Thanksgiving: Things you didn’t know that were found by the Native Americans

Everyone loves a good origin story. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, here are some things that were invented or discovered by the Native Americans!


10,000 years ago, Native Americans discovered the secret of growing and harvesting corn. European colonists were taught this secret, turning corn into a staple crop around the world. Today, corn is a crucial part of our Thanksgiving feast to remind us of our heritage.

Furthermore, according to Mayo Clinic, this crop has many health benefits. It is rich in fiber which helps with digestion, has vitamin B and minerals like magnesium, copper and manganese crucial for our body. Furthermore, the carotenoid in corn acts as an antioxidant, is good for our eyes, and is what gives corn its bright yellow color. 


If you are an agriculture enthusiast, you would probably know about the origin of the chinampa fields. Chinampa is a method of farming that is still used today in Mexico, crops like maize, beans, chilies, squash and tomatoes e.t.c grows on these small islands of farm.

According to Amanda Pell, a writer for Upworthy, she argues that chinampas should be the answer to sustainable farming. The method of chinampa feeds people, and at the same time, creates biodiversity. It filters and manages water levels, reduces the amount of greenhouse gases being released to the atmosphere, and has a waste system. This technique has also contributed to the method of the now globally common agriculture style, raised-bed farming.

Anesthetics and Pain Relievers

Native Americans used the plant Datura stramonium (jimson weed) to heal external injuries like cuts and bruises. They would do this by grinding the root of the plant, turning it into a plaster. The plant would also be ingested to act as an anesthetic during the procedure of setting broken bones.

They also used the bark of another plant, Salix nigra (American black willow), to make tea with anti pain and inflammation properties. This plant contains salicin, the chemical that makes the famous salicylic acid, a popular chemical compound found in most skincare products in the cosmetic industry.

Hot peppers were also used as a pain reliever. They contain capsaicin. According to Versus Arthritis, it reduces substance P, a pain transmitter found in the nerves. 

These discoveries are very important as anesthetics and pain relievers play major roles in the medical world, whether they be used for surgery, healing a wound, or helping with a patient’s pain. Without them, they might not be as advanced or as common as today. 

Birth control

In the 1700s, Native Americans ingested Lithospermum ruderale (Columbia Puccoon) to prevent pregnancy. Today there is a big market for birth control pills to not only decrease the chance of unwanted pregnancy, but to also help with painful menstruation, hormonal acne and PMS.

To read more, check out our article on birth control pills.


Petroleum is an important fossil fuel found beneath land and ocean floors. It produces electricity, power transportation and makes petroleum jelly (or vaseline). 

Native Americans first sunk pits as deep as 15 to 20 feet in the oil creek to extract petroleum. These pits would also have wooden walls. A french general in 1750 recorded that the Native Americans would have ceremonies where they would light the oil on fire, and would lather their skin with petroleum jelly.


“10 Native American Inventions – HISTORY.” 14 Nov. 2019, Accessed 26 Nov. 2020.

“10 Native Inventions and Innovations That Changed the World.” 29 Jun. 2014, Accessed 26 Nov. 2020.

“Symbols and Icons of Thanksgiving –” 12 Nov. 2009, Accessed 26 Nov. 2020.

“Chinampas: What they are, how they work, and … – Upworthy.” Accessed 26 Nov. 2020.

“Ancient Aztec farming technique has many benefits ….” 19 Nov. 2019, Accessed 26 Nov. 2020.

“Capsaicin | Uses, side-effects | Versus Arthritis.” Accessed 26 Nov. 2020.