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Happy Indigenous People’s Day

“ Until the lion learns to speak, the tales of hunting will always glorify the hunter” – Chinua Achebe

Today our planet is so interconnected we often don’t know where the ideas, inventions and philosophies that enrich our world come from–this is especially the case when it comes to contributions from those who have been dispossessed. But here are three more ways indigenous culture  has affected America and the world

  1. US Constitution-  The Iroquois’ Constitution was based on three principles: peace, equity and justice, and the power of good minds. Benjamin Franklin’s many letters tell of his begrudging admiration for the Six Native Tribes that “formed a union in such a manner as that it has subsisted ages and appears indissoluble”.  In 1751 he wrote that “it would be a strange thing if the Six Nations of ignorant savages should be capable of forming a scheme for such a union and be able to execute it in such a manner as that it has subsisted ages and appears indissoluble; and yet that a like union should be impracticable for ten or a dozen English colonies”. In 1754, Franklin noted that “the idea of the federal government, in which certain powers are given to a central government and all other powers are reserved for the states, was borrowed from the Iroquois League of Nations”.  Thomas Jefferson said that “he preferred the Native American ideas of liberty rather than the European monarchy system”.In 1988, on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the signing of the United States Constitution,  the Congress passed the Resolution 331 to acknowledge the contribution of the Iroquois Confederacy of Nations in the development of the United States Constitution. The US Congress “acknowledged the historical debt which this Republic of the United States of America owes to the Iroquois Confederacy and other Indian Nations for their demonstration of enlightened, democratic principles of government and their example of a free association of independent Indian Nations.
  2.  Medicine: Native Americans were performing delicate surgeries, treating hemorrhages, they performed difficult amputations, were treating bones fractures and dislocation and used human hair to make sutures and close wounds or incisions and invented the first syringe needles.Native American’s knowledge in surgery was far more advanced than European counterparts because of their use of anesthetics (made from plants). In Europe, doctors used to knock their patients on the head before performing surgeries. It is not surprising then that Spanish colonists preferred to be treated by indigenous doctors than European counterparts.
  3.  Freeze dried food. Incas and other quechua speaking groups ensured they could preserve their food by  removing of water from frozen food. Freeze-dried food lasts longer and is lighter, making it great for traveling and storage.  Incas stored their food crops in specially built warehouses  on mountain tops.  High in the mountains, the food freezes and and slowly dehydrates under low air pressure causing the food to be preserved for a very long time and the nutrition is kept intact.