The northeast

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Northeastern North America may be divided into four areas: (1) the Atlantic coastal plain and piedmont, from the Mason-Dixon line (Maryland and Delaware) north to southern Maine; (2) the Maritimes—for our purposes, northern Maine as well as the Canadian Maritimes of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and southeastern Labrador; (3) the St. Lawrence River-lower Great Lakes (Erie, Huron, Ontario), excluding the river's mouth (in the Maritimes); and (4) the Boreal forest and tundra of northeastern Canada. None of these regions is sharply bounded either ecologically or topographically. All, except the tundra on the far north, are dominated by forest cover, although the three more southern regions contain river and coastal meadows, some once maintained by Indian burning. The Appalachians form a massive series of ridges and domes cutting the Atlantic slope from the continental interior, but the Delaware Water Gap, the Mohawk Valley, and the St. Lawrence give comfortable access to the Midwest. The Northeastern Indians were the true "red men," so called because the northern peoples covered exposed portions of their skin with a mixture of bear grease and red-ocher pigment for protection from wind chapping and cold in the winter and mosquitoes and flies in the summer. These were the storybook Indians who skulked through dark forests, canoed blue waters, offered armloads of furs, and gave us the words tomahawk, squaw, papoose, wigwam, squash, powwow, and sachem. The "Last of the Mohicans," Hiawatha, Squanto, and the Iroquois chiefs "straight as a pine tree" lived in the Northeast. Here the stereotypes are the oldest and the most strongly distorted by propaganda. Here the myths to legitimatize English conquests were constructed. The Iroquois carve grotesque, twisted masks for the spirits of their forests; these false faces could represent the Indians themselves as created in nearly five centuries of their enemies' tracts, novels, and history books. Winnowing a valid story from the sheaves of documents on the Northeast is a challenging task.
Human population in the Northeast shows a slow and steady rise from the Paleo-Indian period through the Late Archaic period. Until about 4500 B.C., Northeastern people were primarily hunters, of deer in the southern sectors, caribou in the north, and sea mammals along the northern coast. Most of the evidence of human habitation is no more than scattered finds of one or a few stone projectile points. The rarity of campsites may at least in pan reflect preference for living near the coast, where seals and swordfish would have been attractive resources. Unfortunately, this supposition cannot be tested because up to 100 kilometers (about 60 miles) of the former coastal plain has been drowned by the rise in sea level between the end of the Pleistocene epoch and 4500 B.C. Attempts to discover archaeological remains by using divers or dredges on this underwater continental shelf have not been successful. If the guess is correct that humans would have clustered where sea and land resources are equally accessible-near the coast-then the lone projectile points recovered from the Early Archaic period represent hunting trips, probably for deer, elk, and bear, taken by people who used only the most temporary shelter when stopping overnight inland. Their villages will have disappeared. A hint at the life of Middle Archaic people in the Northeast comes from the death of one of their children at the Strait of Belle Isle, where the Quebec and Labrador boundary faces Newfoundland across the sea channel. Here, about 5300 B.C. in radiocarbon years, a young teenager (whether boy or girl could not be determined) was buried face down in a sandy pit. Two fires were lit, one on each side of the body. A walrus tusk was placed in front of the face, three stone knives, a harpoon, and a set of red-ocher and graphite (lead) pebbles, with an antler tine for crushing and mixing them into paint, were put with the body, and a cache of stone and bone projectile points was laid near the head. A bone pendant and a whistle with three stops hung on a cord around the youth's neck. One of the shovels used to dig the grave pit, a section of caribou antler, was discarded in the pit. Over the torso a slab of rock was laid, then sand was heaped into the grave, then two parallel rows of three slabs of rock set upright were placed over the grave, and finally the whole was buried under a low maund of sand topped with three layers of boulders from a nearby stream. The excavators estimated that it would have taken the adults of the whole hunting band, say fifteen to twenty families, a week to dig the grave pit and then construct the mound. Presumably not everyone who died was given such elaborate and expensive (in terms of labor) burial; why this young person was so honored (or singled out) we cannot know. We are grateful that the grave tells us that as far north as southern Labrador and as early as around 5300 B.C., walruses and caribou were hunted by the same people (confirming our hypothesis that coastal and inland resources were both utilized by the typical band of the period), that efficient toggle harpoons were already invented, that mineral pigments were mixed for paint, that musical whistles were made, and that people invested as much as a week in ceremonies.

The Late Archaic

The Late Archaic period, from about 3000 B.C. to about 700 B.C., was an optimal period in the Northeast. The sea level had stabilized about 4500 B.C., allowing the growth of beds of shellfish. The climatic thermal maximum of the warming trend beginning at the end of the Pleistocene epoch encouraged the spread as far north as southern New England of hickory trees, which provided nuts for human food-both oil and flour, if ground-and mast for deer. Salmon, smelt, shad, herring, and alewives had established annual runs, sturgeon could be speared in the rivers, and cod, bass, swordfish, and other fish could be taken with hooks. The list of faunal remains from an occupation site on an island in Penobscot Bay, Maine, dated 3000 B.C. demonstrates the richness of resources harvested by Northeastern Late Archaic people: deer, moose, seal, walrus, beaver, mink, sea mink (an extinct species), river otter, fisher, bear; swordfish, cod, sturgeon, sculpin; mallard, black and old squaw ducks, Canada goose, loon, eagle; and shellfish. Plant remains were not recovered from this site, which would have been too far north for the hickories and sweet acorns that were valuable foods south of Maine.

