15 November 2009
Eastern Woodland Indian Patterns
This weekend I added a few more impressions to Vast Unpeopled Lands. The photo you see above represents 18 distinct impressions (that is, I've printed 18 times so far from the 5 blocks I've carved).
Unfortunately I couldn't find any design sources for native Massachusetts tribal patterns, but I did locate these designs, based on surviving patterns from the neighboring Iroquois and Mohawk nations (originally from upstate New York).
The native Americans of New England had very different beliefs and ways of interacting with the environment than the English who arrived in the 17th century. The Americans subsisted off the land in a migratory fashion, both hunting and fishing and planting crops seasonally. Through the use of small controlled forest burnings, movement between different areas of food sources through the year, low population densities, and the use of multicrop agriculture, the impact of the native population on local ecosystems was fairly small and consistent.
The Europeans, however, relied on livestock which had a huge impact on the local ecosystems. Europeans cleared vast amounts of land, relied on settled rather than migratory agriculture, introduced fences and notions of individual ownership, and viewed the products of the land as commodities to be claimed.
These differences in understanding about ownership and use of land led many of the newly arrived Europeans to believe that the land they saw stretching out before them was uninhabited, virgin, and there for the taking. In many ways they were literally unable to see the marks of the cultures that already lived there.