NATIVE AMERICAN CULTURE

NATIVE AMERICAN CULTURE Bow and Arrow  1It is believed that some stone and landscape constructions in New England were created by Native Americans, following traditions similar to the building of mounds in the Midwest or the building of the cliff houses and kivas in the Southwest, but using rocky soils of New England as a building resource. 

 

 

 

Traditions of large scale construction are found throughout the United States. However, if a conventional map was drawn showing sites of Native American construction, that map would surround New England with a sharp demarcation line within which no sites appear.

 It should be clear that this line is a demarcation of belief and not of any reality. The idea that "Indians did not do stonework in New England" is based entirely on a longstanding cultural belief. When the Pilgrims first landed in New England and began to acquire land, they needed to believe that the land was empty and that the few remaining Indians were "good for nothing". In what is probably an unbroken tradition, today's school children are still taught that stone structures, so common in the woods here, were all made by farmers in the colonial period. Also today, many land developers continue to operate without concern for what may already be on the land, and to be threatened by the possibility of pre-historic constructions or other archaeological sites. In turn, the responsible State agencies deny that pre-historic construction exists, and in this way the agencies serve the needs of the developers and of the construction industry. Given this, it is no coincidence that the 1999 announcement for "Massachusetts Archaeology Week" pictured a historic building on the front cover, as if to say "we don't have any archaeology here".

 

The evidence that Indians did construct stonework in New England is shown for example at the Flagg Swamp Rock-shelter, which was unfortunately destroyed to make way for a cloverleaf for I495 in Westborough, MA.  Archaeologists from Harvard University discovered a stone wall drip-line underneath the overhang of the rock-shelter that was dated to 4700BP.  And there is also the now destroyed site in Lochmere, NH, described by E. Squier, which consisted of an unusual assortment of stone-faced walls that were present when the first settlers arrived around Lochmere in the late 18th century.. Although the Flagg Swamp Rock-shelter is known to professional archaeologists, few if any have ever heard of Squier's description, written in 1849. Most of the Lochmere construction was gone by the time Squire wrote about it, and it was not in good condition in the 1820s.
 

The problem is that the conceptual framework of most New England archaeologists does not include Indian stonework. Any reason can be given to dismiss the possibility. For example, it is considered unlikely that structures would have remained undamaged in a a landscape that was heavily modified by  industrious colonial farmers. But in the Midwest there is no such limit on the archaeologists' "conceptual framework", so they are able to find mounds and rock piles even though the area has been even more intensely farmed. The Midwestern archaeologists can go directly to interesting questions about the age and nature of the builders, and about the function of the constructions; while here, in New England, we are burdened by the requirement for an existence proof.
 

NATIVE AMERICAN CULTURE RESOURCES

ARTICLES

 

BOOKS

Hoffman, Curtis R. 1990, People of the Fresh Water Lake

LINKS

red paint imag

The Red Paint People lived in Maine and the Maritimes about 4000 years ago. They are so called because they used the mineral red ocher in burial  ceremonies, sprinkling quantities of it  on the dead and over all the  gifts they placed in the graves. They are considered to be part of the Archaic Period that ended about 3000 years ago with the  advent of the Ceramic  Period.  

woodland rn-27f15The Eastern Woodland Indian culture is found in the region of eastern north America east of the great plains and Mississippi River and from Newfoundland in the north to Florida and the Gulf Coast to the south. In the northeast as many as 60 indigenous groups spoke dialects of either Algonquian or Iroquoian languages. Their lifestyles were that of hunter-gatherer in the north taking advantage of the abundance along the coasts and waterways to a more sedentary agricultural base in the south.