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All About the Eastern Woodland Tribes
The Eastern Woodland Indian were made up of many tribes. The most known of these tribes were the Powhatan, Mohawks, Iroqoius, and the Susquehanna. Most of these tribes belonged to a group of tribes called the Iroquois Nation. The Iroquois tribes all took animals as there tribal symbol and would mark all of their communications between each other with that symbol. Also when the tribes would meet the chiefs of the different tribes would always wear a animl skin that was designed to look like the tribes sacred animal.
The Eastern Woodland Indians inhabited a wide area in the eastern part of the United States that extended eastward from the Mississippi River, through the Great Lakes region, to the Atlantic Ocean. The inhabitants in this region were forest dwellers living in a vastly wooded area that extended, not only from Lake Superior to the Atlantic Ocean, but south from Canada into the southern states of Kentucky and Virginia.
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Many people don't say this tribes name correctly. The Powhatan tribe is pronounced (Pow, which rhymes witheved to be named after Chief Powhatan's home. The Powhatans are famous for interacting with the English settlers in Jamestown. They helped the English settlers learn how to use the land to help survive in this harse new world. In exchange the English showed the Powhatans how to use guns, and make their tools better.
The two most famous Powhatan Indians were Chief Powhatan, and his daughter Pocahontas. A lot of stories told about Pocahontas are not true. Pocahontas was only eleven years old when she met John Smith, and they did not have a romance. The story about Pocahontas saving his life may not be true either. But Pocahontas really did marry another English colonist, John Rolfe. Pocahontas was only 21 when she died, but many people are descended from her son Thomas.
Originally, there were many different Algonquian tribes in Virginia, including the Powhatan, Pamunkey, Mattaponi, and Chickahominy tribes. They shared the same language and culture, but each village was independent from the others. In the 16th century, Chief Powhatan united all these villages into the Powhatan Confederacy. Many villages joined the Powhatan Confederacy willingly. Others were conquered by Chief
Most of the Powhatans lived in present-day Virginia around the tidewater region. Many of the descendants of the Powhatans still live in Virginia, but many were forced to move to Pennsylvania and New Jersey during President Jackson's push for expansion of the United States. The Tidewater Region of Virginia is mostly made up of many wooded areas, with a few grassy hills that all were close to the Atlantic Ocean. The Powhatans and many of the Eastern Woodland tribes would build their homes near water because it allowed them to easily find food, as well as they had a constant source of water.The Powhatans and many of the other Eastern Woodland tribes were trying to protect themseles from the waring faction of the Eastern Woodland tribes, which were the Iroqouis. Most of the Eastern Woodland tribes would eventually be taken over and form under what we now know as the Iroqouis Nation.
The Powhatan Indians spoke a language that was common to many of the Eastern Woodland tribes. The Powhatan Indians speak English today. The Powhatan language, also known as Virginia Algonquian, has not been spoken in centuries. Some Powhatan Indians continue to use Powhatan today for cultural and religious purposes, the way Italians may use Latin words today. Here are some common Powhatan words.
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All of the Eastern Woodland tribes, which include the Powhatan, were a stationary tribe. This meant that the tribes did not move very much, except when they were in search of food. This meant that they needed to create their own types of shelter. The Eastern Woodland tribes lived in homes called "longhouses", which all varied in size depending on how big of an area they had to use, as well as how many families were going to live in them. It was not uncommon to see 20 different families living in one longhouse. The longhouses were rectangular in shape, used saplings (baby trees), and branches for the frames. The branches were then woven together using the bark from the trees. Most Eastern Woodland tribes would then use animal skins, wood, and hay to construct their homes.
Like most longhouses used by the Eastern Woodland Indians, they contained shelves that could be used for storing food, equipment, and tools. While it was common for the Indians to sleep on the floor, some homes had platforms or racks that could be used as beds or chairs. The Indians in these homes slept on platforms lined with deerskin on each wall. In the center of this longhouse was an area to build a fire which was used for keeping warm in the winter or for cooking during rainy weather. Some larger longhouses might contain more than one place to build a fire. A hole built into the top of the longhouse served as a chimney to allow smoke to rise from the fire and ventilate to the outside. Most of the longhomes also would include shelves and drying racks where they would put the skins of the animals they killed to dry to use in their clothing, as food, and as part of new homes.
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The Northeastern Woodland Indians were expert farmers and farming was the main focus of their lives. Though primarily farmers, they were also skilled hunters and animals were a staple in their diets. The Indians also fished the fresh waters of the many rivers and streams throughout the region using hooks, spears, and nets. Tribes along the coastal Atlantic waters also dug for shellfish such as oysters and clams.Many tribes planted corn, beans, and squash which they called the "Three Sisters". In addition to the three principal crops, gourds, Jerusalem artichokes, melons, pumpkins, sunflowers and tobacco were also grown. They also gathered seeds, berries, and nuts. They dried berries, corn, fish, meat and squash for the winter.
Deer were abundant in the meadows and hunting grounds of the Woodland Indians and was probably the most important animal to the Woodland Indians. Deer were used for clothing, moccasins, and food. The antlers were used for arrowheads and the hooves were used for glue. To prepare a deer hide they placed the skin in a running brook, preferably with a clay bottom. This loosened the hair that was then scraped off the hide. In addition to deer, the Woodland Indians also hunted rabbits, bear, squirrel, beaver, and other animals that could be found in the region.
