As the first inhabitants of North America, Native Americans discovered how to live off the land. Many tribes domesticated edible plants, raised animals, and discovered natural medicines. Native American innovations in areas such as mathematics and government greatly influenced other cultures in Europe and Latin America.

 

Foods

Edible plants domesticated by Native Americans have become major staples in the diets of peoples all around the world. Such foods include corn (maize), manioc, potatoes, sweet potatoes, peanuts, squashes and pumpkins, tomatoes, papayas, avocados, pineapples, guavas, chili peppers, chocolate (cacao), and many species of beans.

 

Animals

Native Americans were the first to raise turkeys, llamas, guinea pigs, and honeybees for food.

 

Non-edible plants

Other plants of great importance developed by Native Americans include cotton, rubber, and tobacco.

 

Medicines

The Quechua peoples of Peru discovered the medicinal use for quinine. Also, Canadian Indians knew how to prevent scurvy by eating plants rich in vitamin C, and they passed this information along to the Europeans.

 

Mathematics

The Mayans of Mexico appear to have been the first to use the zero in mathematics. Scholars believe that Asians traveled across the Pacific Ocean and learned about the zero from the Maya.

 

Government Native American governments in eastern North America, particularly the League of the Iroquois, served as models of federated representative democracy to the Europeans and the American colonists. The United States government is based on such a system, whereby power is distributed between a central authority (the federal government) and smaller political units (the states).