Sunday, April 7, 2013

Native Technology Old and New

Part 22 of the series Are Native Americans Relevant?

  • Native Americans were the first people to realize the global climate was changing.
  • Native Americans were the first to tap rubber trees for latex and treat it to create the first rubber raincoats, ponchos, shoes, rubber balls, bottles and ropes.  The Europeans learned about rubber in 1735.  Its discovery helped initiate the industrial age.  Outdoor exploration and the modern age were not possible without tires, machine parts and electrical insulation.
  • In Pennsylvania Native Americans used asphalt from open pits and early oil wells to waterproof baskets and cloth.  These sources led to development of the oil industry and the myriad products and by-products of crude oil that dominate the world today.
  • Native Americans knew how to construct buildings that have survived earthquakes for hundreds of years.
  • Native American architecture inspired prominent American architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
  • Almost all early North American cities were built on Native village sites, taking advantage of land that had already been cleared and prepared for planting.  The sod houses on the Plains were inspired by Native American houses.
  • Originally Europeans used Native American trails to travel from place to place.
  • Native Americans developed a complex technology for producing superior dyes that Europeans adopted.  At the time of contact Peruvians had 109 distinct hues in seven color categories.
  • Cochineal was the most important Indian dye in North American.  After the conquest of Mexico, Spaniards seized the cochineal plantations and built more.  The new dye was marketed all over Europe.  It became a staple of British textile industry.  It provided the dye for British army uniforms.  The dye is still used in food products and cosmetics.
  • Achiote is a shrub from Central America with fruit that produces the bright yellow or reddish yellow annatto dye and is usually widely as a food colorant.
  • Dyewoods provided purple, brown and black dyes for textiles, food, glass, wood, leather processing ink and printing, and widely used until the 19th century when coal tar started to replace them.
  • Sisal cord and rope come from the agave plant,  indigenous to tropical regions of the Americas. 
  • The largest mound of the Cahokia pyramids, Monk’s Mound, was the largest structure in the U.S. until airplane hangars, the Pentagon and skyscrapers were built.  16 acres, base 1037’ long, 790’ wide, volume of 21,690,000 cubic feet.  Below is an artistic recreation.

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