Throughout Native American Heritage Month, we present a series of articles that detail
the many contributions and history of Native Peoples. New articles will be added each week.


What started at the turn of the century as an effort to gain a day of recognition for the significant contributions the first Americans made to the establishment and growth of the U.S., has resulted in a whole month being designated for that purpose.

One of the very proponents of an American Indian Day was Dr. Arthur C. Parker, a Seneca Indian, who was the director of the Museum of Arts and Science in Rochester, N.Y. He persuaded the Boy Scouts of America to set aside a day for the “First Americans” and for three years they adopted such a day. In 1915, the annual Congress of the American Indian Association meeting in Lawrence, Kans., formally approved a plan concerning American Indian Day. It directed its president, Rev. Sherman Coolidge, an Arapahoe, to call upon the country to observe such a day. Coolidge issued a proclamation on Sept. 28, 1915, which declared the second Saturday of each May as an American Indian Day and contained the first formal appeal for recognition of Indians as citizens.

The year before this proclamation was issued, Red Fox James, a Blackfoot Indian, rode horseback from state to state seeking approval for a day to honor Indians. On December 14, 1915, he presented the endorsements of 24 state governments at the White House. There is no record, however, of such a national day being proclaimed. In 1990 President George H. W. Bush approved a joint resolution designating November 1990 “National American Indian Heritage Month.” Similar proclamations, under variants on the name (including “Native American Heritage Month” and “National American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month”) have been issued each year since 1994.
(From the Library of Congress/Legal/

Our FDL logo, the meanings behind the symbols and the story behind it is on our website. Click the logo below for details.

Contributions: Food/Agriculture

Potatoes, Peanuts and Corn

Nearly half the world's leading food crops can be traced to plants first domesticated by Indians. Native farmers introduced Europeans to a cornucopia of nutritious plants, including potatoes, peanuts, manioc, beans, tomatoes, sunflowers, and yams. Maize, or corn, was by far the most significant contribution, now grown on every continent except Antarctica.

Chewing Gum

Quick! What was the first commercially available chewing gum in the U.S.? If you guessed Wrigley's Doublemint, guess again. The first over-the-counter gum was spruce sap, introduced to New England colonists by Native Americans. But even Wrigley's fortune traces its roots to Indian innovation, in the form of the key ingredient chicle. The Aztecs chewed this latex, found in the sapodilla tree.

Image to right: Indians throughout the Americas were expert farmers. This engraving of the village of Secotan in what is now Virginia depicts the variety of crops Eastern farmers of North America grew. Europeans such as Theodore De Bry, who made this engraving between 1590 and 1598, were impressed by corn, beans, sunflowers, squash, and other crops that were unknown in Europe. (LC-USZ62-52444/Library of Congress)

Inventions: Snow Goggles

Snow Goggles

Some 2,000 years before goggles became an Alpine fashion must, the Inuit [Eskimos] created their own versions. Some examples are carved from walrus tusks, with narrow slits that helped thwart glare from snow and the sea.

Image to right: Julian Idrobo from Winnipeg, Canada - Inuit Goggles (Wikipedia)

Inventions: Basketball


Basket Ball, a team sport is thought to be invented about 100 years ago. In truth, it was played by American Indians about 3,000 years ago. The Olmec, who lived in what is now southern Mexico and Central America from about 1700 B.C. to 400 B.C. originated the game because LATEX-producing trees grew in their area and they had developed the technology to create balls made from rubber.

Because this game is the first one know to have used a rubber ball, many anthropologists consider it to be the forerunner of all modern game that use bouncing balls, including basketball, soccer, and football.

Image to right: Basketball courts similar to this one at Xochlcalco in what is now Mexico served as the playing field for the game invented by the Olmec, whose culture arose in about 1700 B.C. Players earned points by passing a rubber ball through vertical stone rings on the walls at each end of the court. (Abbye A. Gorin Collection from the Latin American Library Photographic Archive, Tulane University)

Basket-Weaving Techniques/Birch Bark Baskets

Basket-Weaving Techniques/Birch Bark Baskets

Baskets are containers woven from plant fibers and material such as twigs, grass, and bark. As early as 8000 B.C., Shoshone people were making baskets of twine that they were able to cook in.

One technique is wickerwork. Variations of wickerwork baskets were plaint-twining, three strand braiding, and lattice-twining. They produced sturdy and tightly woven baskets that were beautifully designed as well as utilitarian.

Pictured to the right are some examples from our own Museum - Ojibwe baskets and other hand crafts.



Astringents are substances that draw together or tighten tissue. They work to stop bleeding or diarrhea by coagulating proteins on the surface of cells. North American Indians compiled an extensive list of plants with astringent properties that were used to treat a number of health problems.

The Menominee (Wisconsin) used Alum root (pictured at right) as an astringent. They administered this plant both internally and externally.

