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American Indians - Woodland Tribes & California Indians

Who Are the Woodland Tribes?

Woodland Indian tribes lived east of the Plains Indians and extended from New England and Maryland to the Great Lakes Area and into Maine. They lived in the forests near lakes or streams, which is why they're called Eastern Woodland Indians. Their food, shelter, clothing, weapons and tools came from the forest. The Iroquois, Mound Builders, Algonquian and Shawnee are a few Woodland tribes.

Woodland Tribes - Shelter

Woodland tribes lived in wigwams and longhouses. Wigwams are round, wooden-framed structures, covered in bark. Only one familylived in a wigwam. Longhouses are made the same way as wigwams except they are rectangular, instead of round. They have a long hallway with rooms on both sides. Several related families shared a longhouse.


Woodland Tribes - Food

Living in the woods meant there were plenty of resources, including food. Woodland tribes were hunters and gatherers. They hunted bear, moose and bison, and were effective fishermen. They also ate beavers, raccoons, rabbits, corn, beans and berries. Woodland Indians grew squash, pumpkins and melons. Tribes in the Great Lakes Area ate a lot of rice.

Woodland Tribes - Ceremonies

When someone in a Woodland tribe died, the tribe would hold a cry ceremony. The chief sang and danced around the fire. This ceremony lasted for five days. The day before it started, five knots were tied in a piece of milkweed. Every day of the ceremony they untied a knot.

Face paint was a big deal to Woodland Indians. They wore it to express feelings each color meant something: red = life, black = death or eternal grief and purple = royalty) and for special occasions. Before going to war, they painted themselves, performed magical rites and took special medicines. Several of the tribes performed many songs and rites. They used special equipment that they thought helped them talk to their gods. They also wore masks to cure diseases. The scary masks were supposed to scare the evil spirit out of the sick person.

Woodland Tribes - Clothing

Clothing was made from the pelts (animal skin with the hair or fur still on it) of animals they ate. The Iroquois, for example, wore shirts, leggings and moccasins made of buckskin (animal skin without the fur or hair) during the winter. The women wore skirts woven out of wild grass and covered with furs. They wore leggings underneath. During the hot weather, men only wore a loincloth (a small piece of buckskin between their legs and tucked into a belt) and woman wore their grass dresses. Children wore nothing.

Woodland Tribes - Did U Know?

  • Shawnee men often wore silver nose rings and earrings. The men would even cut slits into their ears and wrap the skin in coils of silver wire. The weight of the metal would stretch the skin into great loops, which were admired. Some of them hung down two or three inches.
  • Here's one hairstyle you won't see come back in style. Woodland Indians pulled or plucked out most of their hair except for a square or round patch that covered the crown or top part of the head.

For more on the Woodland Tribes, click here.

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