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Technological Innovations by Native American Inventors

November 8, 2021

The month of November is dedicated to Native American Heritage, a 30-day holiday all about celebrating and honoring the contributions of Native Americans. As our own celebration of Native American Heritage Month, we at Capitol Tech would like to spread awareness of the many technological innovations created by Native Americans innovators.

There are countless Native American inventions that we still rely heavily on today according to an article by reporter and author Patrick J. Kiger of history.com, who writes that Native Americans created several everyday items such as kayaks, mouthwash, and rubber. Even modern day medicine and travel would not be what it is without key Native American innovations.

Among this long list are syringes which were adopted from an early treatment method using bird bones, which are naturally small and hollow, attached to an animal bladder to inject medications directly into the bloodstream. European doctors would not use their own version of a syringe until the 1850s.

Native American medical innovations don’t stop there, of course. Various pain relievers were made using plants readily available. Jimson weed, for example, would be made into a topical analgesic by being “[grinded] to make a plaster that [the Native Americans] applied to external injuries such as cuts and bruises.”1 Native Americans also distilled bark from American Black Willows into a tea, which when ingested, released salicylic acid. This ingredient is the primary source of pain relief from today’s aspirin tablets.

The Native American people have also proven to be quite the engineers. They created the first cable suspension bridges when “[t]he Inca of South America figured out how to weave mountain grasses and other vegetation into cables.”1 Using this technique, these bridges could be built across much longer expanses than with the European engineers’ stone bridges. 

Using the same design as the Inca people while utilizing steel as a building material gave way to modern cable suspension bridges, though a few of the original creations are still suspended across a gorge in Peru.

There are hundreds of innovations to learn about this Native American Heritage Month. Take the time this year to educate yourself and others on the inventions created by Native Americans that gave way to modern society, and honor all that Native American people have done over the centuries.

Capitol Tech strives to create opportunities and degrees for all students to research and make their own technological innovations. To learn more about the many programs offered, visit captechu.edu and peruse the various courses and degrees available. Many courses are available both on campus and online. For more information, contact admissions@captechu.edu.

References

1. Kiger, P. (2019, November 18). 10 Native American Inventions Commonly Used Today. Retrieved from https://www.history.com/news/native-american-inventions