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Friday, May 8, 2009

Native Americans

It has been thought that Native Americans bent trees into shapes that pointed to something important to them at the time – water, cave, stream crossing, boundary, etc., and that the early settlers for at least some time, continued the practice.  Here are a few photos of that type of tree manipulation. 

Others say that the Native Americans never did this, and that these trees are only an oddity of Nature.

 Anyone have a take on the subject ?

Steve Chyrchel, Interpretive Naturalist
Hobbs State Park - Conservation Area


Anonymous said...

I'm not sure where those pictures were taken, but near the Greenbay trail in Winnetka, IL there were a number of trees that, it was well accepted, were a product of the local Native American's marking a trail. Generally these had had their tips bent to near 90 degrees and so the mature trees had a distinctive growth pattern that was less symmetric than the pictures you show here. (I believe they were bent specifically in the direction of travel)

Anonymous said...

This tree is clearly older than the surrounding trees, and it is growing flat - it would seem unlikely to be natural. It may be a U-shaped espalier which was not maintained. If the tree type/age were estimated it would be easier to determine if was worked by Natives.

Shama-Lama Mama said...

When I first saw it, I thought of a lightning bolt splitting it down the center, and it peeling open like a banana. Then, undaunted, it just continued to grow up to the sky.

But I like your theory better. :)

Anonymous said...

No disrespect to the first two Anonymouses, but that's arguing based solely on the shape of the tree. What documentary evidence is there that any native groups practiced tree bending -- has anyone ever researched this, or is it all just "local" "generally accepted" fact? If it really was a common practice, I would expect that native nations would have history to that effect; there would be stories about how people used these marked trees and so on. I've never heard any, and it's a little suspicious that a few isolated odd-shaped trees were a secret, long-lost practice, especially since there are so many simpler, better understood ways of giving directions across open country.

Geophile said...

I have spoken with native people, Lenape descendants in our area, who say it was done, and not just for trail directions, but as part of ceremonial practices, and also to mark sites, for example, so that they could find them but white people wouldn't notice.

I, of course, can't vouch for the truth of it, but over the years as I have had the opportunity to visit old stone work sites here, I have seen an unusual number of what seem to be manipulated trees around the sites. I was reluctant at first to accept it, but the accumulated circumstantial evidence is pretty strong.