Relatively dense populations attained by the Late Archaic period, 3000 B.C., maintained cultural traditions that were, in part, adaptations to regional environments but also, in pan, stylistic traditions probably marking ethnic heritages. In the Southern sector, the peak in hickory and white oak (which bore "sweet" acorns having relatively little tannic acid) around 2000 B.C. is associated with the north­ward spread of a southern type of Late Archaic culture pattern, called Lamoka in the interior and Susquehanna on the Atlantic slope. At the Lamoka site, from which the interior pattern is named, in central New York south of the eastern part of Lake Ontario, excavations have revealed a substantial village of about twenty-seven houses, rectangular in shape and measuring around 16 by 12 feet (4.9 by 3.7 meters). Small, round hearth pits and a few large, long rectangular roasting beds ful I of charred acorns were used by the villagers for food prepa­ration, and pits deep and wide enough for a person to stand in were used for food storage. Situated on a lakeshore, the people hunted deer with atlatl-pro­pelled javelins and with spears, and fished with nets and with hooks. Their manufacture of wooden objects is attested by stone Celts, adzes and chisels, and beaver-tooth knives. Lamoka cemeteries show that corpses were interred with a selection of artifacts useful in daily life, although there does not seem to have been any thought of furnishing the deceased with all necessary tools. In southern New England, cremations were common, some of the cremated bone being deposited with red ocher and artifacts, these also usually burned, in burial pits. What look like burial pits without human bone are also known: one in Massachusetts contained a heap of charcoal, a separate deposit of red ocher, several projectile points, two atlatl weights (one broken) and an unfin­ished weight, and a piece of graphite. It was common to deposit in these pits, whether or not human crema­tions were included, caches of stone projectile points and knives, many of them well used and some not yet finished. An archaeologist who has studied these burial pits suggests they may have been part of annual life-renewal ceremonies (similar to historic South­eastem Green Corn Festivals) held when the hickory nuts and acorns ripened: new fire may have been kindled, red ocher symbolizing lifeblood and the dawning sun offered, and food and the knives used for it ritually consumed.

The Maritime Archaic, Maine through New­foundland and southern Labrador, has burial pits resembling those of the southern New England Archaic, but typically more heavily sprinkled with red ocher (therefore, sometimes called the Red Ocher Culture). Both these and sites of the Lauren­tian Archaic of the St. Lawrence-eastern Great Lakes region ("Laurentian" means "of the [St.] Lawrence") contain ground-stone Celts, adzes, and gouges for heavy woodworking, very likely the manufacture of dugout canoes. An innovation in this period among these peoples is the use of slate and copper for elegantly thin, smooth knives, axes, and spearpoints, as well as for pendants and, in the case of copper, beads and bracelets. Half-moon-­shaped knives like Inuit ("Eskimo") ulus (blubber knives) are particularly interesting. The develop­ment of these broad but thin-bladed, smooth-cut­ting implements was probably linked to their excellence in slicing large fish and sea mammals, since swordfish and seals were extensively used on the coast, sturgeon and seals quite far up the St. Lawrence estuary, and sturgeon in the interior. "Bayonets" of polished ground slate in Maritime Archaic burial pits have been interpreted as imita­tion swordfish swords, perhaps for ceremonial pur­pose. Along the western Great Lakes, the prime source of copper, copper implements dominate and slate is rare, while in the East, where slate deposits occur along the northern Appalachians, the inverse is true. In these two regions, identical forms are found worked in each material, which suggests continued contacts all along the Great Lakes, the St. Lawrence, and the Maritimes. Finds of copper in the eastern province, and Atlantic shell far in­land, prove contacts. Even wider extensions of trading and visiting are indicated by the presence in Ontario of artifacts of North Dakota's Knife River flint (a glasslike chalcedony that can be flaked into a very sharp edge) and the presence as far south as Connecticut of artifacts of beautiful Ramah chert from Labrador.

The boreal forest and tundra of the far northeast interior are underlain by glacier-scoured outcrops of bedrock granite called the Canadian Shield. In this region, a relatively impoverished Shield Ar­chaic population adapted to the low game density and the smaller number of species supported by the thin soil of this most recently glaciated region. Caribou must have been the principal game, in contrast with the elk and moose hunted by the Laurentians, and the deer farther south. Fish must have been an important, if less prized, daily food, as it continues to be for the Indians of the region. Edible plants are few and could not have been staples, a marked contrast with the economy of the southern Northeast Archaic peoples. An absence of heavy woodworking tools suggests the birch­bark canoe was substituted for the dugout, which would have been cumbersome in the frequent port­aging necessary on the Shield. Of all the Late Archaic populations, the Shield Archaic culture persisted most strongly because it adapted well to a relatively harsh environment that allows few alternatives to the humans who live in it. In many respects, the contemporary Cree and other Al­gonkian-speaking peoples of the Shield forests exhibit a Late Archaic cultural pattern.

