[4][5]

Government: Indian governments in eastern North America, particularly the League of the Iroquois, served as models of federated representative democracy to the Europeans and the American colonists. The United States government is based on such a system, whereby power is distributed between a central authority (the federal government) and smaller political units (the states).

Historians have suggested the Iroquois system of government influenced the development of the Articles of Confederation and the United States Constitution. In 1988, the United States Congress passed a resolution to recognize the influence of the Iroquois League upon the Constitution and Bill of Rights.


hammocks- Hammocks were commonly used in the Caribbean, South and Central America at first contact with Europeans. The Spanish liked the comfortable way of sleeping and adopted them. Europeans eventually used them as the primary way of sleeping on ships.

hockey- Both field hockey and ice hockey are based on a game called shinny. This American Indian stickball game was played throughout North America well before the European arrival.

horse breeds- Appaloosa and Pinto.



instant food-





Llama overlooking Machu Pichu

lacrosse- Lacrosse may have developed as early as 1100 AD among indigenous peoples on the continent

llamas- Indigenous people from Peru domesticated llamas in around 5000 BC.










potato chips-



rubber balloons - The Olmec were the first people to use rubber balloons. Their civilization arose in BC 1700 in the Yucatán Peninsula.



spinning top- North American Indians invented the spinning top. A device used as a toy and made out of wood.


Nez Perce tipi

tipi- A cone shaped, portable dwelling popularized by Native Americans of the Great Plains. Tipis were warm, durable and comfortable and could be easily broken down and packed. A settlement could be ready to move in about one hour.


tortillas- this staple food well known today was used throughout Mesoamerican and Southwestern cultures. Although they were mainly made of corn, squash and amaranth were also popular among the natives. The tortillas were wrapped around different fillings such as avocado. Today this has resulted in the creation of the modern taco, burrito, and enchilada.




wigwam - A wigwam, wickiup or wetu is a domed room dwelling formerly used by certain Native American tribes, and still used for ceremonial purposes. The wigwam is not to be confused with the Native Plains tipi which has a very different construction, structure, and use.

Apache wickiup, by Edward S. Curtis, 1903




See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Jacques Soustelle (11 November 2002). Daily life of the Aztecs: on the eve of the Spanish Conquest. Courier Dover Publications. p. 173. ISBN 978-0-486-42485-9. Retrieved 27 November 2012. 
  3. ^ Wikipedia: Aztec#Education
  4. ^ H. Lechtman, "A Pre-Columbian Technique for Electrochemical Plating of Gold and Silver on Copper Objects," Journal of Metals 31 (1979): 154-60
  5. ^ New perspectives on Moche Metallurgy: Techniques of Gilding Copper at Loma Negra, Northern Peru , Heather Lechtman, Antonieta Erlij, and Edward J. Barry online abstract via


  • Keoke/Porterfield. Encyclopedia Of American Indian Contributions To The World.New York, NY: Facts On File, 2002.