The Hall of Eastern Woodlands Indians opened in 1966. It offers an anthropological view of Native Americans of the eastern United States and Canada as they were thought to have lived prior to and at the time of contact with Europeans. The Hall includes a number of artifacts from the southeast United States and eastern Canada that were added to supplement the Museum's collection.
The Hall displays models, clothing, jewelry, ritual articles, musical and game objects, legal and commemorative documents, pottery, hunting, fishing, and other agricultural objects. Text and graphics illustrate and describe farming, ritual practices, beadwork, metalwork, pottery-making, housing, and transportation.
"Eastern Woodlands" is an umbrella term. It encompasses a diversity of native groups. These people did not live isolated, unchanging lives prior to the arrival of European settlers in the 17th century. Trading parties from the Confederacy of the Haudenosaunee, or "Iroquois," ranged far afield from their residential trading centers throughout modern New York State and Canada: to the Carolinas, the Ohio Valley and beyond to the west, and throughout the Great Lakes region. The "Five Civilized Tribes"—the Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chicksaw, and Seminole—similarly dominated the area from the southeastern seaboard to the Mississippi River. Individuals traveled widely and intermarried, and some groups warred with one another. As a result, pre-contact Native American societies were as dynamic and changing as any of their contemporaries.
Native American history did not therefore begin with the arrival of Europeans. The encounter between British, French, Dutch, Spanish and other colonists, and the native populations of the Americas was the meeting of very different but similarly sophisticated societies (see Hiawatha Belt). Two points need emphasizing. On the one hand, contact between these societies took a far heavier toll on the native populations—a huge percentage of indigenous people died from a combination of violence, enslavement, disease, and demoralization within 100 years of the arrival of Europeans. On the other hand, relations between Europeans and Native Americans were extremely complex. Certain Native American groups attempted to further their own interests by entering into strategic military and trading alliances with the competing colonial powers—a policy that proved very successful until the close of the "French and Indian Wars" of the 1760s. Many Europeans married into native societies and many northeastern native people fought in the War of Independence. The encounter wasn't simply a history of conquest. It was also a process of cultural interchange that continues today. (see NAGPRA)
The following social science and art standards and curriculum requirements are addressed in the Hall or in this guide:
Use the elements of geography to analyze important questions and issues
Connections and interactions of people and events across time and from a variety of perspectives
Roles and contributions of individuals and groups
Museum artifacts on display have specific meanings and uses to the cultures and individuals who made and used them
Analyze and interpret historical evidence
Understand world cultures and civilizations
Ability to compare interpretations of theories of history based on evidence