The close of the Late Archaic period in the southern Northeast, about 1400 B.C. to 800 B.C., is marked by the use of simple, round bowls cut out of soapstone (steatite). These bowls, as well as pit ovens and small platforms of rocks, were favored means of cooking in this period. Most of the stone bowls have been found in small campsites along streams or in sheltered spots on the coast, which suggests the bowls were carried in canoes and left near the landing places when their owners went on occasional overland hunting trips. All the habitation sites of this period are small, and have no preserved evidence of dwellings, which may have been tents (also carried in the canoee) or light pole and bark wigwams. Deer, turkeys, turtles, and, on the coast and estuaries, oysters and clams were hunted, fish were netted, and nuts gathered and stored in pits for winter use. Concern continued to be shown for the dead through burials of either corpses or cremation remains in pits, some of them quite large, on the tops of hills. Knives and projectile points, "killed" soap­stone bowls (a hole punched through the bottom rendered the bowl "dead" to use), pigment and a stone for grinding it, an adze, and a strike-a-light rock for kindling fire were customarily placed with the dead, who were then covered with the ashes and food scrap from a funeral-feast fire and finally liberally sprin­kled with powdered red ocher.

The "Early Woodland" Period

Slightly later, but overlapping with the terminal Late Archaic soapstone-bowl use, is the earliest type of pottery in the Northeast, called Vinette. The pottery was built up by paddling into cone-shaped jars. Sometimes the jars were left plain; otherwise their surface was roughened by stamping with a toothed or fabric-wrapped block. Alternately, the pots may have been constructed inside a coarse bag that was impressed on the damp clay surface during the paddling to even the vessel, and then was removed as the vessel dried and shrank. The roughened surface helped prevent the pot from cracking during drying because lines of cleavage were cut short by the alternation of ridges and troughs; the same purpose was served by the practice of adding crushed, heated stone "temper" to the clay if it did not naturally contain grit. The style of dark-brown, surface-roughened, grit-tempered jars persists, with many variations in detail, from its introduction about I 100 B.C. into the early historic period (about A.D. 1700). It appeared throughout the forested Northeast and Midwest, and is therefore called the Woodland ceramic tradition.

The closest similar pottery around 1100 B.C. is, surprisingly, in northwestern Europe. "Woodland"-style pottery is also found at this time in northern Asia, where its antecedents go back to the earliest pottery known in the world, that in northeastern Asia dating to the close of the Pleistocene epoch, 9000 B.C. The Vinette pottery certainly does not resemble the vegetable-fiber­tempered, smooth-surfaced, open bowls that are the early ceramics of the Southeast, nor the fine, smoothed, often painted, ceramics that come into the American Southwest centuries later from Mexico. It would be easiest to attribute the introduction of pottery into the Northeast to migration or trading contacts from the Bering Strait through the boreal forest of Canada to Ontario, but efforts to find Woodland-or any-pottery in the Canadian Northwest have not been successful. Pottery making might have been independently invented in the Northeast, perhaps stimulated by acquaintance with Southeastern ceramics. It is, on the other hand, possible, though far from proved, that pottery making was introduced into the Northeast by boat across the North Atlantic from Scandinavia. Since the Scandinavians at this period, like the Maritime and Laurentian Archaic peoples, caught deep-sea fish and sea mammals, they had seagoing boats (probably dory-sized frames covered with sewn hides caulked with grease, of which Irish curraghs are the modern descendants; that hide-covered curraghs can cross this northern ocean was proven a few years ago in a National Geographic-sponsored test by Tim Severin). Island-hopping from Newfoundland to Greenland to Iceland to the Faroes to Europe, or in the opposite direction, the cod fishermen from one continent may have met their counterparts from the other and exchanged ideas. Pictures pecked in rocks (petroglyphs) showing men in boats, in both Scandinavia and Canada indicate the importance of boats to the peoples on each side of the Atlantic.

Archaeological convention separates the Late Archaic period from the Early Woodland period by the appearance of pottery, but in fact there is strong continuity of cultural traditions to about 700 B.C. An innovation more significant than pottery in the "Early Woodland" period is the manufacture of tubular tobacco pipes, which indicates the use and probable cultivation of tobacco and perhaps new religious ritual. Tobacco is an American plant, and smoking must have come into the Laurentian area from the south. Evidence from the Archaic and Early Woodland periods of plant cultivation other than that presumed for tobacco seems to be lacking in the Northeast, although one archaeologist has noticed that edible wild onions seem to grow on Late Archaic sites in southeastern Ontario, and not generally outside the sites, which leads him to postulate that the Late Archaic people collected onions and either planted them or stored them in pits near their dwellings. The first millennium B.C. seems to have suffered a cooling climatic phase that caused a decline in hickory trees along their northern border in the Northeast. Population seems to have declined along with the important food processed from hickory nuts. While the Mid­west was experiencing the Adena and then Hope­well climax of population growth, ceremonial constructions, and trading, the Northeast "Early Woodland" saw a persistence of Late Archaic pat­terns apparently adapting to a reduced food supply. The Northeast was not isolated from Midwestern developments, since Adena artifacts and mounds resembling Adena and Hopewell mounds occur in western New York and in Ontario along Lakes Huron and Ontario, but nothing in the Northeast seems to have attracted Hopewell trade. No more than an occasional projectile point brought east by an adventurer hints at the Hopewell presence across the Appalachians. Added to the decline in edible nuts and the lack of raw materials that would bring in trade, the Early and Middle Woodlanders in the Northeast faced a decline in swordfish (in the Gulf of Maine) and the replacement of deer by moose ( in Maine and adjacent Canada). The cooler water now in the Gulf of Maine was more hospitable to soft-shell clams than to swordfish, which meant a drastic shift in protein availability per hour of human labor. The cooler forests with less mast and browse for deer could support only a much lower density of moose, again meaning many more man-hours of labor (in stalking) per pound of meat obtained. Along the Labrador coast, the first "Es­kimo" appear, migrating down from the Arctic coast with their highly specialized culture adapted to the far northern ocean. Only on theCanadian Shield was there little change, other than the introduction of Woodland pottery, from the Late Archaic period through the Middle Woodland period: the Shield Archaic popula­tion was already adapted to the resources of a cold forest, and continued to hunt caribou and fish, unaf fected by the regression in the deciduous forests and in the Gulf Stream to the south.

