Woodland Indians of the Easter Wilderness

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Woodlands Indians of the Eastern Wilderness

The Woodland Indians were the first Indians that the American colonists met. In the

beginning the setlers from Europe thought that the Indians were ignorant savages. But

soon they found out that they can learn a lot from the Indians. Indian ways were valued

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because they were suited to convert the things around them into food, clothing ,

shelter, weapons, tools, and utensils. There were no stores in the wilderness, so the

families had to make these things for themselves.

Living and surviving in the Eastern Woodland Region

All the Eastern Woodland Indians lived in much the same way. But from place to place

there were differences in climate and available plants and animals. The tribes also differed

in housing, and clothing styles, in food habits ,and in means of transportation. The

Iroquois and certain other New York tribes built the larger long house. Its shape was

similar to that of the arched metal Quonset hut built during World War II. Five to a

dozen families might live together in the long house.

Perhaps the most widely used housing was the bark covered wigwam. Sometimes it

was shaped like a cone and sometimes it was more of a dome. The Indians made a frame

for this hut out of small flexible trees, or saplings. They stuck them firmly in the ground in

a circle, then bent them overhead in an arch and tied them together with tough bark fibers

or with rawhide. Next, other slender branches were wrapped in circles around the bent

poles and tied to them, and slabs of bark were tied to this frame to form the roof and

walls. Space was left vacant for a door and a smoke hole. Platforms inside served as

beds, chairs, and shelves.

Farming and food preparation

The woman planted corn, beans pumpkin, squash, tobacco, and melons in the gardens.

They harvested the crops and prepared the food. They parched, or toasted corn for the

warriors on the march. They also dried corn , squash, berries, meat, and fish for the cold

months. They stewed corn and beans into succotash and made soups of corn with meat or

fish in pottery jars. Some areas offered special things to eat such as in the forest of the

northeast, the Indians tapped the sugar maple trees and boiled the sap to make sugar.


Many days of work were required to make the buckskin garments the Indians wore.

Tailoring the garments met cutting this skins with shell of flint knives and sewing them

with animal sinews(cords). At work the women wore a wraparound skirt, the men a

breech cloth. The men usually shaved their heads, leaving only a scalp lock. Their

headdresses were of dyed deer hair or a few feathers. The fur robes worn in the winter left

one shoulder bare.

Cultural and religious practices

Most of the Indian dances and ceremonials were healed for religious or superstitions

reasons. By honoring their spirits or gods, the Indians hoped to gain help and favor.

Medicine men or religious leaders danced to seek aid for sick. Hunters danced the deer

dance or the buffalo dance to attract abundant game. Farming tribes staged ceremonials

to bring rain or to make the corn grow or ripen. Certain dances dramatized stories from

the history or mythology of the tribe. Other ceremonies were held when children arrived

at manhood or womanhood, or to initiate them into the the religious secret societies of the

tribe. Although the purpose of a dance was serious, the Indians usually made it the

occasion for fun and sociability. In many tribes there were clowns or other fun makers

among the musicians or dancers. In the evening or at the end of a festival, social dances

were sometimes held.

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