16 Indian Innovations: From Popcorn to Parkas

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Snow Goggles
Some 2,000 years before goggles became an Alpine fashion must, the Inuit [Eskimos] created their own versions. Some examples are carved from walrus tusks, with narrow slits that helped thwart glare from snow and the sea.

Duck Decoys
Constructed of feathers and reeds, 2,000-year-old duck decoys were found in Nevada in 1924. Archaeologists believe that early native hunters used them to lure waterfowl much as hunters use plastic decoys today.

Moccasin styles were once so distinctive that they could reveal a person's tribe. (Fringe may have helped erase footprints.) Now native-inspired shoe designs can be found worldwide, from lightweight cowhide moccasins to toasty mukluks, named for the original sealskin or reindeer-skin boots worn by Eskimos.

Throughout the Americas, Indians mastered the art of blending in as a tactic for both hunting and warfare. Many hunters would paint their faces and/or wear the skins of the animals they were stalking. And like many bird hunters today, some Native Americans concealed themselves behind blinds.


We're not sure how they said, "This won't hurt a bit." But we do know that some ancient North American native healers injected medicine beneath the skin. Making the most of the materials at hand, they fashioned hypodermic needles out of hollow bird bones and small animal bladders.

Dental Care
North American Indians scrubbed their teeth with the ragged ends of sticks, while the Aztec Indians applied salt and charcoal to their choppers.

Ball Games
Were the Maya and Aztec sports fanatics? Having found ancient rubber balls, ceremonial courts, and depictions of ballplayers in Mesoamerica—the parts of the Americas inhabited by advanced peoples before the arrival of Columbus—archaeologists think both cultures revered certain ball games.

Introduction and some additional text adapted from "North American Indian Cultures" map, September 2004, National Geographic Maps. Other source: "Know How," Fall 2004, National Museum of the American Indian magazine.

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