Eastern Woodlands: Food and Lifestyle

Have you ever heard of Eastern Woodlands? I’m sure you are not familiar with this term. Let’s find out more about their lifestyle and what they eat. 


What is Eastern Woodlands?

The Eastern Woodland Indians are a group of Native American Tribes located along America’s east coast.

The traditional territories of Eastern Woodlands Indians or the aboriginal people lived east of the Mississippi River and South of the boreal forest. 

The Eastern Woodlands cover a large area from the northeastern coast of the United States to the west of the Great Lakes. It stretches south to Illinois and east to North Carolina’s coastal region.

One of the reasons why early settlers tended to settle in fertile regions was because those regions were more hospitable. Those areas also had a unique trading economy centered on agriculture.

The majority of them spoke Iroquoian or Algonquian. Iroquoian languages belong to two branches. The southern branch is composed of Cherokee. The northern branch includes Erie, Neutral, Wenro, Haudenosaunee, Wendat, Petun, and St. Lawrence.

What is the story behind Trail of Tears?

The Trail of Tears was the forced relocation during the 1830s of Eastern Woodlands Indians of the Southeast region of the United States to Indian Territory west of the Mississippi River.

Approximately. 100,000 indigenous people were forcibly removed from their homes during a period known as the removal era.

In 1763 The British Proclamation designated the region between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River as Indian Territory.

300 ounces of gold a day produced by the Georgia mines resulted in a gold rush in 1829. Land speculators demanded that the U.S. Congress devolve the control of all real property owned by tribes to the states. In the 1930s, the Indian Removal Act was passed, and they agreed to cede their property for western land.

Many people died during this period from becoming ill due to a lack of facilities. Those who survived chose to reside in the coniferous forests of the Upper Midwest and greed to cede separate tracts of land.

Enshrined as a National Historic Trail in 1987, the Trail of Tears was expanded to make it 2,200 miles long and include recently discovered routes.

What tools did the Eastern woodlands use?

The Eastern Woodlands hunters mostly created their tools out of wood or bark.

They used bows and arrows, tomahawks, spears or lances, knives, and lances to hunt larger animals. For smaller animals, they used traps.

The Indians used bows and arrows and clubs to defend themselves and their lands.

The Iroquois would wear the skin of a deer to sneak up on them using their bow and arrow.

The Eastern Woodlands Indians tribes tended to use black pottery and wood. Before agriculture, males had jobs that revolved around hunting and making tools and weaponry. Females normally stayed home to grow corn and take care of the kids.

What do Eastern Woodlands people eat?

Native American food is based around corn, squash, and beans. The majority of the farmers in the Northeastern regions grew squash, pumpkin, beans, corn, pole beans, and bottle gourds. They also grew tobacco.

Other foods widely used in Native American culture include edible plants like greens, berries, and wild rice. Many tribes grew “The Three Sisters” -corn.

The Eastern Woodlands tribes that lived along rivers, streams, and the ocean, hunted whales, seals, fish.

They also ate from animals they hunted. Deer meat is very popular among them. The Eastern Woodlands tribes hunted raccoons, white-tailed deer, moose, squirrels, bears, caribou, and beavers.

During the winter, they get maple syrup from trees and put the liquid in wooden troughs. Then they stir it day and night over a fire until it turns to the desired state.

What kind of food did the Plains have?

The diet of the Plains Indians consisted of buffalo meat supplemented with other meats, berries, seeds, and edible roots. Some specific foods consumed by these Native Americans included plums, turnips, Camas bulbs, and chokecherries.

Iroquoian-speaking peoples relied on cultivated corn, beans, and squash, while Algonoquian people used hunting and fishing for the bulk of sustenance. Algonquian people also collected maple or birch sap in the early spring in the Great Lakes area. 

The Ojibwe relied on wild rice, harvested in the late summer, and responsible for its spread.


The clothing of the Eastern Woodlands Indians varied depending on which region they lived in. The tribes in the northern regions wore clothing made from deerskin and painted their face and bodies.

The Eastern Woodlands Indians’ choice of accommodation was different depending on where they lived. The tribes in the north mainly lived in dome-shaped wigwams made from bark, rush mats, or hides.

Eastern Woodlands Indigenous people’s clothes were made of animal skins, furs, and animal hides that are softened, tanned, and sewn. Their basic wardrobe consisted of soft-soled moccasins, leggings, and a long-sleeved shirt.

Women were in charge of tanning the skins and creating the clothing. Typical clothing included robes, breechcloths, leggings, and skirts.

Eastern Woodlands hunters used Wigwams. They covered themselves with birchbark, skins, or mats. The Algonquians made slender birchbark canoes. They also traded with Iroquoian peoples.

Intricate beadwork and quillwork is a key feature in Eastern Woodlands art. Women used feathers, porcupine quills, shells, dyes. Similar items were also used to adorn their family’s clothing, moccasins, and belongings. Eastern Woodlands peoples created wampum, tubular purple and white beads made from shells. The major tenets of the agreement were featured in Wampum belts. 

In some Eastern Woodlands cultures, arts are expressed on the body. Tattooing of the face and body is common for both men and women. A unique art form of the Haudenosaunee is the False Faces, wooden masks with metal eyes and horsehair. This revitalization of certain aspects of their traditional cultures has reinforced identity and esteem.

Some interesting facts about Eastern Woodland people

The Eastern Woodlands tribes operated in a hierarchical society split up into 4 classes: the chief (the civil war and war chief) and his family, the nobles.

Tribes were traced through the maternal line, known as matrilineage.

The general belief system among Eastern Woodlands Indians was animism. Animism believes that all objects, places, and creatures are alive.

The tribes in the Northeastern, including the Iroquoian tribes, were largely viewed as aggressive.

The Iroquois tribes grew sunflowers and would rub the oil from the sunflower seeds all over their bodies.

The numbers 4 and 7 were sacred to the Cherokee. The number 4 represented the primary directions of North, East, South, and West. The number 7 was even more religious than 4 and described the seven directions.

The Adena and the Hopewell Native Americans are the oldest Eastern Woodlands, tribes.

Did Eastern Woodland Indians live well?

The Eastern Woodland Indians lived in the forests. Their food, houses, clothes, weapons, and tools came from nature. The Eastern Woodlands Indians depended on farming, hunting, fishing, and gathering wild plants.

Eastern Woodland Indians lived in different types of shelters called wigwams and longhouses. Native Americans built their own homes using grasses.

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