The Middle and Late Woodland Periods

The Middle Woodland period in the Northeast, from the last few centuries B.C. through the first millennium A.D., is a period of small nomadic communities living off a broad, diversified range of naturally occurring foodstuffs-meat, fish, fowl, acorns, hickories where persisting, grapes, chenopod (goosefoot) seeds, and shellfish. Houses were rectangular, though with rounded corners, up to 35 by 20 feet ( 10.7 by 6 meters) in dimension and constructed of poles probably covered with slabs of bark, as was standard in later times. Burials show that the dead were fitted out for the next world with finely carved antler combs; bracelets and necklaces of pendants and beads of stone, copper, and shells (some from southern waters); clothing decorated with sewn-on beads; tobacco pipes; and a variety of useful tools-but usually not pottery or food. The earlier custom of liberally sprinkling red-ocher powder over the corpse continued, although the cremations of the earlier period went out of fashion.

The earliest evidence of domesticated plants in the Northeast dates to about A.D. 1000 and marks the beginning of the Late Woodland period. Maize, beans, squashes, and sunflowers began to be raised in the southern and Laurentian-Lakes sectors of the Northeast, no doubt imported from the adjacent Midwest or possibly the South. Northeastern maize is the large-kerneled (eight rows to the cob) flour corn, raised also in the Ohio Valley Fort Ancient cultural group in this period, but different from the smaller-kerneled Mississippian maize raised around Cahokia. Summers in the Maritimes and, of course, on the Shield were too short to raise dependable crops of any of these plants, but people from these regions did travel south to trade hides and furs, and meat, if close enough to avoid spoil­age, for surplus maize. A series of related trends seems to have begun: populations increased; the number of people in a community increased; peo­ple became more sedentary, building corn-cribs or man-size storage pits and making larger pottery vessels and houses; competition began for arable land and convenient hunting territories and fishing stations; warfare became endemic, forcing com­munities to build heavy palisades around defensi­ble sites usually inconveniently far from water (raids rather than sieges were the usual tactic); and endemic warfare led, by A.D. 1300, to terrorist tactics including torture and public feasting on the bodies of enemy warriors. All of these trends are attested by archaeological evidence, particularly in central New York, where the Owasco cultural pat­tern of the early Late Woodland period is traced into the historic Iroquois tribes.

The advent of agriculture and its apparent re­versal of the slow population decline that began in the first millennium B.C., coincide with the termi­nation of burial ceremonies that were so important a part of the social fabric of Northeastern commu­nities from the early Late Archaic period. The Late Woodland dead were respectfully interred, but their graves are simple. Archaeologist William Ritchie suggested that the Owasco shifted their concern from the individual welfare of their mem­bers and an annual ritual of affirmation of the social group through community funeral feasts, to em­phasis on cooperative farming affirmed through group celebrations of the stages in the agricultural cycle. The importance of the living community was perhaps underscored by the escalating threats to it from enemy raids. The Northeast during Late Woodland times remained largely outside the princi­pal Mississippian trading networks, as it had been on the edge of t1e Hopewell sphere. In western and northern New York state, where rivers flow through rich agricultural land toward the Great Lakes and Ohio River transportation systems, the Iroquois in­corporated Mississippian agriculture. Their farms became the northeastern frontier of agriculture in America, and probably the frontier for Mississippian trade. When Cahokia's power began its apparent decline in the fourteenth century, Upper Ohio groups were eager to take advantage of greater independence in trade, continuing the frontier position of the Iro­quois north and east of them. Iroquois, in response, fortified their settlements and maneuvered alliances to assert their competence in managing trade.

One of the most radical shifts in balance of power seen in history is the sudden importance gained by the Northeast when the European trade began at the close of the Late Woodland period. The result­ing rapid decline in the Midwest's economic and political power was an exacerbation of the slower shift of the preceding two centuries as Iroquois developed their capacity to dominate the Lauren­tian-Lakes region. Culminating in the confedera­tion of five nations in the League of the Haudenosaunee—the famous League of the Iro­quois—what had been peripheral to American cen­ters of population and power was poised to assert newly forged capability to dominate the Eastern Woodlands. The early sixteenth century was as devastating and revolutionary for the Northeast as it was for Mexico, and, as in Mexico, the repercus­sions of the events of this century affect us still.