The Oneida used the blackberry for treating dysentery. In his book Earth Medicine, Earth Food, author Michael Weiner writes: “Five hundred Oneida Indians cured themselves of dysentery with this plant while the neighboring white settlers succumbed to the disease.“

Veterans Day: November 11


American Indians have a long history of volunteer service in the U.S. Military, and the Fond du Lac Band is no exception. A memorial to honor Fond du Lac Veterans was dedicated on July 14, 2000. It is made of black and white sierra granite embossed with the five different branches of service and the five original Anishinabe clan symbols; Ajijaak (Crane), Maang (Loon), Giigoonh (Fish/Turtle), Makwa (Bear) and Waabizheshi (Marten).

The monument, pictured to the right, is located beside the museum in Veterans Memorial Park, formerly the Veterans Powwow grounds, at the intersections of University and Big Lake roads on the reservation. It honors all of the Fond du Lac Veterans, the Ogichidaag (warriors), throughout history.

Ojibwe Language

Ojibwe Language

On December 7, 2010, the Fond du Lac RBC passed a resolution making Ojibwe the official language of the Fond du Lac Reservation.

From our Museum Director –

"Nagahjiwanaang is in West Duluth as is the name Fond du Lac. The Reservation up here is called BAPASHKOMINITIGONG, it means an island with no trees, referring to a sacred island in the river that had no trees. It is known as, the stopping place of the Mide Monidoo bringing the “shining light song”. Also, the colors for the last FDL Big Drum are- east yellow, south blue, west green, and north red. These are two things that Fonjalacers should not forget." --Jeff Savage

Click here to visit the FDL Anishinaabemowin site with lessons, videos, and other language resources.

Medicine Wheel

Anishinaabeg Medicine Wheel

Anishnaabek (Ojibwe) interpretation of the medicine wheel -

All tribes have a form of medicine wheel. There is no single answer as to its meaning. The Anishnaabek often referred to the medicine wheel as the CIRCLE OF LIFE symbolizing the natural cycles of birth, growth, death, and regeneration.

The FOUR CIRCLES are viewed in a clockwise direction. East will be to the viewer's right, south on the bottom and west on the left. In native culture we start in the east and rotate to the south and west, arriving at the north circle on top.

(Some wheels have the yellow and red reversed). Medicine Wheel from

Here are some of the interpretations of the medicine wheel:  
4 Medicine Wheel COLORS
East - Zaawaa -Yellow
South - Miskwaa - Red
West - Mkade - Black
North - Waabishkaa – White
4 RACES OF MAN - The 4 Brothers
East - Niibiish aabooke ininwag - Yellow
South - Anishinaabek - Red
West - Mkade ininwag - Black
North - Zhaaganaashag – White
East - Physical
South - Emotional
West - Mental
North - Spiritual
4 HILLS (stages) OF MAN
East - Binoojiinhsag - Childhood
South - Shki niigi - Adolescence
West - Gitziimak - Adult
North - Gchi epiitzjiik – Elder
East - Physical
South - Social
West - Intellectual
North – Spiritual
East - Waabinong - Beginning
South - Zhaawinong - Going Along
West - Epngishmok - Getting Settled
North - Giiwednong - Going Home
East - Mnookmi - Spring
South - Niibin - Summer
West - Dgwaagi - Autumn
North - Biiboon – Winter
East - Sunrise
South - High Noon
West - Sunset
North – Night
East - Nbiish - Water
South - Noodin - Wind
West - Aki - Earth
North - Ishkode – Fire
East - Waboon
South - Shawan
West - Ningabianong
North – Kewadin
East - Semaa - Tobacco - Prayer, renewal of life.
South - Giizhik - Cedar - Courage, cleansing, growth, express feelings.
West - Mmuskode-washk - Sage - Purifies, introspection, direction we go when we change worlds in death.
North - Wiingashk - Sweetgrass - Invites in good.

Native Art

Native Art Examples



Anishnaabemowin for "seed beads" means "little seed (-minens) that's a gift of the spirit (Manidoo), or Spirit Seeds. ”Miinens" is the fruit of the hawthorn tree, miinensagaawunzh. Perhaps seed beads were named for this tree because its 5-lobed leaves reminded the women of hands. They may have learned from the Ursuline nuns, who taught bead embroidery in the early 1700's, that the hawthorn's thorny branches were used for Christ's crown of thorns, and so felt the tree was sacred to the Europeans, who brought seed beads, this gift of beauty and skill.



Dreamcatchers are used teach about natural wisdom. Dreamcatchers were made to imitate the web of a spider to catch all dreams.

Today, many different tribes make dreamcatchers, however they didn't start making dreamcatchers until 1970. Until that time, the Ojibwe were the only people who made dreamcatchers, but the popularity of dreamcatcher earrings in the 70's is what caused the other tribes to pick up this art.