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Contributions of the
New England Indians
Reprinted with permission from—Cultural History of The Native Peoples of Southern
New England: Voices from Past and Present. Baüu Institute Press, Boulder, CO.
In celebration of
American Indian Heritage Month, November, 2008
Dr. Frank O’Brien
November 17, 2008
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Our culture is deeply indebted to the native peoples of our country. In New England and
elsewhere on Turtle Island (all of the United States of America) the American Indian has
contributed many things and concepts that most of us are not even aware of. There is hardly
anything that one can do, hardly anywhere that one can go which does not involve the
influence of the native peoples who have lived here for thousands of years. The
contributions, influences and legacies of the Indians can be seen in all aspects of our lives,
and all over the continent of America—from government, child rearing, warfare, clothing, to
the foods we eat.
We will share with you a small sampling of the contributions of the Indians in New
England and elsewhere.
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GOVERNMENT: The first concepts of a true participatory democracy, reflected in our
Constitution and Bill of Rights, come from the influence of Indian democratic government,
attested by the United States Congress.
MILITARY: Guerrilla warfare tactics were learned first from New England Indians in the
1600s. The Quonset hut is based on the Indian Longhouse. We name our weapon systems
after Indians: Apache Helicopter, Tomahawk Missile, etc. Paratroopers yell “Geronimo”
when they jump out of planes. In WW II we used the Navaho and other languages to encode
CONSERVATION: we’re turning more and more to Indian concepts of land conservation
and the precept of Indian’s respect for the land (“Take only what you need and no more”) to
help us combat problems of pollution, the disappearance of the wilderness, overcrowding.
CHILD REARING: the international Bo