By A.D. 1200, the trends marked by the initiation of maize agriculture, trends that can be traced

through the Owasco of central New York, had crystallized into cultural patterns that were described by the first European explorers in the Northeast, three centuries later. The convention of labeling blocks of time in Northeast prehistory "Late Archaic," "Early Woodland," and "Middle Woodland" obscures the contrast between the Northeast and the South and Midwest, where Poverty Point, Adena-Hopewell, and Mississippian societies were climaxes of cultural complexity that are appropriately labeled eras. The Northeast, on the other hand, exhibits strong continuities marked only gently by a flowering during the relatively warm Late Archaic period. Continuities can be discerned among terminal Middle Woodland, Owasco, and the Iroquoian tradition that grows from Owasco, and to a greater degree between Middle Woodland and Late Woodland Algonkians, but the similarities in technology and the genetic continuum cannot hide the great social changes that made life between the St. Lawrence and Delaware Bay very different after A.D. 1300 than it had been only a few generations previously.

The Northeast was inhabited by members of two major language stocks, the Eastern Algonkian and the Iroquoian, a group of languages related to Cherokee and possibly distantly to Siouan. Al­gonkians occupied the major portion of the North­east. From north to south, they included the Naskapi hunters on the Labrador tundra and the related "Montagnais" in the forests of Labrador, with the Cree in Quebec to the west forming a set of closely related languages and social groups; the Beothuk of Newfoundland, whose few survivors scattered, ceasing to be an ethnic group, early in the nineteenth century before their language was adequately recorded, and who are therefore not definitely known to be Algonkians; the Micmac (called Souriquois in the seventeenth century; Mic­mac means "allies") of the Canadian Maritimes; the Maliseet (or Malicite; known as Etchemin be­fore the eighteenth century) and Passamaquoddy just south of the Micmac, in New Brunswick and Maine; the Penobscot and Abenaki (sometimes spelled Wabanaki) of Maine; the speakers of Al­gonkian dialects in Massachusetts, including Na­tick, Narragansett, Wampanoag (Pokanoket), and possibly Pennacook in New Hampshire; the Pequot and Mohegan of Connecticut, the Mahican of the upper and the Wappinger of the lower Hud­son, the Montauk on Long Island, and the Dela­ware Lenape, themselves divided into Delaware proper in the South, the Munsee in the north; and the Piscataway (Conoy) and Nanticoke, whose territory bordered that of Powhatan in Virginia. The Shawnee are sometimes included among the Eastern Algonkians, although they were more usu­ally found in the Ohio Valley. The Delaware and their neighbors, the Conoy, the Nanticoke, and the Shawnee all claimed to have migrated eastward to their historic territories. On the basis of linguistic analysis, which demonstrates similarities between Central (Midwest) Algonkian and Eastern Al­gonkian languages from Connecticut through Powhatan's Confederacy, all these groups from the Pequot through Powhatan might have come into the Atlantic Slope region during the Late Wood­land period; if so, whom they displaced is a puzzle. The Atlantic Slope from the Arctic to the Southeast was historically Algonkian-speaking.

One more set of Algonkian speakers occupied the Canadian Shield interior of Quebec and On­tario. The related languages of this group include Algonkian proper (also spelled Algonquin), Ottawa, Ojibwa (often spelled Chippewa in the United States), and the western offshoot of the Ojibwa in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, the Saulteaux (pronounced "Solo"), or Bungi. The entire Canadian Shield has thus been dominated by Algonkian-speakers, which has given rise to speculation that the Shield Archaic people, and possibly even the whole of the Northeast Archaic, were speakers of ancestral Algonkian.

Solidly planted in the beautiful and fertile coun­try of the eastern Great Lakes and upstate New York has been the bloc of Iroquoians, whose lan­guages became separate from the related Cherokee and Tuscarora of the Southeast probably three thousand years ago. The Iroquoian languages are: the Five Nations group of Seneca and Cayuga, dialects spoken by the westernmost tribes of the original Iroquois League in central New York; Onondaga, the central of the Five Nations; Oneida, the next-to-the-easternmost of the Iroquois League tribes; and Mohawk, the easternmost of the league; then the Huron group, rivals of the League who lived in Southern Ontario, including the Huron (in their own language, Wendat, or Wyandot in the United States) on the lake of their name (which, incidentally, is not an Indian word but was French slang for "ruffian"); and the Tionontati (or Petun, or Tobacco nation), just west of the Huron. Other historic Iroquoian speakers, no longer extant na­tions, include the Neutral, who refused to take sides in the rivalry between Huron and Iroquois, their neighbors to the north and south, respectively, of Lake Ontario south of the Tionontati; the Erie, south of the lake of that name; and the Susquehan­nock, on the river (Susquehanna) named after them, who were sometimes included, after 1690, in the "Conestoga". Because the Iroquois and the Cherokee seem to intrude into a huge region oth­erwise largely Algonkian, early scholars assumed the Iroquoians had migrated eastward from pre­sumed Siouan relatives in the western and upper Mississippi Valley. However, the archaeological demonstration that the Iroquois cultural pattern can be linked trait by trait with the early Late Wood­land Owasco in the heart of Iroquois territory, and with similar early Late Woodland societies in southern Ontario, has convinced most contempo­rary scholars that the historic Iroquois territory was Iroquoian from at least A.D. 1300, and very possibly earlier.

