The Inuit invented the parka, calling it the anorak; in numerous permutations, it is a staple of modern outerwear.

Paper, Parkas & Plastic Surgery: 10 More Awesome Indigenous Innovations

Vincent Schilling

The number of indigenous inventions is staggering, but still the hidden history of the people who inhabited Turtle Island when Christopher Columbus landed prevents many of their contributions to modern life from being known. Earlier in the summer, ICTMN outlined several innovations that were started by Indigenous Peoples’ but whose origin has become murky.

RELATED: 10 Native Inventions and Innovations That Changed the World

Indigenous cultures have spawned thousands upon thousands of innovations that are in use today in the most modern of practices. To continue giving more credit where credit is due to our ancestral innovators, here are 10 MORE Native inventions and innovations that changed the world.

The Parka

Winter is coming, and to whom do we owe thanks for those down coats, vests and ski jackets? Land’s End? Acadia? The North Face? Try again.

Designed to protect the wearer from frigid Arctic temperatures, the parka was created by the Inuit, who called it the anorak. The Russians took the concept and named it the parka, which means “reindeer fur coat.” The original designers used such materials as caribou fur and sealskin, and feathers from the puffin, the cormorant and more. Water repellent, lined with warm fur or stuffed with feathers, the parka has taken on numerous permutations over the decades. But its origin is unquestionably indigenous.


Although China gets credited for inventing paper sometime between 206 B.C. and 220 A.D., it did not spread to Europe until the 10th century or so. Meanwhile, the Maya had invented something even more durable than papyrus, the original material. In the 1500s, botanist Francisco Hernandez recorded observations that the Maya and the Aztec of Mesoamerica manufactured a type of paper made from tree bark, called amate. Many archeologists believe that Mesoamericans had been doing this since 1000 B.C. The process included stripping bark from trees, soaking and pounding it, and fusing it into sheets. This method is still used in parts of Mexico today.

Metal Drill Bits

Prehistoric Indians of America made drill bits of metal which were used, as today, for boring holes. The most ancient to have been found is said to be as much as 7,000 years old. The Mayans in 1500 B.C. also fashioned similar drill bits of various sizes and shapes, out of copper.

Maple Syrup

The Iroquois and Chippewa were the tribes who taught American colonists how to tap maple trees and boil the sap down in order to make maple syrup as well as maple sugar. Though taps now exist to harvest maple sap, the Iroquois were the tribes who once cut v-shaped grooves into which reeds or concave pieces of bark or wood were inserted, to collect each spring harvest.

RELATED: The Sticky, Sweet History of Making Maple Syrup

Physicians’ Bags/Medicine Kits

Archeologists in the Americas discovered ancient doctor’s bags used by physicians of the Paracas culture from 1300 B.C. These kits made for traveling were common among pre-Columbian Indians for the treatment of many ailments. Obsidian scalpel blades, cotton balls, cloths bandages, thread, needles mortars, pestles and syringes are just some of the instruments discovered in the bags by archeologists.


You need to be logged in in order to post comments
Please use the log in option at the bottom of this page



ravenhawk's picture
Submitted by ravenhawk on
Boats designs, from hull and stem to stern - Grandpa Frank Charlie always said - "their boats were shaped like bathtubs" upon arrival now most any modern vessel's have copied NuuChah-nulth Canoe designs namely Navy's.

Submitted by loboloco on
There are so many more things we Europeans should have adopted from Native people. Concepts such as honor, honesty, respect, compassion, etc. Not to mention, respect for all living things, for nature and for the environment. I am from Germany, but have lived in the US since 1987. I am also a Christian. As I learn about Native's culture, spirituality, wisdom poetry, etc. I actually see more of Biblical (Christ's) teachings in it, than what so-called "civilized Christians" displayed in word and deed, as they invaded this land. Hopefully, I will be moving to Crownpoint, NM next year and attend Dine College or Navajo Technical University to start Dine studies and take Dine Bizaad classes. It is a culture and language that cannot be allowed to die.