NATIVE AMERICAN CONTRIBUTIONS

Native Americans have made significant contributions to our society both culturally and through their achievements.
Here are just a few.

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UMBRELLA

Native American umbrellas were used long before contact with Europeans.

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VANILLA

Vanilla is a flavoring extract made from the bean of one of two species of orchid plants.

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CAMOUFLAGE

Camouflage is a method of avoiding detection by mimicking the surrounding environment.

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AXE

Natives living in the southern Great Lakes area invented the first metal axe blade made in the Americas, 6,000 to 7,000 years ago.

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ANESTHETICS

Anesthetics are substances that induce insensitivity to pain or total loss of sensation or loss of consciousnes.

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ANTIBIOTICS

Numerous Pre Columbian Native Americans understood and used antibiotic plants to treat bacterial infections.

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MAPLE SYRUP

Maple trees were routinely harvested by Native Americans for the sweet sap they yielded.

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CRADLEBOARDS

Native American mothers devised a way of tending babies while freeing their hands for work.

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ASPIRIN

Native American tribes living in the Northeast, boiled Black Willow bark to make a tea that they administered orally.

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STRETCHERS

A stretcher is a device that is used for transporting injured people one at a time.

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LACROSSE

The game of Lacrosse was originally invented by Native Americans and played in many parts of North America.

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CHEWING GUM

For thousands of years natives throughout the Americas chewed the sap of latex plants.

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CANOES

Slender, long, narrow, keelless boats with pointed ends are called canoes.

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SYRINGES

Syringes are medical instruments used either to inject fluids into the body or remove fluids from it.

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BABY BOTTLES

Using the basic technology for syringes, the Seneca of the Northeast made a disposable nursing bottle.

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ASPHALT

Cultures east of the Missouri River were using asphalt as a water-proofing agent as early as 8000 B.C.

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ASTRINGENTS

Native Americans compiled an extensive list of plants with astringent properties.

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POPCORN

Native Americans developed popcorn by using seed selection from four to five thousand years ago.

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MOCCASINS

A number of native cultures designed and wore a distinctive style of leather footwear called moccasins.

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MULTI-FAMILY DWELLINGS

Tribes in both North America and Mesoamerica lived in groupings of multiple family dwellings.

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BASKET WEAVING

Native Americans, with their fine workmanship and unique designs, raised basket weaving to an art form.

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SASSAFRAS

Native Americans used the root bark and bark from the Sassafras tree for medicine and to flavor food.

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SIGN LANGUAGE

Before contact with Europeans, Native Americans living on the Great Plains developed a system of hand signs.

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BUNK BEDS

Bunk beds are arranged one on top of the other, usually in order to save space.

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SUCCOTASH

Succotash is a mixture of fresh or dried corn and beans.

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TIPIS

Tipis are dwellings that consist of a hide or canvas covering lashed to a conical frame of poles.

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SNACK FOOD

Native Americans were eating snack food long before the Europeans landed in the New World.

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COMPASS

The Native American discovery of the compass occurred about 1,000 years before the Chinese developed a compass.

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DECOY

Native Americans were known to use fish decoys as a way to entice fish within range so they could spear them.

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WITCH HAZEL

Native Americans used witch hazel as an astringent and a sedative.

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Sources Cited

Encyclopedia of American Indian Contributions to the World: 15,000 Years of Inventions and Innovations

by Emory Dean Keoke and Kay Marie Porterfield

Facts on File Library of American History

Publisher: Facts on File (December 1, 2001)

ISBN-13: 978-0816040520 / ISBN-10: 0816040524

Encyclopedia Britannica (15th Edition)

Encyclopedia Britannica Editor

ISBN-13: 978-0852299616 / ISBN-10: 0852299613

Wikipedia

Wikimedia Foundation

Contemporary Native Americans

Today, there are approximately 560 federally recognized Native American tribes within the United States. Many face an uncertain situation yet they remain a vibrant and resourceful people, ready to contribute.

You already know a number of famous individuals that have been woven into the cultural fabric that we know as America. But did you know that all of these contributors to the American story have Native American ancestry?

