The Eastern Woodlands

The peoples of the expansive woodlands of Eastern America live in a large number of tribes, with related religious and linguistic traditions.

The people subsisted through hunting, fishing and limited agriculture, trading with and periodically making war on their neighbours. They were the first Native North American societies to experience the arrival of Europeans and despite regular outbreaks of disease and warfare, a significant cultural exchange took place as Europeans learned to live and travel in their New World. Native Americans quickly accessed new technologies and markets, fuelling an explosion in trade that had a profound effect on all involved.

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Birchbark mocock
  • 1

    Birchbark mocock, Mi’qmaq, Late 19th Century 

    Birchbark mocock

    Birchbark is simultaneously light, sturdy and waterproof: as a result, it was used to make containers for liquids, such as this mocock for collecting maple syrup.

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    Wampum belt, Northeast, Woodlands 18th Century  

    Wampum belt

    Wampum belts, made from seashell beads, were the highest status clothing produced in the woodlands, worn on occasions of great importance and solemnity. The style later gave way to beadwork made from Central European glass.

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    Pipe tomahawk, Iroquois, 1805 

    Pipe tomahawk

    Pipe tomahawks, symbols of martial prowess, were usually produced in European factories and shipped in bulk to North America before being traded with inland tribes.

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    Birchbark canoe model, Northeast Woodlands, 20th Century  

    Birchbark canoe model

    Canoes, like this model, were made from birchbark which was hardy, easy to repair, and could be effortlessly carried between bodies of water. This allowed canoes to travel hundreds of miles into the interior.

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    Deerskin moccasins, Northeast Woodlands, 1750-1770 

    Deerskin moccasins

    Deerskin moccasins, produced by Native craftsmen, were prized by European soldiers as the ideal footwear for the American forests. This pair was probably commissioned during the Seven Years War.

Explore the other featured cultures

The Plains

Elk tooth dress

The people of the North American Plains were predominantly nomadic, living in large territories roamed by great herds of buffalo.

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The Northwest Coast


The societies of the Northwest coast of North America developed in relative isolation between the Coastal Mountains and the Pacific Ocean.

More about the Northwest Coast 

The Arctic

Ulu knife

The people of the farthest northern reaches of the Americas live in a world of scarcity: finite resources and a hostile environment have created a resourceful and resilient people who retain much of their ancestral tradition and lifestyle.

More about the Arctic 

The Southwest

Katsina doll

The peoples of the Southwestern United States have a long tradition of settled life that is reliant on agriculture.

More about the Southwest 

Contemporary North America


Today Native American societies thrive across North America, with traditional practices, languages and religions experiencing resurgence after decades of suppression and neglect.

More about contemporary North America