Joseph Brant, a Mohawk, depicted in a portrait by Charles Bird King, circa 1835
Three Lenape people, depicted in a painting by George Catlin in the 1860s

Indigenous peoples of the Northeastern Woodlands include Native American tribes and First Nation bands residing in or originating from a cultural area encompassing the northeastern and Midwest United States and southeastern Canada.[1] It is part of a broader grouping known as the Eastern Woodlands.[2] The Northeastern Woodlands is divided into three major areas: the Coastal, Saint Lawrence Lowlands, and Great Lakes-Riverine zones.[3]

The Coastal area includes the Atlantic Provinces in Canada, the Atlantic seaboard of the United States, south until North Carolina. The Saint Lawrence Lowlands area includes parts of Southern Ontario, upstate New York, much of the Saint Lawrence River area, and Susquehanna Valley.[3] The Great Lakes-Riverine area includes the remaining inland areas of the northeast, home to Central Algonquian and Siouan speakers.[4]

The Great Lakes region is sometimes considered a distinct cultural region, due to the large concentration of tribes in the area. The Northeastern Woodlands region is bound by the Subarctic to the north, the Great Plains to the west, and the Southeastern Woodlands to the south.[5]

List of peoples

First Nations in Canada

Further information: First Nations in Atlantic Canada and List of First Nations governments

United States Federally Recognized tribes

  1. Absentee-Shawnee Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma
  2. Bad River Band of the Lake Superior Tribe of Chippewa Indians of the Bad River Reservation, Wisconsin
  3. Bay Mills Indian Community, Michigan
  4. Cayuga Nation of New York
  5. Chickahominy people, Virginia
  6. Chippewa-Cree Indians of the Rocky Boy’s Reservation, Montana
  7. Citizen Potawatomi Nation, Oklahoma
  8. Delaware Nation, Oklahoma
  9. Delaware Tribe of Indians, Oklahoma
  10. Eastern Chickahominy, Virginia
  11. Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma
  12. Forest County Potawatomi Community, Wisconsin
  13. Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, Michigan
  14. Hannahville Indian Community, Michigan
  15. Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Wisconsin
  16. Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians of Maine
  17. Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska, also considered a Great Plains tribe
  18. Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma, also considered a Great Plains tribe
  19. Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, Michigan
  20. Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas
  21. Kickapoo Tribe of Indians of the Kickapoo Reservation in Kansas
  22. Kickapoo Tribe of Oklahoma
  23. Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin
  24. Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians of the Lac du Flambeau Reservation of Wisconsin
  25. Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians, Michigan
  26. Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, Michigan
  27. Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, Michigan
  28. Mashantucket Pequot Tribe of Connecticut
  29. Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, Massachusetts
  30. Match-e-be-nash-she-wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians of Michigan
  31. Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin
  32. Miami Tribe of Oklahoma
  33. Mi'kmaq Nation, Maine
  34. Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, Minnesota
    Six component reservations:
    1. Bois Forte Band (Nett Lake)
    2. Fond du Lac Band, Minnesota, Wisconsin
    3. Grand Portage Band
    4. Leech Lake Band
    5. Mille Lacs Band
    6. White Earth Band
  35. Mohegan Indian Tribe of Connecticut
  36. Monacan, Virginia
  37. Nansemond, Virginia
  38. Narragansett Indian Tribe of Rhode Island
  39. Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi, Michigan
  40. Oneida Nation of New York
  41. Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin
  42. Onondaga Nation of New York
  43. Ottawa Tribe of Oklahoma
  44. Pamunkey, Virginia
  45. Passamaquoddy Tribe of Maine
  46. Penobscot Tribe of Maine
  47. Peoria Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma
  48. Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians, Michigan, Indiana
  49. Prairie Band of Potawatomi Nation, Kansas
  50. Prairie Island Indian Community in the State of Minnesota
  51. Rappahannock, Virginia
  52. Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin
  53. Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians, Minnesota
  54. Sac and Fox Nation, Oklahoma
  55. Sac and Fox Nation of Missouri in Kansas and Nebraska
  56. Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan
  57. St. Croix Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin
  58. Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe, New York
  59. Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians of Michigan
  60. Seneca-Cayuga Tribe of Oklahoma
  61. Seneca Nation of New York
  62. Shawnee Tribe, Oklahoma
  63. Shinnecock Nation, New York
  64. Sokaogon Chippewa Community, Wisconsin
  65. Stockbridge Munsee Community, Wisconsin
  66. Tonawanda Band of Seneca Indians of New York
  67. Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians of North Dakota, Montana, North Dakota
  68. Tuscarora Nation of New York
  69. Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) of Massachusetts
  70. Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska


