Some indigenous peoples of the eastern woodlands



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SOME INDIGENOUS PEOPLES OF THE EASTERN WOODLANDS
The Eastern Woodlands Indians were Native American tribes that settled in the region extending from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Mississippi River in the west and from Canada in the north to the Gulf of Mexico in the south. A majority of eastern woodlands tribes spoke Iroquoian or Algonquian. While the northerly tribes relied more heavily on hunting, the tribes that settled in the fertile region of the Ohio River Valley and southward through the Mississippi Delta developed a farming and trading economy.
The Eastern Woodlands Indians traveled on foot and in canoes. In the north, they wore deerskin clothing and they painted their faces and bodies. In the southern region, they wore less clothing and they often tattooed their bodies. The Eastern Woodland Indians of the north lived predominately in dome shaped arched shelters made of a framework of poles and covered with bark, rush mats, or hides, and in long houses (multi-family lodges) having pole frames and covered with elm shingles. The tribes in the south lived in wooden framed houses covered with reed mats and plaster.

The Cherokee people are among the original residents of the American southeast. In the 1800s most Cherokees were forced to move to Oklahoma along what we know now as the Trail of Tears, so called because not only did the Indians reluctantly leave their homeland, but many died along the way. Descendants of the Cherokee Indians who survived the march live in Oklahoma today. Some Cherokees avoided the long march to Oklahoma by hiding in the Appalachian hills or by taking shelter with sympathetic neighbors of European descent. These Cherokee people now live scattered throughout their original homelands.


The Choptank people were an Algonquian-speaking Native American tribe that historically lived on the Eastern Shore of Maryland on the Delmarva Peninsula. They occupied an area along the lower Choptank River Basin, which included parts of present-day Talbot, Dorchester and Caroline counties. The Choptank were the only Indians on the Eastern Shore to be granted a reservation in fee simple by the English colonial government. They retained the land until 1822 when the state of Maryland sold it, in part to pay for the state’s share of the District of Columbia. The Choptank maintained good relations with the European settlers and eventually were assimilated into mainstream society through intermarriage. Like many other small tribes, they ceased to exist as a separate entity.
The Nanticoke people are an indigenous Algonquian people, whose traditional homelands are in Chesapeake Bay and Delaware. Today they live in the northeast United States especially in Delaware, and also in Canada and in Oklahoma. The Nanticoke Tribe was recognized by the State of Delaware in 1881, but is not recognized by the Federal Government. Federally recognized Native American tribes are autonomous, which means that each tribe has its own government, laws, police, and services just like a small country. However, the recognized tribes are also US citizens and must obey American law.
Some of the Nanticoke settled across the Delaware Bay in southern New Jersey, where they joined the Lenape (also known as Lenni-Lenape). The Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Indians of New Jersey are recognized by that state and are based in Bridgeton. The Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribe stands out as an American Indian Nation that passed tribal law forbidding the tribe’s participation in casino gaming (Tribal Law No. 2006-1 – An Act Banning Tribally Owned or Operated Businesses Involving Vice). The tribe’s opposition to gaming is the reason that tribal citizens are quick to point out the difference between the historic Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribe and a recently formed smaller group from the same area in southern New Jersey calling itself the “Unalachtigo Band of the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Nation,” which advocates gaming. It is not affiliated with the state recognized tribe.
The Erie were a Native American people who, in the 17th century, inhabited the region east and southeast of Lake Erie in the present states of New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. They were traditional enemies of the Iroquois Confederacy and in 1656, after one of the most relentless and destructive Indian wars, the Erie were almost exterminated by the Iroquois. The surviving captives were either adopted or enslaved by tribes of the Iroquois Confederacy.
The Chickahominy people, whose name means “The Coarse Ground Corn People”, were an autonomous Algonquian-speaking tribe when the first permanent English settlement was founded at Jamestown in 1607. They now live primarily in Charles City County, located along the James River midway between Richmond and Williamsburg in Virginia. This area of the Tidewater is not far from where they lived in 1600. The Chickahominy Tribe was recognized by the Commonwealth of Virginia in 1983, but has not been federally recognized. Today the Chickahominy Tribe is the second largest of eight Virginia Indian tribes with 800 enrolled members. The tribe is led by a chief, two assistant chiefs, and a Tribal Council comprised of both men and women. The current chief, Stephen R. Adkins, served as Director of Human Resources for the Commonwealth of Virginia in the administration of Governor Tim Kaine.
The Wicocomico or Wicomico people were an Algonquian-speaking tribe who lived in Northumberland County, Virginia, along the Little Wicomico River. They were a fringe group in Powhatan’s Confederacy. In the mid-seventeenth century, the colonial court of Virginia ordered them to merge with a smaller tribe. The group was known as Wicocomico when assigned a reservation of 4,400 acres near Dividing Creek, south of the Great Wicomico River. After losing the last of their reservation land in the early 1700s the tribe disappeared from the historical record and was considered extinct. Since the late twentieth century, descendants have organized, documented history and genealogy, and are seeking recognition.

Kraft, Herbert C. The Lenape-Delaware Indian Heritage: 10,000 B.C. to A.D. 2000.


Waugaman, Sandra F. and Danielle Moretti-Langholtz, Ph.D. We’re Still Here: Contemporary Virginia Indians Tell their Stories, 2006
Virginia Tribes, Virginia Council on Indians, Commonwealth of Virginia

Administration for Native Americans, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services


“Federal & State Recognized Tribes”, from the National Conference of State Legislators

Wayne E. Clark, “Indians in Maryland, an Overview”, Maryland Online Encyclopedia 2004-2005


“Welcome” (http://www.nanticokeindians.org/) Nanticoke Indian Tribe 2004
Pritzker, Barry M., A Native American Encyclopedia: History, Culture, and Peoples.
Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History

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