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Native Cultures

Sir Henry Hudson entering New York Bay, September 11, 1609 with Indian family watching on shore in foreground by Edward Moran c. 1898. – Library of Congress

Indian history goes back 12,000 years to the melting glaciers, when skilled nomadic hunters stalked mastodon and giant beaver. Native cultures refined their use of local materials, mining flint and chert for stone tools and fashioning abundant clay into jars and bowls. About a thousand years ago, Paleo Indian people began to grow squash, beans and corn to supplement their diet of game, fish and wild plants.

Indian cultures emerged into recorded history as two separate nations: Abenaki and Iroquois. Their territory met in the Champlain Valley, which all tribes used as a travel route through northeast North America. Indians allied with Europeans to further their own territorial interests, the Abenaki siding with the French and the Iroquois allying with the British. Both tribes ended up losing most of their land to white settlement. Four hundred years after contact, Abenaki and Iroquois Indians are reclaiming their roots and celebrating their traditions.