The Iroquois

The Iroquois are the better known of the two major cultural groups in the protohistoric Northeast. This is, in part, because the Puritan colonists of Massachusetts waged genocidal wars in the seventeenth century to conquer Algonkian lands; in part, because the large and strongly organized Iroquois towns forced alliances with both French and British to a greater degree than did the smaller, less intensively agricultural Algonkian communities; and, finally, in part, because the League of the Iroquois came to be seen as a model of federal political structure when the framers of the new United States were seeking examples of the heretofore unusual (in Europe) form of government. The propaganda published by the Puritans to justify their attempts to take over Algonkian territory, and the proclivity of European intellectual tradition to set up contrasts, have given some the impression that all the Algonkians were nomadic children of nature while the Iroquois were a civilized nation. But careful reading of the historic sources and the archaeological record suggests that in the southern and Laurentian-Lakes sectors of the Northeast—those regions in which maize agriculture was usually reliable as the basis of the food supply—the protohistoric Iroquois and Algonkians were quite similar in economy, community organization, and technology. The real contrast was that forced by ecology between the agricultural peoples and those who lived north of the climatic zone with at least 130 frost-free days annually. With fewer than 130 frost-free days regularly occurring each year, even the varieties of Northern Flint maize carefully selected by the Indians for maturation under borderline ecology could not produce dependable crops. Therefore, peoples north of this zone had to rely on hunting and fishing for subsistence and could not build large, sedentary towns. It happened that at historic contact, all the Iroquois were agricultural and the nonagricultural north was exclusively Algonkian-speaking, but this must not cloud the fact that the Atlantic Slope from southern Maine through the Carolinas was occupied by agricultural Algonkian towns.

From the end of the fourteenth century A.D., most Iroquois nations maintained towns about two acres (one hectare) in extent, heavily fortified with as many as three parallel rows of log palisades

buttressed with thick wickerwork and provided with platform bastions from which archers and stone throwers could defend the town. Towns were usually on hilltops far enough from streams that canoes could not silently glide within shooting distance. Fields of maize, beans, squashes, and sunflowers (raised for the edible seeds) surrounded the town, on the hill slopes as well as the flood plains. These fields were cleared by the slash-and­-burn method of killing trees by girdling and then burning off the dried brush and trees, a method that returns valuable nutrients to the soil in the form of ashes. Inside the town were rows of as many as fifty houses, each occupied by several families usually related matrilineally (ideally, sisters and their families). Some towns seem to have empha­sized division into clans, presumably matrilineal, to the degree that each clan apparently had its own house, which could be as long as 400 feet (122 meters) by 22 feet (6.7 meters) wide. The long­-houses were framed with sapling posts probably bent over at the top and lashed together to form a rounded building, like a quonset hut, that was covered with large slabs of elm bark lashed to the frame. Along the center of the top of the house were openings so that smoke could escape. Below, down the center of the floor, were a row of hearths. This central alley was marked by a row of posts on each side, 7 feet (2 meters) in from each outer wall, partitioning the house into semiprivate rooms for the nuclear families within the clan. Against the walls were constructed wooden benches on which furs were laid for bedding. Each adult woman kept her food supplies and family's clothing and uten­sils in her family cubicle, and cooked for her family over the hearth in the central alley adjacent to her cubicle. The clan also kept a common store of food, hides, furs, and other necessities to supple­ment member families' production, if required, and to host visitors. Outside the long-houses, corn­cribs and smoking racks kept stores to replenish those within the houses. Maize, beans, squashes (including pumpkins), acorns, butternuts, hickory nuts, wild plums and cherries, and probably blue­-berries (which are seldom identified archaeologi­cally) were dried for year-round use. Deer were the principal game, but beaver, bear, elk, rabbit, woodchuck, and porcupines were caught, as well as the furbearers fox, lynx, wolf, marten, and muskrat, turkeys, Canada geese, passenger pi­geons, and grouse among birds, turtles, frogs and toads, and pike, walleye, bullhead, and sturgeon among fish. Tobacco was grown and smoked in stone or clay pipes, which were often carved or molded into animal or human faces. Little sim­ple human faces were also commonly made on pottery, which usually took the form of round vessels with high, decorated rims. The Iroquois fondness for little faces on pots and pipes may indicate that the False Face societies, whose members carve grotesque masks out of living tree trunks to lure the spirits of the forest into houses to cure people, were already popular among the Iroquois at that time. No cemeteries were located close to settlements, and the few that have been discovered, in one case a mile from a town, consisted of burials in small, unfur­nished graves. Town sites seem to have been occupied for one to three generations, eventually being rebuilt perhaps 10 miles ( 16 kilometers) away where soil and wood had been allowed to regenerate through as much as a century.

The preceding generalizations apply especially to central New York Iroquois, and, among them, most particularly to the Onondaga, whose history has been traced back in detail by archaeologists. There are variations on the pattern as close as the Mohawk, whose villages used large storage pits, while the Onondaga preferred above-ground stor­age. More significant variation occurs among the Ontario Iroquois, who kept their dead in charnel houses until the skeleton could be disarticulated and buried as a bundle with others in a mass grave. A funeral feast for the individuals at their deaths was probably repeated as part of a town-wide or even intertown memorial ceremony when the ac­cumulated dead were finally interred. Historically, this Feast of the Dead became a ritual for cement­

ing alliances as well as affirming the continuity of communities.

