The United States was formed on land that was, for centuries, home to a number of Native American tribes. Subsequently, after a long history of both conflict and peace, the US formed as a union influenced both by European and Native American cultures. The result was a unique shared history and culture that is still evolving today. From language to structures within society, the culture of Native Americans has played a major role in influencing historic and day-to-day development of American culture.
Perhaps one of the most well-known Native American influences on the US is in agriculture. Early European settlers learned from various native tribes how to effectively farm the land, especially when cultivating crops unfamiliar to the Europeans. Corn was one of the staple crops for many Native American tribes, and today, it is one of the most important crops cultivated and exported in the United States.
Another aspect of American culture that has been influenced by Native Americans is the English language. More than 2,000 Native American words have been contributed to or helped develop words in the English language. Further, many names — such as city and state names, regions, and more — come from Native American words. Such names help focus the history of certain regions and place significance on Native American influence in the regions. When Europeans encountered new animals, plants, and weather phenomena, they often adopted the Native American names, which are still in use today. For example, mahogany and hickory are variations on Native American words for certain types of trees.
Native American culture in many tribes dictates that societal structures are matrilineal — that is, family lines are traced through the females rather than the males, which was contradictory to European cultures. Native American women were active participants in decision-making on both a domestic and public level, making women important figures in the day-to-day functions of many tribes. In some ways, such a hierarchy was a model for women's rights.
Even governmental structures in the United States were influenced by native cultures. For example, Iroquois leaders became frustrated with trading with the individual colonies of the United States, so they urged Benjamin Franklin and other leaders to form one strong, centralized, representative government based essentially on the Iroquois model. Eventually, the U.S. adopted a model similar to that of the Iroquois, and even adopted the Iroquois Nation's symbol, the bald eagle, as the symbol for their own nation.