One State-Many Nations: Native Americans of Ohio offers
a rich cultural and historical heritage. While each Nation
(Tribe) is unique, we are going to look at the common characteristics.
Before We Begin
Western Reserve Public Media has chosen to use
the designation “Native Americans” because
this is the designation desired by the Native American Nations of Ohio with
whom we are working. As we did research, we discovered that Native Americans
in the West prefer the term American Indians and in Canada the term First Nation
Nations are categorized into cultural, geographic and environmental areas:
Ohio Native Americans belong to two language groups,
Iroquois and Algonquian. The Iroquois speakers were
the Wyandotte and the Mingo, and the Algonquian
speakers were the Shawnee, Delaware, Miami and Ottawa.
Geographically, the Iroquoian people lived in
north central, northeastern and south central Ohio. The
Algonquian people were mostly in the southern and western
Ohio Indians are considered part of the Northeast section
and are also known as Woodland people.
Native people lived in Ohio for more than 12,000 years.
Paleo-Indians are believed to have lived in Ohio
from 13,000 to 7,000 BC.
Archaic people lived in Ohio from 8,000 to 500
The Adena people lived in Ohio from around 800
BC to 100 AD.
The Hopewell culture thrived from around 100
BC to 400 AD.
The Woodland cultures started to appear between
800 BC and 1200 AD.
The Whittlesey and Sandusky people (or
the late Prehistoric peoples) appear from 1000 AD to
Native Americans in Ohio after 1650 AD are known as Historic Native people.
Native people utilized the resources of the
region in which they lived.
Fishing was common to people who lived along Lake Erie
or along rivers.
Natives living in the Appalachian area hunted white
tail dear or bear.
The plains of western Ohio allowed for planting.
The time period in which a group of Native people lived
is linked to what plants and animals were available to
How Native people built their homes depended on the material at hand and the
weather in which they had to survive.
The earliest Native Ohioans lived as nomads. In warm
weather they built temporary shelters and sought rock
shelters in the winter.
The Adena built circular houses made by putting
vertical posts in the ground, spaced slightly apart;
then vines, boughs, cane matting and other woody materials
were woven between the posts to make walls.
Hopewell people built square or rectangular houses.
Poles with long tapered tops were pulled together and
fastened to ridge poles down the center to make an arched
roof. Bark and thatch were used for roofs.
Fort Ancient people built rectangular houses
with posts set vertically in the ground to form walls.
Wattle and daub, made by weaving vines and boughs together
and packed with mud, made the walls. The roofs
were probably thatched.
The Whittlesey people built round houses like
the historic Wigwam. These were covered with mats usually
made from cattail stalks or tree bark.
Historic Native Ohioans built many different
types of houses. The type of house depended on the Native
nation to which they belonged. See the section on each
of the tribes to find out about the housing.
The type of food Native people ate depended on what was available at what time
Some Native people were hunters and followed
ducks, geese, bear, rabbit, squirrel and other animals
native to the area.
Some Native Americans were farmers. They grew
corn, beans, squash, sunflowers and pumpkin. The “Three
Sisters” — corn, beans and squash — were staples
of the diet.
Depending on the area, other food items available included
fish, clams, duck, geese, maple sugar, berries, sassafras,
walnuts, hickory nuts and much more.
Native Americans first made their tools and
in later years, traded to get the tools that they needed.
Tools could be made out of flint from central Ohio,
wood, bone shell and plants.
Historic Indians often traded furs for goods and materials
to make their lives easier like cooking pots, iron tools,
cloth for clothing and different foods.
The clothing of the Native peoples varied
from nation to nation and depended upon the time period the
nation was in Ohio.
Early people in Ohio used animal skins, mostly deer,
that were tanned and hung over a fire to be made waterproof.
Some textiles were woven from tree bark or other plants.
Early men wore breech cloth, a long piece of leather
or fabric between the legs and held up by a belt, and
Early women wore a short skirt, leggings and moccasins.
Designs on clothing were made
using “stamps” created
from stone or wood. Other decorations were made of copper,
stone, bone, wood, shell and horn. Porcupine quills,
moose hair and fresh water pearls were also used.
Historic Indians traded fur for wool and cotton cloth,
silk ribbons, glass beads and silver.
The impact of the settlers caused changes in the style
of dress of the Natives.
and Body Decorations
Hair style and body decorations were often
used to distinguish one Native group from another.
Prehistoric Native Americans sported elaborate hair
styles. Men styled their hair in a single bun above the
middle of the forehead while women wore a single braid
down the back with a bun over the forehead and another
at the nape of the neck.
In later years, many men shaved their hair and left
a long braid on top called a scalp lock. Women still
wore one long braid down the back.
Early Natives used tattoos, body paint and piercing
for personal decoration. Sometimes decorations of copper,
shell, bone, wood or horn were inserted or pierced into
Some body decorations denoted class affiliation or personal
Native Americans had four reasons for playing
games: to have fun, to keep fit, to learn and to enact ceremonies.
Games like “toss the stick” or “spear
the moose” taught eye-hand coordination. These are
just two of the many games played by Natives.
Adults as well as children played games. Games of chance
were played with “dice” made of wood, bone
or antler. Bets were made that wagered on the skill of
Music and Dance
Music was used to accompany dance, to teach
lessons to the young, to make work easier, to engage in courtship
and to have fun.
Dance was used for ceremonial purposes, for social purposes,
for young people to meet and be properly introduced, and
for commemoration of special occasions in tribal history.
Some of the Native American musical instruments are
still in use today. They include drums, pan pipes, rattles,
flutes, whistles and bells.
The drum, still considered sacred, represents the earth
and is said to be the heart beat of Mother Earth.
The drum is played in a two-beat
style, not the ”Hollywood” version
(DA-da-da-da, DA, da, da, da).
The drum was never given to children as a toy.
Some stories were told just for fun.
Others recounted the history of the nation or explained
their spiritual beliefs, laws and moral beliefs.
Some stories explained where the Native person fit in
Children were taught the rules of their society through
Cultural compression occurs when one group
of people moves into an area already occupied by another
Cultural compression has a domino effect. One group
moves in physically with another group. These two groups
are forced into the physical space of a third group and
Cultural compression results in changes in culture,
language, social customs and traditional ways of life.
- Sometimes customs and traditions comingle and result
in changes in the original groups.
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