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Giving Thanks to the Original Innovators of The Americas
Posted on October 10, 2011 | Veronica Adams
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Dear Readers,

As yet another Columbus Day is about to be observed in the U.S.,
I'm reposting this article for you
from my current location in the city named after
the ever wise Chief Seattle.

I wrote this blog post two years ago
in honor of those
whom
we actually should be celebrating. 

Please share it with others. 
This is yet another piece of history, our-story,
that we all should know.

And may the second Monday of every October
soon be resurrected and known officially as
Indigenous People's Day!


I am no fan of the Columbus Day holiday that is still unfortunately observed in the U.S.  My hope is that in time this day will instead honor the 2.5 million Native Americans or American Indians who are all who remain in the U.S. of the 50-100 million inhabitants of the Americas who were here when the European invasion and genocide began.

And so today, on this Columbus Day, in recognition that he did not "discover" America, I choose to honor a some of the countless, little known innovations made by the wonderfully creative indigenous Americans that have ultimately benefitted the entire planet.

  • Almanacs: Containing meteorological and astronomical information, these were invented by the Mayans around 3,500 years ago.
  • Calendars: Developed throughout N. America, Mesoamerica, and S. America, used since 600 BCE. So precise that by the 5th century BCE they were only 19 minutes off!
  • Chewing gum: Made from the spruce tree in New England. The Mayans were the first people to make it from latex gum.
  • Long-fiber cotton: Its export helped to fuel much of the Industrial Revolution throughout the world.
  • Embalming: Egyptians began their mummification around 2000 BCE, 3000 years after the Chinchoro of S. America began the practice.
  • Foods, Glorious Foods!

Approximately 60% of the food upon which the world’s population depends was developed centuries ago by American Indian agrarians who domesticated crops including: six species of maize/corn (150 varieties), five major species of beans, hundreds of varieties of potatoes, squash, zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, a range of nuts, avocado, wild rice, and more.

Popular snack foods derived from American Indian agriculture include potato chips, french fries, and popcorn.

And where oh where would humanity be without chocolate (Mayan and Aztec) and Screen shot 2011-10-03 at 3.28.19 AM
vanilla?!

  • Gold plating – The Moche (Peru) dissolved gold using an Alum/Saltpetre/Salt mixture which was then deposited onto copper vessels.
  • The Incan highway system with roads and bridges all up and down South America and foot messengers who would have put the Greek marathon runners to shame.
  • Medicines: Aztecs far surpassed simply knowing which bark made good aspirin or could be used to for quinine to treat malaria, or which berries treated scurvy. Using their sophisticated obsidian knives, Azteks knew how to perform a variety of surgeries, from the mundane to brain surgery.
  • Anesthetics: American Indians used coca, peyote, datura and other plants for partial or total loss of sensation or consciousness during surgery, whereas non-Indian doctors didn’t have effective anesthetics until after the mid-19th century. Other medicines include Novacaine, syrup of ipecac, and astringents.
  • Political theory: The Iroquois Confederacy of upstate New York represented a union of six tribes. Benjamin Franklin and other founding fathers borrowed heavily from the democratic Iroquois “federal system” of government when they planned the union that became the United States. The U.S. Constitution bears more resemblance Screen shot 2011-10-09 at 10.56.32 PM to the model of the League of the Iroquois than the Greek Senate or English House of Lords. The whole idea of a balance of powers, of electing representatives, of governing by consensus all came from the Indians who were generally ruled, not by a “Big Chief,” but rather by a council of elders.
  • Rubber products: Rubber balls, rubber balloons: The Olmec (Mexico) produced rubber balls by mixing rubber tree sap and latex around 1700 BCE. Along with the Maya, they discovered the process of vulcanization in waterproofing such items as capes, shoes, bottles, tarpaulins, ponchos, and baskets.
  • Sports: Field and ice hockey and lacrosse (Canadian First Nations). Basketball was played by the Olmec over 3,000 years ago following their invention of the rubber ball.
  • Sciences: The science of ecology as well as the American Indian belief system teaches that all life is interrelated and interdependent. This relationship is expressed in American Indian oral traditions and conservation practices.
  • American Indian mathematic achievements include the development of highly accurate calendars and place value arithmetic. The Mayans of southern Mexico and Central America were the first people to use the concept of zero in mathematical calculations.

Also:

  • Diapers, asphalt, megaphones, hair conditioner, hammocks, the spinning top, sunscreen, syringe needles, petroleum jelly, and freeze-drying foods such as meat jerky.

Much is owed the the indigenous peoples of the Americas. –This includes acknowledgement of their immense creative and innovative genius.
Speaking of which, I want to thank Northern Cheyenne artist Christopher Rowland for use of his wonderful paintings, titles listed in order, below. To see more of his work, go to http://www.facebook.com/media/set/set=a.56597471651.78999.570531651&type=3.

 

For those who wish to support the human, legal, and economic rights
of our living, breathing, fellow American
indigenous brothers and sisters,
the following organizations work diligently on their behalves
and need us to give back, in whatever ways that we can:

And one organization that supports American Indian innovation initiatives:

Screen shot 2011-10-09 at 10.52.42 PM

 

"Gifts" 70"x40" oil on canvas (1991).

"Little Man" 48"x36" oil on canvas (1997). Son of Scalp Cane, Northern Cheyenne.

"Blessings" 28"x22" oil on canvas (2005). Buffalo Calf Trail Woman, a warrior woman of the Northern Cheyenne.

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Reader Comments

Some folks have said they wish they had seen this post on the Columbus Day holiday (it was there, but the notices didn't go out until the following day). Please keep in mind, however, that every day is "Columbus Day" for Native Americans; the conquest that "keeps on giving." And so, please keep passing this post along to others, remembering that it also contains links the American Indian organizations that need our support, because thank God -- They're still here!

Posted by Veronica F. Adams on 2011-10-12 21:20:26

I wish I saw this on Mon., but today is the original date for Columbus Day so I guess it still applies. I sent a link to my Facebook status.

Posted by JoyceD on 2011-10-12 21:12:24

So glad you like it, Anita. And yes he is, isn't he? Cheers!

Posted by Veronica F. Adams on 2011-10-10 20:59:24

Love this post and I love Chris Rowland's art work! He is one talented artist!!

Posted by anita on 2011-10-10 15:53:41

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