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10 Native American Inventions Commonly Used Today

November 14, 2019 in History

By Patrick J. Kiger

From kayaks to contraceptives to pain relievers, Native Americans developed key innovations long before Columbus reached America’s shores.

From the tip of South America to the Arctic, Native Americans developed scores of innovations—from kayaks, protective goggles and baby bottles to birth control, genetically modified food crops and analgesic medications—that enabled them to survive and flourish wherever they lived.

In fact, early European explorers who reached the Western Hemisphere were apparently so impressed by the achievements of the people they encountered that they The technology didn’t show up in European medicine until the 1850s, when Scottish physician Alexander Wood began using needles to inject morphine to relieve pain.


Caribbean Indians invented the hammock as a lightweight bed for hot climate.

When Christopher Columbus landed in the Caribbean, he found natives resting in hammocks, a bed made from cotton netting and suspended between two trees or poles, according to his letters. Hammocks were so comfortable and convenient that European sailors began sleeping in them on merchant and naval ships, according to Indians of North America.

Oral Contraceptives

The Shoshone and Navajo tribes used stoneseed, also known as Columbia Puccoon (Lithospermum ruderale) as an oral contraceptive, long before the pharmaceutical industry developed birth control pills.


Various tribes in Northeastern North America used the wildflower goldthread (Coptis trifolia) as a mouthwash and a treatment for oral pain.

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