American Indians were very careful scientists. They learned important facts about objects in the sky and used them to tell time, to predict the changes of the seasons, and to use maps. Today, American Indian scientists help us learn more about the sky and galaxy. In fact, Native Americans have known for thousands of years that there was a black hole located through the center of the bowl in the big dipper. NASA discovered it just a few years ago.
John Herrington - Astronaut
American Indians new that the world was round long before Europeans ever did. For example, this is reflected in the Lakota Creation Story. The first four beings - Inyan (rock), Maka (earth), Taku Skan Skan (sky), and Wi (sun) are all round because roundness is the most sacred state. The inclusion of this information in such an ancient story shows that the Lakota have known that the Earth is round for many thousands of years.
Dr. Robin Kimmerer - Plant Ecologist
Maize is a popular food, and it is well known that it was a gift to the rest of the world from the Native Americans. What is not commonly known is that corn is the result of one of the most amazing plant breeding accomplishments in the history of the world. Maize is the result of many years of cultivation and domestication of a wild grass known as teosinte. Arturo Warman, a maize historian, has called maize "a thoroughly cultural artifact, in that it is truly a human invention, a species that does not exist naturally in the wild and can only survive if sown and protected by humans." It is also believed that the domestication of maize is directly related to the rise of civilization in Mesoamerica. Since the days when it was given to Columbus, maize has affected everything from land use, to food production, to cuisine, and to population growth around the world.
Dr. David R. Burgess - Biologist
Another amazing fact about corn is that the Native Americans used alkaline substances to remove the hard exterior of corn once it hardened. Once corn dries, the outer edge of it becomes lignified. This means that the cells around the center of the corn kernel become tightly latticed, like the weaving of a basket. Native Americans were able to use the alkaline substances to soften the corn and make it edible again. Often, certain kinds of corn were kept hard so that the people could make foods like popcorn from them.
Dr. Jani Ingram - Chemist
The Native American tribes who live in areas where there are cedar trees have always known to throw cedar on a fire during a thunderstorm. Grandmothers and Mothers would throw pieces of cedar on the fire when lightening was near, because they knew that cedar warded off lightening. What is the value of this in the world of Chemistry? Because cedar wood has a negative charge which repels the negative charge of lightening, and throwing the cedar into the fire reduced the risk that lightening would strike the area where the people were. Native Americans have had a practical understanding of Chemistry since long before the science itself was developed.
Dr. Robert Megginson -Mathematician
Biographies of Native American Scientists
Society for Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science
American Indian Science and Engineering Society
The Maize Page