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Home > History > Capital, Human, and Natural Resources

Capital, Human, and Natural Resources

This is an engaging article that describes how Native Americans used each of the three resource types. It gives numerous examples of each.

Human, Natural, and Capital Resources

Human Resources are people who do jobs. In Native American culture, the following could be considered human resources.

  • Shaman - A shaman is a medicine man, healer, spiritual leader or fortune-teller in Native American cultures.
  • Warrior - Warriors in Native American culture are those that participated in battle or raids.
  • Hunters - Hunters killed animals for their families or villages.
  • Chief - The chief was the head of a Native American group or village who held political authority. Although most chief were men, at least one, named Wilma Mankiller, was the female chief of the Cherokees from 1985-1995.

Natural Resources are those found in nature.

  • Trees/Plants - Native Americans used trees as building materials. The Chinook built their plankhouses out of wood from cedar trees. Many tribes such as the Cherokee and Wampanoag used tree bark to form roofs for their dwellings. Puebloan peoples boiled roots to make paints for their pottery. Other plants and plant extracts were used for spiritual and medicinal purposes.
  • Animals - Native Americans used animals for food, clothing and tools. The Sioux are well-known for their near total dependence on the bison, which they used for food, clothing, and shelter. The Inuit used arctic animals such as seals, polar bears, and whales for food, clothing, and protection from the cold. Many tribes used animal parts for various decorations, ceremonies, and even toys. The Cherokee used turtle shells as rattles and the Sioux even used buffalo ribs to fashion sleds.
  • Ice and Snow - The inuit built their homes from specially made snowbricks.
  • Animal Droppings - The Sioux used buffalo droppings for fuel droppings and buffalo tails for fly swatters.
  • Clay - Puebloan peoples built their beautiful pottery from nearby sources of clay.
  • Cliffs and Canyons - Puebloan peoples built their cliff dwelling homes into the sides of cliffs and canyons.
  • Shells - Chinook and other tribes used various shells as form of currency.
  • Sand - Navajo peoples made elaborate pictures called "Sand Paintings" that could extend to 12 feet in length.

Capital Resources are those made by people from materials found in nature.

  • Cups and Tools - The Sioux made makeshift cups out of buffalo horns and used sinew to make strong bows and arrows.
  • Tomahawk - A tomahawk was a kind of axe originally used for chopping, cutting, or hunting. It was made by fastening stones to a wooden handle.
  • Canoes - Each Chinook canoe was made out a single cedar tree.
  • Clothing - Virtually all Native clothing was fashioned from a combination of animal and plant parts.
  • Dwellings - Native American dwellings were made from combinations of Earth, timber, grasses and leaves, animal hides, mud, and in some cases rock or ice.
  • Kachinas Dolls - were representations of different kachinas (spirits) that were given in doll form to children. They were carved from cottonwood root.
  • Pottery - Puebloan pottery was made from mud and clay.
  • Totem Pole - A totem pole was a large, upright carving that featured various spirits or animals from the Northwest Coast that told the story of a family. These totem poles, much like canoes, were made from cedar.
  • Wampum - Wampum was sometimes used as a form of currency by Native Americans. Wampum was most often represented by shells, that were strung along strings that could be worn by the owner. Wampum could also be used to record treaties or written histories.


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