Eastern Woodland Culture

Published on March 3, 2013 by Amy

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Eastern Woodland Culture
Eastern Woodland Culture

The Indians in the Eastern Woodland Culture lived east of the Plains Indians. At that time much of the land between the Mississippi River and the east coast was covered with forest. These Indians, like the Indians of the other cultures depended on the natural resources around them for all of their basic needs. Because these Indians lived in the forests, they were called the Eastern Woodland Indians. Their food, shelter, clothing, weapons, and tools came from the forests around them. They lived in villages near a lake or stream. There were many diverse groups within the Eastern Woodland People. The most well known were the Iroquois, and the Cherokee nations.

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The Iroquois Indians lived in the Northeastern part of the Woodland Culture. Today we call this part of our country New York. The Iroquois Indians were actually a “nation” of Indians made up of 5 tribes. These tribes were the Senecas, Onondagas, Oneidas, and Mohawks. These tribes were hostile, or war-like, to each other until they joined together to become the “League of the Five Nations”. Even after the forming of this nation there was still some fighting among the 5 tribes.

The Iroquois Indians lived in wigwams and longhouses. Wigwams were made by bending young trees to form the round shape of the home. Over this shape pieces of tree bark were overlapped to protect the Indians from bad weather. Over the bark a layer of thatch, or dried grass, was added. A small hole from the top allowed smoke from the fires to escape. Beds were matting covered with animal skin.

Longhouses were long rectangular homes. Longhouses were made by building a frame from saplings, or young trees. They were then covered with bark sewn together. There was a long hallway with rooms on both sides. Sleeping platforms, covered with deerskin, lined each wall. There were also shelves for storing baskets, pots, and other things. Several families would live in the long house, but the families were related to each other. The Iroquois built log walls all around their villages. The wall had only one opening. They could quickly close this opening if their enemies came near.

The Iroquois found their food by hunting, fishing, and gathering berries, fruits, and nuts. They also cleared the land and planted large fields of corn, beans, and squash which Native Americans called “the three sisters.” The Iroquois used a bow and arrow to hunt. They would sometimes wear the skin of a deer over their body to sneak up to the deer.

The Iroquois also used traps for small animals. A canoe made from a hollowed out tree was used to fish in the lakes and streams nearby. Nets and traps were also used to catch fish. During the winter months, trees were tapped to get maple sugar. The liquid was put in wooden troughs and stirred day and night over a fire. After a long time the liquid syrup changed into sugar. All of these things the early American settlers learned from the Indians and they are still part of our daily lives today. Remember whenever you have corn, or pancakes with maple syrup, these things came from the Eastern Woodland Indians.

The Cherokee

The Cherokee lived mainly in what is now Tennessee and Georgia. Like the Iroquois, the Cherokee depended on their natural resources for survival. They lived in about 200 fairly large villages. A normal Cherokee town had about 30 – 60 houses and a large meeting building. Cherokee homes were usually wattle and daub. Wattle is twigs, branches, and stalks woven together to make a frame for a building. Daub is a sticky substance like mud or clay. The Cherokee covered the wattle frame with daub. This created the look of an upside down basket. Later, log cabins with bark roofs were used for homes. The Cherokee villages also had fences around them to prevent enemies from entering.

Like the Iroquois, the Cherokee also hunted small game such as deer, rabbit, and bear. Since their villages were usually near streams or lakes, they also fished using spears and nets. Berries, nuts, and wild plants were important forms of food for the Cherokee. The Cherokee were considered to be excellent farmers. They had large farms which grew corns, beans, and squash.

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