Native Americans, the indigenous peoples of North America, have a long and vibrant history that stretches back thousands of years. Their contributions to the world are diverse and remarkable, encompassing art, science, agriculture, philosophy, and much more.
This is a personal source of love and pride as I am a part of the bloodline of Native Americans. From the time I was a little girl, I was aware of this knowledge, thanks to my late grandma, Kathryn Weeden who shared what she knew with me. It all began when I asked her who was in the framed picture in my great-grandmother's bedroom. The woman in the photograph has long, black, straight hair, with a part down the middle of her head. She was very dark in complexion. I now know that we have lineage in several tribes. I am proud to have met a few members of my family who are members of the Narragansett Indian Tribe of Rhode Island.
One of my favorite research moments happened while interning at the Hershey Museum! Unbeknownst to me, Milton Hershey started his museum with Native American artifacts in 1933. He thought Americans were more interested in their history than the history of his chocolate business. My first assignment was archiving Native American images, which allowed me to have a up close view of Petroglyphs of rocks that are presently at the bottom of the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania, along with viewing an amazing and beautiful collection of baskets, headpieces, baby Moses baskets, tools, etc. I will forever have the experience etched in my memory.
Long before European colonization, Native Americans established thriving civilizations. The Mayans, Aztecs, Incas, and Anasazi are just a few examples of the advanced societies that flourished across the Americas. These civilizations developed monumental architecture, intricate artwork, and sophisticated agricultural techniques, leaving an enduring legacy.
Native Americans introduced several crops to the world, revolutionizing global cuisine. Maize (corn), beans, squash, and potatoes were among the staples they cultivated. Maize, in particular, became a vital crop, providing sustenance for countless communities and later spreading worldwide.
Native Americans had a deep understanding of their surroundings and practiced sustainable land management. They respected the interconnectedness of nature and employed techniques like controlled burning to maintain healthy ecosystems. Their wisdom in conserving natural resources is invaluable in today's world.
Native American art is renowned for its beauty, craftsmanship, and deep spiritual meaning. From elaborate pottery and intricate beadwork to stunning textiles and magnificent totem poles, their artistic contributions continue to captivate people worldwide. These creations reflect their cultures, stories, and profound connection to the natural world.
Native American tribes possessed extensive knowledge of medicinal plants and their healing properties. Herbal remedies used by indigenous healers have contributed to modern medicine. Many plants, such as echinacea, sage, and tobacco, were traditionally utilized for their therapeutic benefits.
Native American languages are a treasure trove of cultural wisdom and unique linguistic structures. Their oral traditions, legends, and myths have been passed down through generations, preserving ancestral knowledge. These narratives provide insights into their history, spirituality, and worldview.
Their contributions to democracy are also notable. The Iroquois Confederacy, a Native American political union, established a system of governance that greatly influenced the development of democratic principles in both the United States and Canada. Concepts such as the separation of powers and representative government were integral to their political structure.
The history of Native Americans is one of resilience, innovation, and profound contributions to the world. Their ancient civilizations, agricultural techniques, environmental stewardship, artistic expressions, medicinal knowledge, linguistic heritage, and political influence have shaped our global society. It is essential to recognize and celebrate their invaluable contributions, fostering respect, understanding, and appreciation for Native American cultures and their enduring legacy.
Here is a list of 50 websites where people can learn more about the history of indigenous peoples:
1. National Museum of the American Indian - www.nmai.si.edu
2. National Congress of American Indians - www.ncai.org
3. Native American Rights Fund - www.narf.org
4. American Indian College Fund - www.collegefund.org
5. Native American Heritage Association - www.naha-inc.org
6. Smithsonian Institution: Native American History - www.si.edu/NativeAmericanHistory
7. Native American Indian Resources - www.nativeamericanindianresources.org
8. Native American Indian History - www.native-languages.org/history.htm
9. National Indian Child Welfare Association - www.nicwa.org
10. Native American and Indigenous Studies Association - www.naisa.org
11. American Indian Library Association - www.ailanet.org
12. Native American Indian History and Culture - www.nativeamericans.com
13. Native American History and Culture - www.history.com/topics/native-american-history
14. Native American Encyclopedia - www.nativeamericanencyclopedia.com
15. Native American Indian Facts - www.nativetech.org
16. Indigenous Peoples' Literature - www.indigenouspeople.net
17. Native American Indian Tribes - www.native-languages.org
18. The American Indian Movement - www.aimovement.org
19. Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History: Native American Voices - naturalhistory.si.edu/exhibits/native-voices
20. Native American History for Kids - www.ducksters.com/history/native_americans.php
21. Native American Netroots - nativeamericannetroots.net
22. Native American Rights and Environmental Protection - www.ienearth.org
23. Native American Heritage Month - nativeamericanheritagemonth.gov
24. National Native American Bar Association - www.nativeamericanbar.org
25. Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act - www.nps.gov/subjects/nagpra/index.htm
26. Indigenous Environmental Network - www.ienearth.org
27. Native American Public Telecommunications - www.nativetelecom.org
28. United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues - www.un.org/development/desa/indigenouspeoples
29. First Nations Development Institute - www.firstnations.org
30. National Indian Gaming Association - www.indiangaming.org
31. Native American Rights in Canada - www.narfcanada.com
32. Native American and Indigenous Studies Association - www.naisa.org
33. Native American Indian Affairs - www.bia.gov
34. Native American Journalists Association - www.naja.com
35. Native American Heritage Association - www.naha-inc.org
36. Native American Public Broadcasting Consortium - www.nativetelecom.org
37. Native American and Indigenous Studies - www.native-american-studies.org
38. Native American Cultural Center - www.nacc.uconn.edu
39. Native American House - www.inclusiveillinois.illinois.edu/nah
40. Native American Rights Fund - www.narf.org
41. Native American Studies - www.indigenousstudies.ucsb.edu
42. Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian - www.nmai.si.edu
43. Native American Art - www.native-art-in-canada.com
44. Native American Literature - www.native-languages.org/literature.htm
45. Native American Music - www.nmai.si.edu/explore/exhibitions/item/?id=594
46. Native American Crafts - www.native-languages.org/crafts.htm
47. Native American Health - www.ihs.gov
48. Native American Science - www.nativetech.org
49. Native American Film and Video Festival - www.nmai.si.edu/explore/film
50. Native American Genealogy - www.accessgenealogy.com/native
photo credit basket: hersheystory.com