Fires were built in the middle of the longhouse and shared by two families, one on each side. Cooking methods included boiling and roasting, and most meals incorporated a soup or stew prepared in a simple black clay pottery or bark container. During good weather a fire for cooking was built outside of the longhouse where women roasted the meat over an open fire. During inclement weather cooking was done indoors.
The Northeastern Woodland Indians had their own farm plot and each member of the family had an important responsibility. The women of the family were responsible for gathering wild plants, such as berries, nuts, and edible plants and flowers. The men's responsibility was to hunt, fish, and fell trees to make canoes. Many of the Eastern Woodland tribes were not nomadic and relied on agriculture to provide food for the tribe. Being expert farmers, farming was the main focus of their lives. The Iroquois lived in areas that provided good farm land and the Powhatan also cultivated the land for food.
Women usually did the cultivating after the men had cleared the land and, along with their children, spent a lot of time in the fields during the spring and summer seasons. It was probably the women who experimented with agricultural techniques that resulted in the successful cultivation of domestic crops.
The women in a Powhatan, or Eastern Woodland tribe held a very high role. They lived in what is called a matriarchal society, which just means women were the most important. This was due to the fact that the Eastern Woodland tribes believed that eaverything had a spirit and that the most important spirit was called "Mother Nature". Since women were the ones who cared for the children they were "kindred spirits" to mother nature.
The children mostly got to play during the day when they were young. Children were expected to go into the gardens to help their parents work everyday. Boys would go out with the men of the tribe and learn how to hunt, track, and gather food for the tribe. Their main job was to learn how to be a Powhatan Indian. At the age of ten, boys would be blindfolded and taken out to somewhere in the woods. If they were able to make it back to the village, and many did not, then the tribe had a huge celebration to celebrate them entering manhood. They were then expected to go on hunts, protect the village and the tribe, as well as find a wife. The girls were taught by their mothers how to be a good wife. They were taught how to farm, how to take care of the children, how to make clothing, and were expected to marry by their eleventh birthday.
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The Eastern Woodland tribes were not nomadic tribes, which means they did not move around. Their homes were built on the ground and were not easily moved. However, there were times when it was necessary for them to move around. Some of the reasons they may have needed to move around were for hunting, gathering of food, when there was a drought, if an enemy was trying to envade, or food was scarce in the area they were in. When times like these occured they would dug-out canoes to get around which enabled them to travel over water for short distances, follow food that uses water to try and escape, and to fish easier using nets. The Powhatans would also walk every where they went. Since they were not nomadic they did not need to walk far, so it was not a big deal. Though it would not be out of the ordinary if you saw someone walk three days to get where they needed to go, or in search of food.
The Eastern Woodland tribes were one of the first to use animals to help them. The Powhatans would use the dogs/wolves to help them hunt by scaring the animals and then shooting them with their bows and arrows. Some of the Powhatans would use the dogs to help them carry their hunting supplies and carry the food back to the village. The thing about these dogs are that they were free, they were not a pet and so were allowed to roam free, but they still hung around the villages. Many of the Eastern Woodland tribes believed that this was because the dogs were the spirits of their ancestors helping them to survive.
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|Art, Clothing, and Tools
Powhatan warriors used tomahawks or heavy wooden war clubs. They also carried shields to protect them from animal attacks, as well as attacks from a waring tribe. Powhatan hunters used bows and arrows. Fishermen used nets and pronged spears to catch fish from their canoes. All of these tools were made from animals that they had killed. No part of an animal was wasted because they felt that if they wasted something the spirits would retailate against them and something bad would happen to the tribe or to them individually. Some examples of ways they used the whole animal are they would use the stomachs of animals to hold water, they would use the bones and teeth to make their tools/weapons, and they would even use the bones to create pipes and spoons.
Powhatans usually wore a beaded headband with a feather in it. They painted their faces and bodies with different colors and designs for different occasions, and both men and women often wore tattooes. Powhatan women wore knee-length skirts and the men wore breechcloths with leather pant legs tied on if the weather was cool. Traditionally the Powhatans did not wear shirts, although they did wear cloaks made of turkey feathers or furs in the winter. Both genders wore earrings and moccasins on their feet. Today, some Powhatan people still have traditional headbands or moccasins, but they wear clothes from today like jeans instead of breechcloths and they only wear feathers in their hair on special occasions.
The Powhatan Indians are known for their beadwork and basketry. The Powhatans crafted wampum out of white and purple seashells or shell beads. Wampum beads were strung together in many different patterns. The designs usually told stories about important events or a family. Wampum was used like money. The Powhatans would trade the white man wampum for goods. Wampum belts would be made into pictures showing the reason it was made. All Indian messengers carried wampum belts when going to other tribes because they were used as a form of communication between Indian tribes. The baskets that the Powhatan Indians would weave, were made from the bark of trees. They coated the baskets with pine pitch to make them waterproof. They were very light in weight. The Powhatans used these baskets for gathering berries, nuts, water, corn, beans, and squash.
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