IN prehistoric times the forests of North America spread in one continuous sweep from Florida to Alaska. They touched the Pacific coast below the Aleutian Island chain, extended thence inland across the region of the Great Lakes to the Atlantic and stretched onward to the Gulf of Mexico. Yet this vast forest was not one uniform tract of woodland. There were coniferous trees in the north, deciduous areas in the middle, and evergreens in the extreme south. When Europeans first reached the Atlantic coast, they found many separate tribes of Indians living in villages scattered here and there throughout these woodlands. Though these tribes differed much in their modes of life, yet, because they lived in the forest and got their sustenance from it, they all had much in common and were thereby distinguished from the Eskimo and the Barren Ground peoples of the extreme north and from the tribes of the open plains and prairies to the west.
The forest Indians were pre-eminently hunters, and deer was their principal game. In favorable regions they fished, but only as a supplement to the chase. Supplemental also were such attempts as they made at agriculture. The hunt was the most important task, and it was man's work. Searching for berries, fruits, and edible roots fell to the lot of the women, as well as caring for the little garden plots near the lodges.
The forest peoples, except for occasional pets, had no domestic animals but the dog, and it was only in the far north that they used him for draft or burden. They traveled on foot over forest trails or by canoe on forest-bordered streams. From the woods came their food, and the materials from which they made their clothing and habitations. The forest was their home, and its influence was felt in every phase of their life.
1 The Primitive Marksman, bronze figure by Fernando Miranda Casellas ( 1842- 1925), in The New York Historical Society