Excerpts for Native American Thought of It : Amazing Inventions and Innovations



I would like to extend my warmest greetings as you explore this book of innovations developed by Native peoples in North America. My name is Rocky and I am an Ojibway band member from a small community in Northwestern Ontario in Canada.

As a young boy growing up in Northwestern Ontario, I was able to experience a wide range of traditional activities that had been passed down by my ancestors. I remember spending many hours watching both my grandparents as they prepared the skins and meat of the game caught by my grandfather and uncles. When I was old enough, I was allowed to start my own trapline to catch squirrels and weasels near our cabin. However, I was not given the task of scraping the meat from the hide -- that was my grandma's job. I would learn how to do this later. There were many traditional skills I was expected to learn by the time I became an adult.

In later years, I learned to appreciate even more the traditional knowledge that had been passed down by my ancestors. In my studies at university, I also learned about the traditions of other Native groups in North America. From creating tools to developing a wide variety of uses for plants, Native peoples showed their ability to adapt to different environments and to make the most of the resources nature offered. And because they had great respect for what nature had given them, Native peoples were careful to use these resources wisely, in order to make sure they would last for use by future generations.

Native communities in different areas of North America were successful at different types of innovations. Some communities were excellent toolmakers, while others had a talent for creating forms of transportation, such as the toboggan and birchbark canoe. Some groups were especially good at farming, developing new techniques for planting and harvesting crops. Others learned how understanding the migration patterns of animals could make them more effective hunters.

Most of the innovations you will read about in this book were developed before the arrival of Europeans in 1492. Some innovations, such as the toboggan and snowshoes, have changed very little over the centuries and are now used by people of many cultures. Other innovations have been adapted over time. For example, modern canoes are made from different materials, yet the basic design is still very much like Native canoes developed long before Europeans came to live in North America.

Now I invite you to join me on a journey to explore, enjoy, and wonder at the innovations of Native peoples in North America.