It would have been a grand thing to have written 50,000 words about the esoteric beauty and ritual of these splendid people. But sadly they were razed before anyone bothered to notice and make an account. And I really did search, reading volumes, studying maps and pictures, hoping for glimpses here and there; I found … Continue Reading

The Appendix

The Appendix found in this blog’s menu lists two groups of plants: one includes plants used as food, and the other includes plants used in ceremonies. Let’s face it, shamanic hunter gatherers are or were the definitive plant experts. They knew where specific plants could be found and in what season to harvest them, they … Continue Reading

19. Calusa, Timucua

The Calusa and Timucua tribes of Florida are intriguing. Both speak language isolates and are considered descendants of early Paleolithic people. The Calusa were suspected of cannibalism, which they denied, but evidence found in mounds suggests that cannibalism was highly probable. Although decimated by Spanish diseases the Calusa managed to hold on to mainland Florida … Continue Reading

18. Creek, Chickasaw, Choctaw

Please note that these tribes represent what was once dozens possibly hundreds of tribes and bands that lived in southeastern North America. Most were driven into extinction by European invaders: Spanish, French, and English. It isn’t possible for me to know if all three tribes practiced unique customs or that surviving members of each tribe … Continue Reading

17. Natchez, Atapaka (Ishak), Chitimacha

These three tribes have particular things in common with the wider Mound Builder culture. I also read suggestions that they might have been the descendants of a far older Paleolithic group.  The Natchez, Atapaka, and Chitimacha all speak or spoke language isolates but there seem to be some speculation that the three languages are distantly … Continue Reading

16. Caddo

If the experts are right the Caddoan language demonstrates linguistic evolution extremely well. Caddoan is believed to have split into northern and southern branches more than 3000 years ago. Northern Caddoan further evolved into Wichita 2000 years ago and Kitsac 1200 years ago. The Pawnee-Arikara branch is thought to have split again 300 to 500 … Continue Reading

15. New Jersey Algonquian

Perhaps the most intriguing tribe to me is the Lenni Lenape because they figure into so many other tribes’ legends. Remember the Mound Building Yuchi of Tennessee who insisted that the Lenni Lenape were the only people in that region when the Yuchi made their way into Tennessee? The Yuchi referred to the Lenni Lenape … Continue Reading

14. Delaware Algonquian

We have reached the state of Delaware and the illusion of state lines simply disappears. In Delaware we find the Assateague and Nanticoke people that we met in Maryland. And when we finally reach New Jersey we will meet the Lenni Lenape, the Nanticoke Lenape, and the Unalachtigo Lenape, all of whom are also found … Continue Reading

13. Maryland Algonquian

The divisions between states become even more blurred when we get to Maryland. Some tribes were members of the Powhatan Confederacy of Virginia, some were not. Before contact we find tribes thriving on the western shores of Chesapeake Bay, the Delmarva Peninsula, and along the Potomac River. Their language is slightly different from the Virginia … Continue Reading

12. West Virginia Algonquian

I find it a bit puzzling that the information regarding West Virginia’s tribal cultures seems a bit thin. Perhaps the region is ripe for more archaeological exploration. Nevertheless we have met some of them in other chapters. We find the Kanawha Valley people in the Paleolithic America chapter. The Monongahela, Adena, and Hopewell can be … Continue Reading

11. Virginia Algonquian

The Algonquian history of Virginia is complex and at times confusing. Most of the Algonquian groups belonged to the Powhatan Confederacy of more than thirty tribes. The Confederacy was organized long before the English settled at Jamestown in 1607, under the leadership of Wahunsunacawh, called Chief Powhatan (1545-1618). They inhabited the Coastal Tidewater region, east … Continue Reading

10. North Carolina Algonquian

The Carolina Algonquian language, also known as Pamlico, is an extinct subgroup of eastern Algonquian. It forms a part of Powhatan or Virginia Algonquian spoken by the Virginia tidewater people (Powhatan) until the mid-1790. In 1607 to 1609 John Smith recorded fifty words. And William Strachey recorded 500 words in 1610-1611. Although many of these … Continue Reading

9. Yuchi and Chisca

Yuchi (Tsoyaha) Long before the Cherokee moved into the southern Appalachian region, the Yuchi of eastern Tennessee lived there. For more than a century the Yuchi people were probably the only influence that was felt by the colonial settlers who had faded off into those mountains.  It would have been the Yuchi that taught the … Continue Reading

8. Iroquoian Cultures

Iroquois (Haudenosaunee) The people referred to as Iroquois call themselves Haudenosaunee (People of the Longhouse/ They are Building a Longhouse). The Algonquian Huron (Wyandot), traditional enemies of the Iroquois and allies to the French Basque fisherman and hunters, called the Haudenosaunee “Irinakhoiw” meaning “black snakes” or “real adders”. It is also possible that the Basque … Continue Reading

7. Siouan Cultures

This is the sort of story that gets lodged in my throat; it exemplifies the withering tragedy of all Indigenous people. But I found this one particularly difficult to study, haunting my sleep, and permeating my thoughts during the day. I repeatedly tried to envision what it must have been like while being left clueless … Continue Reading

6. Mound Builders

The stabilizing climate led to the Woodland Periods where we find substantial settlements, a degree of subsistence farming, and the introduction of pottery. The continued use of rock shelters and small encampments suggest that ancient migratory routes were still being used for hunting and reaching quarries. Stevens Rock Shelter found at New Market, Maryland yielded … Continue Reading

5. Paleolithic America

Clovis, New Mexico is probably as well-known as Roswell. Clovis points were discovered in 1929 and carbon dated in the 1950’s as being 13,500 years old. By then I doubt that anyone was surprised because the points had been found in campsites where mammoth and Ice Age bison had been butchered, already known to be … Continue Reading

4. Introduction to Indigenous America

Before I continue I need to make several things absolutely clear. First, I do not have permission from any of these people to speak of their culture, their history, or their ancestors. Secondly, by no stretch of the imagination am I in anyway an expert in this field. My only interest is attempting to understand … Continue Reading

3. The European Invasion

European western expansion into North and South America in the last 500 years perpetrated the single worst holocaust in human history. In North America, the region from northern Mexico to the Arctic Circle, it is estimated to have been populated by 60 million Indigenous Americans. Some estimates are as high as 100 million. The tribes … Continue Reading

2. Geology, Geography, Ecology

The Appalachian Mountains formed about 480 million years ago during the Ordovician Period. At their peak they were as tall as the Rockies (14,431 ‘) and the Alps (15,781’). But over the eons Appalachia was ground down by repeated Ice Ages and erosion leaving its highest peak standing at only 6,684 feet. Once part of … Continue Reading

1. Introduction: The Potomac River Basin and Appalachia

How did Indigenous Americans influence the cultural amalgamate in the Appalachian Mountains and the Potomac River Basin? I thought it was a relatively simple question with a simple answer. But after several months of thought and an enormous amount of research the subject became anything but simple. Three distinctly unrelated branches of human history converged … Continue Reading