Video: 10 Native inventions that changed the world

Ever chewed bubble gum or taken a vitamin? This video is for you.

In the 1500s, after the arrival of Columbus, stories about the innovations of Indigenous peoples began to make their way into Europe. Not wanting to believe that tribal communities could be inventive, they spread rumors that Native people in the Americas must simply be a lost colony or lost tribe from somewhere else. Really? Such rumors still exist today, and they are still being discussed by archeologists. Heaven forbid a Native person be smart.

Indigenous cultures have created thousands of innovations that are still in use today.

Here are 10 Native inventions and innovations that changed the world. 

Follow along with the video. My script is below.

Invention Number 1 – Natural Insect Repellent – To combat insects such as lice or pesky biting bugs, The Paiute and Shoshone washed their hair in a heated infusion mixed with sweetroot. To fight other pests, pre-Columbian Indigenous peoples made structures with cashew wood; the Pima sprinkled ashes on their crops to combat squash bugs; Pueblo people used ground buffalo gourd to fend off garden bugs, and Inca Cotton farmers planted lemon verbena and/or burned the plants as a pesticide.

Invention Number 2 – The Syringe or Hypodermic Needle – Even though historians credit Alexander Wood with inventing the syringe in 1853, they were hundreds of years off. In pre-Columbian times, Indigenous tribes of South America invented a type of syringe made from sharpened hollow bird bones, which were attached to small animal bladders to inject medicine, irrigate wounds or even clean ears.  Indigenous healers also used larger, similar instruments for enemas. Think about that, considering they would inject, irrigate, or use enemas, which is a strong indication of how the human body works. 

Invention Number 3 – The Cigar – There is proof of the cigar found on centuries-old pottery vessels found in Guatemala and other places. On many of these pieces of decorated pottery are images of Mayan figures or Indigenous leaders who are smoking a cigar of tobacco leaves tied with string. The Maya word for smoking was sikkar, which became the Spanish word cigarro. Settlers eventually cultivated tobacco, learning from Indians. An early cigar factory in Pennsylvania gave the cigar its playful name, the “stogie.”

Invention Number 4 – The Baby Bottle – The early baby bottle was used by the Seneca, part of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. Native people would use washed, dried, and oiled Bear intestines and then attached them to a bird quill to serve as a form of nipple. They used a mixture of pounded nuts, meat and water as a type of baby formula. 

Invention Number 5 – Oral Contraception – aka the Pill, taken by mouth to prevent becoming pregnant, first started in Indigenous cultures dating back to the 1700s (likely a lot earlier because this is when it was documented). Back in those days, the Shoshone used the herb Stoneseed as a contraceptive, while the Potawatomi used the herb Dogbane. However, considering the Food and Drug Administration gave its seal of approval to the first oral contraceptive in 1960, Western Medicine’s oral pill came about 260 years after the Native people’s version. 

Invention Number 6 – The United States Government System of Checks and Balances – Wait, what? You might be saying, but yes.  It all began with the Haudenosaunee Great Law of Peace, which was started by Hiawatha and Deganawidah, also known as the Great Peacemaker.  Within the confines of the Great Law of peace are the tribal council fires, aka the Haudenosaunee Confederacy and the U.S. System of checks and balances, meaning the Senate, the House of Representatives, and the U.S. President were all based on elder and younger councils or the Haudenosaunee council fires and the president was influenced by the main chief or Todadaho.

There have been comparisons to the Supreme Court and the Council of Women; the women’s council could remove a main chief from his position by their vote and their vote alone … the last time I checked, the Supreme Court has never been all women that could vote out the president. Wouldn’t that have been a history changer?

Benjamin Franklin himself wrote and published a book, “An Account of the Treaty,” … “With the Indians of Six Nations” with Haudenosaunee leaders’ speeches that Franklin eventually cited to leaders of the 13 colonies – leaders from the U.S. and the Haudenosaunee traveled back and forth, talking about all of this to create the U.S. government independent from Britain’s King – I bet you never heard of that in history class.  Stay tuned for my video on this topic. 

Invention Number 7 – Bunk Beds – In the Northeast of the United States, the Iroquois have lived in long houses for a gazillion generations  – What are longhouses, you asked? They are long extended houses made from branches formed into a large half circle and covered with bark. Inside these longhouses were bunk beds—a creation of two beds built on top of the other. Back in the day, my brother and I had bunk beds; I always had to have the top bunk. Are you a top or bottom bunk bed person? Let me know in the comments.  But about the invention of bunk beds? Hey there, IKEA. From my people of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy to yours, you are welcome. 

Invention Number 8 – Ethnobotany and Pharmacology – Have you taken a pill, herbal supplement or vitamin lately? According to those who have extensively studied North American Indian ethnobotany in the United States, Native tribes have medicinal uses for over 2,564 species of plants. Tribal medicines have long been used to cure colds with such medicinal plants as Guiacum; heart ailments with Dogbane and Foxglove; and Lady’s Slipper as a sedative. Have a problem with dry mouth? Brazil’s well-known “slobber mouth plant,” the jaborandi tree, is a medicine that could help. With this topic, I could go on for hours. In fact, that would be a great video. Let me know in the comments if that would interest you. 

Invention Number 9 – Chewing Gum – Bubbulicious and Bubble Yum – remember those gums? Well, if you are 40 or over, you more likely did – and yes, I looked it up, they still exist. But in terms of chewing gum, it may never have gotten its start if it hadn’t been for the Sapodilla tree. The Mesoamerican Indians chewed the milky, rubbery sap known as Chicle, which eventually became today’s chewing gum! And you thought you were being sneaky, Chiclets – we caught you copying Indians!

Last but not least, Invention Number 10 – Lacrosse – The Iroquoian Creator’s game of Lacrosse has been played for centuries. Yes, it was first played by the Iroquoian tribes, who played the game knowing the Creator enjoyed it.  According to Rick Hill, who is a Tuscarora brother and the co-founder of the Iroquois Nationals, there is a story where Haudenosaunee warriors went to the Sky World, the spiritual realm beyond the clouds, and found that a lacrosse game was going on, much to the delight of the spirits on that other side. Because the game provided such delight for the fans of lacrosse, and it was a way for the men to work out their aggression without violence, it became the Creator’s favorite game.” Today, Lacrosse is played all over the world, and Native players even had an exhibition game in the 1908 Olympics. The History of Lacrosse would be another great article; comment below if you agree.

Nia:wen, so much for watching and learning, I appreciate each and every one of you. If you enjoyed this video, please give it a thumbs up. It would be fantastic if you subscribed to my channel. This is Vincent Schilling, Native Guy in a Vest and Tie, take care, and Ona Friends and Neighbors!