Why Is It Crucial to Learn About Native American Tribes?

Why Is It Crucial to Learn About Native American Tribes? November 2021

Why Is It Crucial to Learn About Native American Tribes?

Saying that the Native American tribes were the first inhabitants of the American continent is fine, but the mere fact of being the aboriginals is not the whole story. Native American tribes have contributed greatly to not just the growth of America, but also to the shaping of the modern world as we know it. That they were brave warriors, expert hunters and lived in tribes with sophisticated social constructs is true, but they were and are so much more than that and a list, even a partial one, of their contributions will show why we need to learn about how they have shaped our world.

Native American Tribes – What You May Not Know

  • Agriculture: Crops that were grown by the Native Americans are now staples in the diet of people across the globe. Think of what our meals would be like if the Native Americans had not given us potatoes, sweet potatoes, peanuts, squashes and pumpkins, tomatoes, papayas, avocados, pineapples, guavas, chili peppers, chocolate (cacao), and many species of beans, to name just a few of the foods that have Native American origin.
  • Non-Edible Plants: Besides food crops, the tribes farmed other crops that are key elements today in global trade. They include tobacco, cotton and rubber. Animals and Animal Products: Turkeys, guinea pigs and llamas were reared by the tribes and used for both eating and milk and other staples. Honeybees were domesticated for the honey they produced.
  • Medicines: The medicinal use of quinine to fight malaria and other diseases was discovered by the tribes in Central America and this knowledge was taken from them and spread across the world. The consumption of plants rich in vitamin C to prevent scurvy was learned from the tribes of North America and benefited the population of all the continents.
  • Mathematics: Although the concept of zero in mathematics has for centuries been accepted as originating in India, there is now evidence to show that Asians may have crossed the Pacific Ocean in pre-historic times and learned about this concept from the native Americans.
  • Government: Many North American tribes had a federal structure with a federal administrative structure. This was the forerunner of not just the United States government but also of many other democracies where power is shared between the federal authorities and the regional (state) units.
  • Transportation: The highway system that connects our country is built, in many cases, on tribal land and follows the native trails.
  • Military Achievements: The Confederate terms of surrender signed at Appomattox were written out by a Native American. Native American code talkers (“wind talkers”) helped American armed forces win wars. A Native American was among those who raised the flag at Iwo Jima.

Native American tribes and their history, society, and culture have influenced the modern world in many other ways. To be ignorant of it is to be ignorant of who we are.