North American Native American Cultural Areas: Eastern Woodlands Area


Figure 1.--American artist Eastman Johnson visited relative in Wisconsin, the western frontier t the time (1856-57). They were living along the coast of Lake Superior. He traveled in the area and made contact with the Ojibwa peole through his bguide Stephen Bonga of Ojibwe/African-American origins. This is a charcoal drawing of Kay-be-sen-day-way and We-win (1857). It is unusual in the way he has humanized the mother-child pair. And also unusually we have their names.

Geographically the Eastern Woodland area is a broad belt on either side of the Great Lakes, extending to the Atlantic Ocean. Excepting the extreme western and northern borders, the entire area was forested. These are the tribes encountrered by the initial French and English colonists. Most of the tribes in this area exhibited similarity in clothing, folklore, certain religious concepts, social, economic, political, ceremonial organiation, and art. The tribes were characterized by clan organization and higly developed religious concepts. The Eastern Woodland tribes group made much more use of wild rice than tribes in other areas. Unlike the Plains tribes, the Eastern Woodland tribes did not aquire horses to any extent. The Iroquois Nation (Six Nations Confederacy or the Haudenosaunee Confederacy) were the most highly organized group in the area and dominated a huge area. Thev best known tribe of the Iriquois was the Mohawk, keepers of the Eastern Door. Other Eastern Woodland tribes included the Algonquian, Fox, Kickapoo, Menominee, Ojibwa, Ottawa, Potawatami, Sauk, and others. The Ojibwa today are particularly important. It is unclear just when these tribes first came in contact with Europeans. The Vikings seems to have been the first Europeans. There may also have been contacts with Europeans fishing the Grand Banks. Early accounts suggest what is now New England was well populated and that the Native Americans there pursued a mixture of agriculture and hunting/fishing which varied depending on te available resources. The different tribes had a network of alliances in competition with each other. The competition between tribes as in Mexico and South America proved a critical weakness which allowed the small struggling Plymouth Colony to survive and become establishd. Native Americans appeared to have been better nourished than Europeans. English settlement did not begin until the 17th century because the Native Americans were strong enough to prevent settlement. Most of the tribes were anililated by the European colonists and their diseases to which they had no immunity. As this happened primarily before the 19th century invention of photography, there is no photographic record of these tribes. The Federal Government ordered most of the survivoirs to be removed west of the Mississippi. The Mowhawk St. Regis Reservation was one of the few survivors. The Penobscot were another. An issue with the Eastern Woodland tribes is that many over time were pushed west on to the Great Plains. One of these tribes was the Meskwaki who inhabited southern Ontario near the Great Lakes.

Geography

Geographically the Eastern Woodland area is a broad belt on either side of the Great Lakes, extending to the Atlantic Ocean. Excepting the extreme western and northern borders, the entire area was forested. This more than anything astonished the Europens who were well on theay of deforesting Western Europe at atime that wood was a vital commodity in the economy.

European Encounter

It is unclear just when these tribes first came in contact with Europeans. The Vikings seems to have been the first Europeans. There may also have been contacts with Europeans fishing the Grand Banks. Early accounts suggest what is now New England was well populated and that the Native Americans there pursued a mixture of agriculture and hunting/fishing which varied depending on the available resources. The Eastern Woodland tribes are the tribes encountrered by the initial French and English colonists.

Culture

Most of Eastern Woodland tribes exhibited similarity in clothing, folklore, certain religious concepts, social, economic, political, ceremonial organiation, and art. The tribes were characterized by clan organization and higly developed religious concepts. The Eastern Woodland tribes group made much more use of wild rice than tribes in other areas. Unlike the Plains tribes, the Eastern Woodland tribes did not aquire horses to any extent. Native Americans appeared to have been better nourished than Europeans.

The Tribes

The tribal structure in the Eastern Woodlands is a little complicated. There were an extrdiarily large number of tribes many of which were related and tied together to various degrees by language groups. Some tribes could undertand each other and others could not, even within the same language groups. The language groups were the Algonquian and Iriquois. The Iroquois Nation (Six Nations Confederacy or the Haudenosaunee Confederacy) were the most highly organized group in the area and dominated a huge area. Thev best known tribe of the Iriquois was the Mohawk, keepers of the Eastern Door. Other Eastern Woodland tribes included the Fox, Kickapoo, Menominee, Ojibwa, Ottawa, Potawatami, Sauk, and others. The Ojibwa today are particularly important. The different tribes had a network of alliances in competition with each other. The competition between tribes as in Mexico and South America proved a critical weakness which allowed the small struggling Plymouth Colony to survive and become establishd. An issue with the Eastern Woodland tribes is that many over time were pushed west on to the Great Plains. One of these tribes was the Meskwaki who inhabited southern Ontario near the Great Lakes.

European Settlement

The Eastern Woodland area was settled primarily by the French and English/British. The colonization effort, however, wa very different. The French moved up the St. Larence in to the interior by the Great Lakes area. And they were primarily men, traders and trappers. The Catholic Church exercized sbstatial control. The English on the other hand came as families men and women. The English settled along the Atlantic seaboard. There was a strong element of religious nin-conformity, a desire to escape the confines of the established nglican Church of England, at least in Plyouth Colony. English settlement did not begin until the 17th century because the Native Americans were strong enough to prevent settlement. Most of the tribes were anililated by the European colonists and their diseases to which they had no immunity. As this happened primarily before the 19th century invention of photography, there is no photographic record of these tribes.

United States Control

The Federal Government ordered most of the survivoirs to be removed west of the Mississippi. The Mowhawk St. Regis Reservation was one of the few survivors. The Penobscot were another.







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Created: 1:00 AM 5/19/2015
Last updated: 12:09 PM 4/12/2017