Artists

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Angelina Jolie

Actress

Hauden-Saunee and Iroquis

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Johnny Depp

Actor

Cherokee, Creek

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Brad Pitt

Actor

Seminole, Cherokee

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James Earl Jones

Actor

Choctaw, Cherokee

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Miley Cyrus

Actress/Singer

Cherokee

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Kevin Kostner

Actor

Cherokee

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Willie Nelson

Singer, Songwriter, Actor, Poet, Activist

Cherokee

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Elvis Presley

Singer, Actor

Cherokee

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Jimi Hendrix

Rock Guitarist, Singer, Songwriter

Cherokee

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Heather Locklear

Actress

Lumber Tribe

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Kim Basinger

Actress

Cherokee

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Chuck Norris

Actor

Cherokee

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Oprah Winfrey

Talk show host

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Tommy Lee Jones

Actor

Cherokee

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James Brown

Singer

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Beyoncé Knowles

Singer

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Chris Tucker

Actor

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Snoop Dog

Rapper

Native American

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Ciara

Singer

Apache

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Wentworth Miller

Actor

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Lou Diamond Phillips

Actor

Cherokee

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Val Kilmer

Actor

Cherokee

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Megan Fox

Actress

Cherokee

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Carmen Electra

Actress

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Rosario Dawson

Actress

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André Benjamin

Actor

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Cameron Diaz

Actress

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Jessica Biel

Actress

Choctaw

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Hilary Swank

Actress

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Vivica A. Fox

Actress

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Kristin Chenoweth

Singer

Cherokee

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Dolly Parton

Actress

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Cher

Actress

Cherokee

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Tori Amos

Singer

Cherokee

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Anthony Kedis

Singer, Red Hot Chili Peppers

Mohican

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Jonas Brothers

Musicians

Cherokee

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Mandy Moore

Actress

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Quentin Tarantino

Actor

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Queen Latifah

Actress

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Freddie Prinze Jr.

Actor

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Nelly

Singer

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Virginia Madsen

Actress

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Michael Madsen

Actor

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Fairuza Balk

Actress

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Marques Houston

Actor

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The Game

Singer

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Kathie Lee Gifford

Talk show host

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Robbie Robertson

Musician

Science & Technology

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John Herrington

Astronaut (First Native American to travel in space)

Chickasaw Nation

@Tweet
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Mary Ross

Aerospace Engineer (Grand Daughter of Cherokee Chief John Ross) First Native American female engineer

Cherokee

@Tweet
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Jani Ingram PhD

Professor of Chemistry and Research Scientist. Taught at Dartmouth College and University of Miami

Navajo

@Tweet
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Jerrel Yakel PhD

NIH Neuroscientist

Luiseno and La Hoya

@Tweet
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Marigold Linton PhD

Cognitive Psychologist, Great Grand Daughter of Antonio Garra, War Chief of the Cupeno

Chuilla-Cupeno

@Tweet

Athletes

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Tiger Woods

Hall of fame Golfer

@Tweet
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Charles Barkley

Hall of fame Basketball Player

@Tweet
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Joe “The Boss” Hipp

Retired Professional Boxer (1995 World Heavyweight Challenger)

Blackfeet Tribe

@Tweet
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Notah Begay III

Professional Golfer, Golf Analyst (100% Native American)

Navajo, San Felipe, Isleta

@Tweet
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Christopher “Chris” Wondolowski

Professional U.S. Soccer Player

Kiowa Tribe, Oklahoma

@Tweet
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Jacoby Ellsberry

Professional Baseball Player (Center Field)

Navajo

@Tweet
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Joba Chamberlain

Professional Baseball Player (Relief Pitcher)

Winnebago

@Tweet
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Sam Bradford

Professional Football Player (Heisman Trophy Winner, Quarterback)

Cherokee

@Tweet
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Shoni Schimmel

WNBA Professional Basketball Player

Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation

@Tweet

Judges & Statesmen

The First Statesman

One of the first achievers was Squanto (1581-1622). As a teenager on what is now Cape Cod he first met a group of Europeans led by Captain George Weymouth. He learned to speak English and returned to England with them. Later, he traveled back to what is now America. However, he didn't stay here long as he and 19 other members of his tribe were taken captive by Weymouth, brought back to England and sold as slaves. Years later, Squanto once again found his way back to America. When the Pilgrims landed, and since Squanto could speak English, he helped establish a treaty between the local Native Americans and the Pilgrims. He helped the Pilgrims settle in these new lands by teaching them to fish, grow local crops, and survive through the winter. Despite the way he was treated in England, he still wanted peace and to help the settlers. The Pilgrims would likely have not survived without Squanto's help.

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Deb Haaland

In 2018, she became one of the first Native American women elected to Congress.

Pueblo of Laguna tribe

@Tweet
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Sharice Davids

In 2018, she became one of the first Native American women elected to Congress.

Ho-Chunk Nation

@Tweet
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Diane Humetewa

First Native American woman and tribal member to serve as a federal judge

Hopi Tribe

@Tweet
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Byron Mallott

Lt. Governor of Alaska

Native American leader of Tingit Nation

@Tweet
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Tom Cole

Congressman from Oklahoma

Chickasaw Nation

@Tweet
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Markwayne Mullin

Congressman from Oklahoma

Cherokee Nation

@Tweet

Celebrating Native Americans!