Map of North East United States showing Algonquian tribes in the eastern and southern portions and Iroquoian tribes to the western and northern portions.
A map of the Northeastern United States showing the demarcation between Iroquoian (purple) and Algonquian (pink) Indian tribes in present-day New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York state

Around 200 B.C the Hopewell culture began to develop across the Midwest of what is now the United States, with its epicenter in Ohio. The Hopewell culture was defined by its extensive trading system that connected communities throughout the Eastern region, from the Great Lakes to Florida. A sophisticated artwork style developed for its goods, depicting a multitude of animals such as deer, bear, and birds.[23] The Hopewell culture is also noted for its impressive ceremonial sites, which typically contain a burial mound and geometric earthworks. The most notable of these sites is in the Scioto River Valley (from Columbus to Portsmouth, Ohio) and adjacent Paint Creek, centered on Chillicothe, Ohio.[24] The Hopewell culture began to decline from around 400 A.D. for reasons which remain unclear.[23]

By around 1100, the distinct Iroquoian-speaking and Algonquian-speaking cultures had developed in what would become New York State and New England.[25] Prominent Algonquian tribes included the Abenakis, Mi'kmaq, Penobscot, Pequots, Mohegans, Narragansetts, Pocumtucks, and Wampanoag.[26] The Mi'kmaq, Maliseet, Passamaquoddy, Abenaki, and Penobscot tribes formed the Wabanaki Confederacy in the seventeenth century. The Confederacy covered roughly most of present-day Maine in the United States, and New Brunswick, mainland Nova Scotia, Cape Breton Island, Prince Edward Island and some of Quebec south of the St. Lawrence River in Canada. The Western Abenaki live on lands in New Hampshire, Vermont, and Massachusetts of the United States.[27]

The five nations of the Iroquois League developed a powerful confederacy about the 15th century that controlled territory throughout present-day New York, into Pennsylvania and around the Great Lakes.[28] The Iroquois confederacy or Haudenosaunee became the most powerful political grouping in the Northeastern woodlands, and still exists today. The confederacy consists of the Mohawk, Cayuga, Oneida, Onondaga, Seneca and Tuscarora tribes.

The area that is now the states of New Jersey and Delaware was inhabited by the Lenni-Lenape or Delaware, who were also an Algonquian people.[29] Most Lenape were pushed out of their homeland in the 18th century by expanding European colonies, and now the majority of them live in Oklahoma.


See also: Eastern Agricultural Complex

The characteristics of the Northeastern woodlands cultural area include the use of wigwams and longhouses for shelter and of wampum as a means of exchange.[30] Wampum consisted of small beads made from quahog shells.

The birchbark canoe was first used by the Algonquin Indians and its use later spread to other tribes and to early French explorers, missionaries and fur traders. The canoes were used for carrying goods, and for hunting, fishing, and warfare, and varied in length from about 4.5 metres (15 feet) to about 30 metres (100 feet) in length for some large war canoes.[31]

The main agricultural crops of the region were the Three Sisters : winter squash, maize (corn), and climbing beans (usually tepary beans or common beans). Originating in Mesoamerica, these three crops were carried northward over centuries to many parts of North America. The three crops were normally planted together using a technique known as companion planting on flat-topped mounds of soil.[32] The three crops were planted in this way as each benefits from the proximity of the others.[33] The tall maize plants provide a structure for the beans to climb, while the beans provide nitrogen to the soil that benefits the other plants. Meanwhile, the squash spreads along the ground, blocking the sunlight to prevent weeds from growing and retaining moisture in the soil.

Prior to contact Native groups in the Northeast generally lived in villages of a few hundred people, living close to their crops. Generally men did the planting and harvesting, while women processed the crops. However, some settlements could be much bigger, such as Hochelaga (modern-day Montreal), which had a population of several thousand people,[34] and Cahokia, which may have housed 20,000 residents between 1050 and 1150 CE.[35]

For many tribes, the fundamental social group was a clan, which was often named after an animal such as turtle, bear, wolf or hawk.[36] The totem animal concerned was considered sacred and had a special relationship with the members of the clan.

