In the coming months I hope to post excerpts from American Indian Contributions. I'll try not to waste time on the discoveries and inventions you already know (or should know). For instance, agriculture, medicine, astronomy, writing, pyramids, canoes, ball games, hammocks, toboggans, sunglasses, etc., etc.
No, I'll try to focus on the discoveries and inventions you probably don't know about. In other words, the discoveries and inventions *I* didn't know about until I read American Indian Contributions. I hope this series will be as educational and eye-opening for you as it is for me.
A couple of ground rules from the book's preface:
1) It doesn't matter if a non-Native culture discovered or invented something first. American Indian Contributions shows that Natives had the knowledge and skills to produce thousands of amazing achievements. Whether they did something first or not doesn't change the fact of the achievement. As long as Natives achieved something independently, without outside help, they get credit for it.
Besides, most of the non-Native "firsts" came about because of flukes of biology or geography. Jared Diamond explained why in his groundbreaking Guns, Germs, and Steel (another book you should read). Non-Native cultures weren't superior, they were lucky.
2) It doesn't matter if a discovery or invention came to us from a non-Native culture rather than a Native culture. Again, how "important" or influential an achievement was doesn't change the fact of the achievement. The ability to disseminate an achievement, like the ability to disseminate a disease, is separate from the achievement itself.
Typically, discoveries or inventions have come to us (i.e., modern-day Americans) from the Fertile Crescent through Greece or Rome to Western Europe and across the Atlantic. And...so? Europeans had the advantages mentioned above, and they imposed these advantages on the rest of the world through their imperialist conquests. If they hadn't invaded the Americas, we'd be crediting Natives rather than non-Natives for many of these achievements.
With these caveats in mind, enjoy!
Below: The ball court at Chichén Itzá.