The Algonkians

Agricultural Algonkian settlements apparently never reached the size of the larger Iroquois towns. Many were palisaded at the time of historic contact, but archaeological research indicates Algonkian villages were usually open, even when contemporary Late Woodland Iroquois were clustered behind fortifications. The smaller size of Algonkian communities and the number of camps, rather than sedentary villages, in Algonkian territories suggest the Algonkians placed less reliance on maize and more on hunting, fishing, and shellfish gathering than did the Iroquois. This probably reflects the Atlantic Slope's advantage in access to sea mammals (seals and whales), sea sturgeon and swordfish, cod and other deep-sea fish, runs of salmon, shad, herring, and alewives, and oyster and clam beds. In other words, the richness of sea as well as land resources gave the Eastern Algonkians more economic options than the inland Iroquois could command, and less incentive to labor at planting and weeding. Politically, the diversity of options allowed the Algonkians to adopt alternative economic styles that avoided the competition and resulting conflict that led to Iroquois fortifications. The Europeans, who came from several centuries of comparable competition and conflict, rightly judged the Iroquois to be more like themselves than were the Algonkians, but it certainly does not follow that life in the Late Woodland period was better for the Iroquois than for the Algonkians. From the Algonkian point of view, Iroquois had to compensate for their inland location through agriculture and trade.

North of the zone with at least 130 frost-free days, there was a border area in Maine in which maize, beans, and squashes were planted in rela­tively small garden patches, perhaps with a few local wild-food and medicinal plants. No great effort was expended in daily cultivation, as Iro­quois did, since frosts could easily destroy the crop. If they didn't, garden harvest was enjoyed in the fall, but the gardens were not relied upon for year­-round staples. North of Maine and the St. Law­rence-Lakes, crops were not even attempted. Agriculture in the Late Woodland period seems definitely to have been limited by ecology, not by choice. Cultural continuities across the ecological boundary of agriculture are evidenced not only by related languages, but by tool styles, canoes, and a preference for wigwams, dome-shaped frames of bent saplings tied together at the apex and covered with sheets of birch bark, slabs of elm or conifer bark, mats, or hides, according to local availability. The wigwam seems to have been a Middle Wood­land house that the Iroquois gradually extended into the longhouse, while among the Algonkians the original form persisted. That the longhouse grew as the matrilineal clan became the basic economic unit among the Iroquois, and that the wigwam persisted among Algonkians, who kept the nuclear family or two-family cooperative the basic unit, reflect increasing differences in so­ciopolitical structure between Late Woodland Iro­quois and Algonkian. In the early historic period, southern New England Algonkian community leaders who sheltered widowed or orphaned per­sons and hosted visitors extended their wigwams into, as it were, short longhouses. House form and socio-political form were thus tied in the North east, and similarities in wigwams between agricul­tural and nonagricultural Eastern Algonkians are linked with similarities in economy and social structure. In line with this, the most northerly Algonkians tended to have the smallest wigwams (ten feet [three meters] in diameter at the base), or even only a small, conical tent of poles covered with bark or hides, both of which fit the very low population density and marked seasonal dispersal of families.

The coastal northern Algonkians came down to the sea in the summer to hunt seals and whales and collect shellfish. Fall and spring found them camped by stations, such as rapids, where they could best catch quantities of the seasonally run­ning fish that, after being dried, were winter sta­ples. When ice formed, families moved out by ones and twos onto the interior uplands to hunt deer, elk, moose, bear, and beaver. Berries and edible tubers were gathered and, like meat and fish, dried for use when fresh food was no longer avail­able. Bags of dried food were critical when storms kept families holed up in their wigwams or tents. To transport dried food, bedding and clothing furs, and utensils, and, when caught, fresh carcasses, sleds were pulled in the winter, usually by men, and canoes of birch bark or sometimes moose hide paddled in warm weather. Snowshoes enabled the hunting families to move camp and pursue game in winter. Northern Algonkian life appears simple, but in fact rested upon highly sophisticated tech­nology and knowledge of the environment. Genuises of the order of Henry Ford and the Wright brothers must have invented the variety of traps that in effect let the hunter wait at dozens of animal trails simultaneously, and the weirs and fish traps that brought in basket loads of fish to be assembly-line gutted, filleted, and laid on drying racks by the women. Even the simple conical rolled-bark moose call is part of a fund of animal-behavior data that professional biologists spend years acquiring. It could be argued that the average northern Algonkian adult had a broader range of technical expertise and finesse than the average adult in agricultural commu­nities, Indian or European. This expertise guided the seasonal movements of families and enabled them to garner a comfortable living with less daily labor than is required in Euro-American society today.

The social organization of the northern AI­gonkians has been the subject of considerable de­bate. During much of the historic period, it was characteristic of the inland peoples to gather in numbers of up to several hundred at good fishing lakes in summer. In winter, family bands of a man and his grown sons with their wives and children moved into the forest. Each of these patrilocal bands controlled a trapping territory that was in­herited patrilineally (from father to son). The furs from the territory were traded at the post of a European fur factor (head trader), often located on the popular fishing lake, and were usually suffi­cient to provide the families with the guns, ammu­nition, steel traps, cloth, flour, tea, lard, needles, and other European manufactures they wished to obtain. The question debated has been whether the Indians were patrilineal and patrilocal before the establishment of their symbiotic relationship with the fur companies. One reason to doubt that they were is that the Labrador caribou hunters, espe­cially the Naskapi, who have been less heavily involved in the fur trade than the Cree inland, are not patrilocal and do not stress patrilineality. The most recent opinion is that patrilineality was fos­tered by the European factors and later the govern­ment officials, who, because of their own background, assumed patrilineality was "natural." With power to designate who should trap where, and with whom, first derived from the trader's power to give or withhold credit and supplies, and now fixed in game-management laws, the Euro­American favored patrilineal arrangements among the hunters. The aboriginal situation may instead have favored matrilocality based on a young man going to live and hunt with his bride's family. Parents were concerned to keep their daughters in the family camp until the young couple had amply demonstrated the capability to support themselves and their children and to exercise mature judgment (that is, until they had demonstrated mastery of the expertise needed to live comfortably in the boreal forest or the tundra). By the time parents felt at ease about a couple's ability, they might be aging and becoming dependent upon the son-in-law's hunting. Also, the young man had probably worked out good cooperative hunting practices with his brothers-in-law. The matrilocal arrange­ment thus tended to persist although it was not obligatory.

