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Topic – First Nations Inventions

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First Nations Inventions

First Nations people were the first to farm North America, to travel around it, and to build a civilization here. Like people everywhere, they created inventions to make their lives easier. Many of these inventions are still used today.

Getting Around

Inuit people needed a way to travel through the cold seas that surrounded them, so about 4000 years ago, they invented the kayak. The narrow boat is pointed at both ends and the paddle that propels it through the water has a blade on each end. Inventors have to use the materials that are available to them, so Inuit builders stretched seal skins over wooden or whalebone frames.

First Nations people near rivers and lakes created canoes to get around. Some used birch bark to cover the wooden frame, while First Nations people on the west coast created dugout canoes by hollowing out huge logs. First Nations people also invented the travois, a wooden frame for carrying food and other belongings that could be pulled by horses or dogs. And the snowshoes they created made winter travel faster and easier.

M-m-m-maple Syrup

Hundreds of years ago, First Nations people learned how to boil sap from sugar maple trees to make sweet syrup. Today people also make syrup from birch tree sap. Native people showed European settlers how to boil the syrup and pour it on snow to make maple syrup candy.

More importantly, First Nations people taught settlers how to make tea from cedar bark and leaves. The drink was full of vitamin C and saved the lives of many explorers and pioneers. Native people also shared their secrets of freezing and drying some foods to keep them from spoiling.

Those Pesky Bugs

North America’s forests are full of biting insects in the spring and summer, so it is no wonder that First Nations people invented ways to deal with them. They invented insect repellents using herbs, oils from cedar trees, a substance made from birch bark, and more. Using roots, leaves, and bark, they also created liquids and pastes to put on skin to take away the itch after the bite.

What Else?

You may think of sunglasses as being especially useful in the summer, but Inuit people originally invented them to prevent snow blindness in winter. The goggles they created were made from bone with a narrow slit cut in it to see through. These goggles reduced the amount of light that could enter the wearer’s eyes.

First Nations created many other inventions, ranging from the game of lacrosse (it was originally called baggattaway) to diapers (they used soft, absorbent moss), and even the Jolly Jumper to entertain babies!


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