Eastern Woodlands Indians

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The Eastern Woodlands Indians were native American tribes that settled in the region extending from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Mississippi River in the west and from Canada in the north to the Gulf of Mexico in the south. (The Woodlands Indians are sometimes divided further into the Northeastern Indians and the Southeastern Indians.) A majority of Eastern Woodlands tribes spoke Iroquoian or Algonquian. The Iroquois speakers included the Cayuga, Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Seneca, and Huron. The Iroquoian tribes were primarily deer hunters but they also grew corn, squash, and beans, they gathered nuts and berries, and they fished. The Algonquian speakers included the Abenaki, Chippewa (or Ojibwa), Delaware, Mohegans (or Mohicans), and Pequot. The Algonquian tribes also cultivated corn, beans, and squash. While the northerly tribes relied more heavily on hunting, the tribes that settled in the fertile region of the Ohio River Valley and southward through the Mississippi Delta (the Cherokee, Choctaw, Natchez, and Seminole) developed a farming and trading economy. These groups were also Mound Buildersthey erected huge earthworks as burial grounds.

The Eastern Woodlands Indians traveled on foot and in birch-bark canoes. In the north, they wore deerskin clothing and they painted their faces and bodies. In the southern region, they wore little clothing and they often tattooed their bodies. The Eastern Woodlands Indians of the north lived predominately in dome-shaped wigwams (arched shelters made of a framework of poles and covered with bark, rush mats, or hides) and in long houses (multi-family lodges having pole frames and covered with elm shingles). The tribes in the south lived in wattle and daub houses (wooden framed houses covered with reed mats and plaster). The Eastern Woodlands Indians built walls and fences around villages for protection. Warfare sometimes broke out among the tribes. The Indians used bows and arrows as well as clubs to defend themselves and their lands.

The Eastern Woodlands tribes that lived along the Atlantic Coast were the first native Americans that had contact with Europeans. Friendships were made; alliances forged; land deals struck; and treaties signed. But as settlers in increasing numbers encroached on tribal lands, conflicts arose. These conflicts were between white settlers and the Indians and between Indians and other Indians, as native inhabitants took sides in the conflicts. The Huron and some Algonquian groups allied themselves with the French. The fierce Iroquois League (made up of the Cayuga, Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, and Seneca tribes) sided with the British. When the American colonies waged a battle for freedom from Great Britain, the American Revolution (177583) divided the tribes of the Iroquois League. All but the Oneida allied themselves with the British. In the 1800s many Eastern Woodlands tribes were forced off their native lands by the U.S. government and were settled in Oklahoma and other western states. The 183839 migration of the Cherokee Nation is known as the Trail of Tears because not only did the Indians reluctantly leave their homeland, but many died along the way.

See also: Choctaw, Corn, Iroquois, Trail of Tears


Eastern Woodlands Indians