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There have been many dubious stereotypes afforded the American Indians, but the simple truth is that when Europeans first encountered them, they were still operating (successfully) on a tribal level and the continent had never been governed as a single nation.
Importantly, the whole concept of 'ownership' of land was alien to them and remained so till the end of the Indian Wars in the 1890's.
They were one of several succeeding cultures often referred to as the Mound builders. It is a blanket term for a number of Indian American cultures in the eastern part of North America at that time. At its greatest extent, the Hopewell exchange system ran from the South-eastern United States into the South-eastern Canadian shores of Lake Ontario.
Within this area, societies participated in a high degree of exchange; most activity was conducted along the waterways that served as their major transportation routes.
It is this stereotype which has sadly endured until recently, when the worlds thoughts have turned towards ecological matters such as sustainable farming, low-impact dwellings and a recognition of the value of forming a relationship with our environment.
Today, we recognise that these were the very characteristics which sustained the Indians lifestyle for so long.
By 8,000 BC the North American climate was similar to today's.
Artefacts show the people traded with other Native Americans located from Georgia to the Great Lakes region.
This is one among numerous mound sites of complex indigenous cultures throughout the Mississippi and Ohio valleys. The term "Woodland" was coined in the 1930s and refers to prehistoric sites dated between the Archaic period and the Mississippian cultures. This was not a single culture or society, but a widely dispersed set of related populations, who were connected by a common network of trade routes, known as the Hopewell Exchange System.
They constructed large multi-family dwellings in their villages, which were used seasonally. These people were part of the Southwestern Archaic Tradition centred in north-central New Mexico, the San Juan Basin, the Rio Grande Valley, southern Colorado, and south-eastern Utah. The prime example is Watson Brake in northern Louisiana, whose 11-mound complex is dated to 3,500 BC, making it the oldest, dated site in the Americas for such complex construction. Evidence of this culture has been found at more than 100 sites, from the major complex at Poverty Point, Louisiana across a 100-mile (160 km) range to the Jaketown Site near Belzoni, Mississippi.
People did not live there year round, but for the summer to hunt and fish, and to gather food supplies for the winter. Poverty Point is a 1 square mile (2.6 km) complex of six major earthwork concentric rings, with additional platform mounds at the site.
It included a Woodhenge, whose sacred cedar poles were placed to mark the summer and winter solstices and fall and spring equinoxes.