Aboriginally, the families who summered at a fishing lake most likely discussed together where each would prefer to winter, and, under the guid­ance of the experienced elders, came to agreements on territories for the coming season. The next year, territories would be worked out anew, since not all the previous year's families would have returned to the same lake, and in any case, hunters and visitors would have brought word of shifts in ani­mal densities and migration routes. Because of matrilocality in the first years of marriage, men were intimately familiar with at least two territo­ries, the one their parents favored and that fre­quented by their in-laws. This broadening of a man's expertise helped him assess the potential of areas and make wise choices in selecting where, and what, to hunt. It probably made him more amenable to accepting the summering group's re­commendation on a winter territory, since he was not strongly tied emotionally to one locality. Thus, while the reasons for matrilocality were to allow parents to recruit good husbands for their daughters and good fathers for their grandchildren and to assure themselves they had not erred in these choices-or, if they felt they had, to give them opportunity to train the young men-a valuable result of matrilocality was the extension of hunters' expertise and flexibility, which maxi­mized the opportunities for healthy families in a region where these attributes are vital. Note that matrilocality does not mean matrilineality: the northern Algonkians did not own fixed territories or many material goods, nor did they have political offices, so there was little concern with inheri­tance. In contrast, the Iroquois, with fixed lands and political offices, were quite concerned with inheritance, which among them was matrilineal, yet they were not strongly matrilocal.


In a region where large [moose] bulls are known to range, a camp is made at evening, and everything is kept quiet.....About two o'clock [A.M.], several long, loud, and tremulous calls are given on the moose-call, or "horn"...a sheet of birch bark rolled into the shape of a megaphone....The first long call, lasting sometimes nearly half a minute, is to signal the district.....lf a bull is within hearing he will proceed to answer and approach. When an answer is received, a luring call is again given, after which all is kept quiet until a few hours before sunrise. The bull is, during this time, approaching cautiously from a point possibly several miles away. Just before daybreak, about four o'clock, another encouraging call may be given, with the horn held straight out, and then turned down. About daybreak the final trial is made to bring the bull within range. The delay is made purposely until enough light comes to see to aim....In making the last calls, the operator spreads out a little flat space on the dead leaves and holds his call within six or eight inches of it, the mouth pointing downward. More of a squealing tone is incorporated into these calls, representing moose-passion, to hurry the bull's approach. By this time he may be heard trampling down the bushes and thrashing the thickets with his antlers in impassioned rage. The hunters make ready, and a few whispered words of warning precede the last call, which is meant to bring the bull into sight. When his huge form appears in the dim light, he is shot. With shouts the hunters dash to the spot where he stood, and if there is light enough examine the traces of blood,...lf the blood is dark, the bull has been mortally wounded and may be looked for not far away. If, on the other hand, the color is light, the hunters decide how severe the wound may have been, and whether it is worth while to track the animal.

Let us imagine ourselves under somewhat different circumstances, accompanying the same hunters after moose in a canoe, upon some lake or river. Here the time chosen is also early morning or around dusk. The canoe is paddled noiselessly along near the shore where the game is known to come. At frequent intervals the bow man gives a call with the bark horn pointed up into the woods lining the banks. When he gets an answer he puts an appealing note into the call. Paddling is stopped. So is the bull lured to the bank where he thinks a cow is feeding. Now the operator takes a canoe bailer, or his bark horn, and dips up some water, pouring it out to make a sound like a cow raising her dripping mouth from the stream, or better to imitate her urinating. The bull, seeing the shadowy form of the canoe and hearing the splashing noise, comes out. Now the man paddling in the stern backs the canoe away from the spot and the bow man gets ready to shoot. When the big bull has reached the place he finds that his quarry has retreated from him, and becomes furious. Here while he stands deep in the water the marksman shoots him. Keeping the canoe at a safe distance the hunters wait till he succumbs, or paddle ashore to follow him if he takes flight. The Indians, of course, in both cases have to take into consideration the direction of the wind, and many other details which mean much to the success of the hunt.

When still-hunting moose, or other game, the hunter carries a shorter and smaller call, about nine inches long and three wide at the flaring end. Through this he grunts at intervals as he goes through the woods, so as to deceive moose, and formerly caribou, that might be in the neighborhood. The crackling twigs and occasional grunts sound innocently like another moose moving through the woods, This trick is also used at "carries" or portages, in order not to alarm game that may be started up. It also served as a definite call for caribou; a few short grunts being the signal. In the old days when a moose, deer, or caribou was shot with an arrow they say it was not necessary for the shot to be fatal at first because if the arrow penetrated almost anywhere between the ribs the animal would lie down after he had run awhile and roll on the arrow to dislodge it, so driving it in farther until it would result fatally. (Speck 1940:39-42)

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