The spiritual beliefs of the Algonquians center around the concept of Manitou (/ˈmænɪt/), which is the spiritual and fundamental life force that is omnipresent.[37] Manitou also manifest itself as the Great Spirit or Gitche Manitou, who is the creator and giver of all life. The Haudenosaunee equivalent of Manitou is orenda.

See also


  1. ^ Trigger, "Introduction" 1
  2. ^ Mir Tamim Ansary (2001). Eastern Woodlands Indians. Capstone Classroom. p. 4. ISBN 9781588104519.
  3. ^ a b Trigger, "Introduction" 2
  4. ^ Trigger, "Introduction" 3
  5. ^ "History of Pre-colonial North America." Essential Humanities. Retrieved July 13, 2013.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae Sturtevant and Trigger ix
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s "Cultural Thesaurus" Archived June 24, 2010, at the Wayback Machine. National Museum of the American Indian. Accessed April 8, 2014.
  8. ^ a b c d e f Sturtevant and Trigger 241
  9. ^ a b c Sturtevant and Trigger 198
  10. ^ a b c d e Goddard 72
  11. ^ Goddard 72 and 237
  12. ^ a b c d e f Goddard 237
  13. ^ Goddard 72, 237–238
  14. ^ a b c Goddard 238
  15. ^ Goddard 72 and 238
  16. ^ a b Sturtevant and Fogelson, 290
  17. ^ a b c d e f g h i Sturtevant and Trigger 161
  18. ^ a b c d e f g h Sturtevant and Fogelson, 293
  19. ^ Fogelson and Sturtevant 81
  20. ^ a b Sturtevant and Fogelson, 291
  21. ^ Sturtevant and Trigger 96
  22. ^ Sturtevant and Trigger 255
  23. ^ a b "Hopewell Culture". Ohio History Central. Retrieved March 14, 2019.
  24. ^ "m7/98 Encyclopedia of North American Prehistory M". Archived from the original on October 20, 2009. Retrieved September 11, 2008.
  25. ^ Klein, Milton M. (ed.) and the New York State Historical Association, The Empire State: A History of New York, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, New York, 2001, ISBN 0-8014-3866-7
  26. ^ Bain, Angela Goebel; Manring, Lynne; and Mathews, Barbara. Native Peoples in New England. Retrieved July 21, 2010, from Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association.
  27. ^ Toensing, Gale Courey. "Sacred fire lights the Wabanaki Confederacy", Indian Country Today (June 27, 2008), ICT Media Network
  28. ^ Horatio Gates Spafford, LL.D. A Gazetteer of the State of New-York, Embracing an Ample Survey and Description of Its Counties, Towns, Cities, Villages, Canals, Mountains, Lakes, Rivers, Creeks and Natural Topography. Arranged in One Series, Alphabetically: With an Appendix… (1824), at Schenectady Digital History Archives, selected extracts, accessed December 28, 2014
  29. ^ "Native People of New Jersey". ALHN New Jersey. Retrieved March 14, 2019.
  30. ^ Northeast American Indian Facts Native American Indian Facts Retrieved March 7, 2019.
  31. ^ "Canoe". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved March 26, 2019.
  32. ^ Mount Pleasant, Jane (2006). "The science behind the Three Sisters mound system: An agronomic assessment of an indigenous agricultural system in the northeast". In Staller, John E.; Tykot, Robert H.; Benz, Bruce F. (eds.). Histories of Maize: Multidisciplinary Approaches to the Prehistory, Linguistics, Biogeography, Domestication, and Evolution of Maize. Amsterdam: Academic Press. pp. 529–537. ISBN 978-1-5987-4496-5.
  33. ^ Hill, Christina Gish (November 20, 2020). "Returning the 'three sisters' – corn, beans and squash – to Native American farms nourishes people, land and cultures". The Conversation. Retrieved January 8, 2021.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  34. ^ Northeast Indian Culture Khan Academy. Retrieved March 7, 2019
  35. ^ "Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site". UNESCO. Retrieved April 20, 2021.
  36. ^ Northeast Indian Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved March 7, 2019
  37. ^ Bragdon, Kathleen J. (2001). The Columbia Guide to American Indians of the Northeast. New York: Columbia University Press. p. 18.