In this section I will try to collect images of items used by the Northeast Woodland People. Some from museums, some from craftsman who have made faithful replicas of original pieces. Because this particular page is ongoing, you may want to return and visit over a period of time to see what new has been added.
Below is a birch bucket. Generally, spruce root was used to sew the seams and secure sturdy rims. Then pin tar was used to seal the bucket. Some of these buckets and container were so water proof that they were able to keep valuable beaver scents contained without having any of the odor escape. Such containers would be augmented with gourd or wooden dippers to provide drinking water for a village.
In addition to birch and leather containers were pots made from clay. While too heavy to carry from one site to another, women had no problem making new ones as clay is readily available in many streams and rivers. Deposits are generally found in the bends of these waterways where the clay is deposited as the sand and rocks move along with the force of the water. The designs on this pot are true to the early, pre contact era of the Northeast Woodland People.
We did a photo shoot for the museum, re enacting some of the life ways of Algonquin People. The color of my moccasins is truer to the actual color of leather tanned by brain tanning. Brain tanned hides allow the leather to breathe and is comfortable even in warm months. Of course, before contact, we had no inhibitions about removing clothing to be comfortable. It was not until the Europeans made us uncomfortable with our bodies, that it became more necessary for us to remain clothed at all times.
The gold leather of my two piece regalia is actually commercially tanned leather and it is dyed to the color. Because people see so much of it at powwows, they have come to accept this as the natural coloring, but it is not. Also, commercially tanned leather is extremely hot because it is oil tanned. This process fills the pores of the leather making it feel more like a rubber suit then a natural by product.
In the photo, I am cleaning a fish using a sharp stone to remove the scales. The large piece of bark acts as a dish for the process.
This beautiful craft work was done my members of the Elnu group. The delicate beadwork, quilling and designs are typical of Northeast woodland People. Totem shapes of animals and the Thunderbird appear on some of the pieces. The head piece with antlers features wampum beading.
The Echo Lake Museum on Lake Champlain offers a great number of original artifacts from the North East Woodlands. One is this lovely etched basket. I had the pleasure of watching this being done at an event At Odanak one year. And I own a very small one. Such baskets could contain food or dry goods, were easily stored or hung and were also sold to tourists at one point in time. The areas around Lake George and Niagara Falls were especially popular with tourists and became key sites to sell Native wares.
Fishing could be done in many ways. Since spring was a time of spawning, it was a great time to stock up on fish which was then dried for winter stores. This particular device is called a fishing weir. It is only one type. As you can see, a good sized fish could go in the large collar end, but could not go through the smaller end and was thus caught. Generally, more then one fish would be caught at a time. The bag held by the young lady is made of finely stripped fibers similar to hemp. Such bags were used to carry and store items. Some were decorated, many were not.
Some fishing weirs were woven of the same ash strips as baskets. This particular item, however, is a large basket. Such large baskets became known as Adirondack back packs and are commercially made and sold today by the same name.
Few people worked alone. Most jobs were done in family groups. Regardless of age, everyone had some job in the village. Elders made good baby sitters by telling stories and teaching while younger women worked to process hides for clothing or preparing food for the village stores. Here I am holding fresh water clams, while others fish or process fish. Elder and young mother hold a baby in a cradle board. Notice the bent strip which protects the baby's head from branches as mother walks through the woods.
As corn became an important diet staple, it was necessary to find a way of turning it into a flour that could be used for other items. Corn was not eaten from the cob early on because it was very hard. The original corn was also very small as it originated from a grass. All corn in the world originated on this continent. It was only through natural selection and eventual controlled pollination that we have the many types of edible corn we have today. What you see above is a grinding stone and mallet to use for grinding the kernels into flour. While we had no yeast for making raised breads, there is evidence that we did make something called "Ash Cakes".
Although Elm was the preferred back in the lower New England areas, birch was preferred further north. The birch tree was plentiful and the pieces could be stitched together into long rolls which could them be removed from one structure and carried to another site to be used again on another. Although birch was plentiful, it was considered too valuable to waste. The same designs was used for wigwams, conical "tipi" like structures and these long houses. Again, there is an inner and an outer skeleton of saplings to keep the rolls of birch in place.
This photo is a classic example of our people walking in two worlds. Setting here are the older weapons of a sheath for arrows, a bow and a gourd water jug set against the industrial back drop of today. We continue to work and exist in two worlds.
Here is a beautiful example of ash basketry which was used for many things. What is a little more atypical is the wooden shield. Information garnered by Fred Wiseman points to Native soldiers in the Champlain area, using such shields and even making some armor of wood to protect themselves during some of the early encounters with Europeans. It is an interesting part of our history that I had not encountered before and bears more investigation.
A collection of stone axes shows the shaping. Some were used as is in the hand while others were given handles. With these, trees were cut, dug outs made and many other jobs completed.
Northeast woodland pots were made easily from available clay found in the bends of brooks or rivers. Crushed shells were added for mortar.
More convex pots from the New England area. These pots had tapered bottoms which were set into hot coals. They were the original "crock pots" and allowed soups and stews to simmer. Such family pots were added to for a couple of days. Then they were emptied and a new soup or stew was started.
On the left is a pestle for grinding corn. These were generally created from sections of trees, but sometimes, grinding stones were used. Some have been found and identified by the worn shape that was gradually worked into it by continued use. Wooden mallets are also shown.
These items were found in a Red ochre pit in Farmington, CT. A snake effigy, stone pendant and a stone point were found. These artifacts are from the Archaic period, 4,000-5,000 years ago.
Please return for more information which will be added over time.
All photos and text copyrighted to Morningstar Studio