Native Americans Before European Contact

Native Americans Before European ContactAchievements by Native Americans before the arrival of Europeans include:

-stayed healthy because they bathed regularly and ate well. Europeans were having plagues from filthy living conditions and frequent famines.

-native people were using medicinal plants and things like aspirin, syringes, and surgeries when Europeans were still doing blood letting and other questionable practices.

-built cities larger than most in Europe at the time -with functioning sanitation systems –while Europeans were dumping chamber pots out of windows onto the streets below.

-successfully created cultures where everyone was taken care of -from the very young to the old and infirm. Europe had class systems where the very rich feasted while the very poor starved.

-had complex forms of governments. The Haudenasaunee People’s Confederacy  (Iroquois) served as the model and inspiration for the US Constitution.

-have the oldest continuous democracy in the world -the Haudenasaunee Confederacy, since 909 AD –while most of Europe was still stooping down to royalty and waging war with everyone around them.

-invented snowshoes, snow goggles, canoes, toboggans and kyacks. Learned to cultivate and create maple syrup and rubber.

-had homes all across the continent ideally suited to the climate and purpose.

-were agriculturally superior. Today 70% of the worlds crops originated in the pre-European Americas, including the potato (hundreds of varieties were cultivated in South America and later North America), corn, which was cross pollinated to produce varieties able to withstand different climates, tomatoes, wild rice, etc.

-understood crop rotation and the importance of leaving ground fallow and fertilized, as well as the medicinal uses of thousands of plants.

-many cultures were matrilineal, where women and men shared power and duties equally. Native women had equality thousands of years before European women would begin to fight for their own equality (in fact, it was Native American women who inspired them to do so).

-American Indian calendars were so precise that by the 5th century BC they were only 19 minutes off.

Dr. Susan La Flesche Picotte was the first Native American woman to become a physician in the United States.

Chicken pox and measles, endemic but rarely fatal among Europeans, often proved deadly to Native Americans.

After European explorers reached the West Coast in the 1770s, smallpox rapidly killed at least 30% of Northwest Coast Native Americans. Puget Sound area populations, once estimated as high as 37,000 people, were reduced to only 9,000 survivors by the time settlers arrived en masse in the mid-19th century.

According to a recent US Census, the estimated 2,932,248 Native Americans are the most impoverished of all ethnic groups -ranking at the bottom of nearly every social statistic: highest teen suicide rate of all minorities at 18.5 per 100,000, highest rate of teen pregnancy, highest high school drop-out rate at 54%, lowest per capita income, and unemployment rates between 50% to 90%.

A recent Harvard study on Native American Economic Development lists racism, as well as as a complex host of other mitigating factors that impede the economic growth of Native Americans.

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