A lesson on the American Indians

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Many of you have asked questions about American Indians. I hope this week that I can answer some of those questions in this article.

Columbus discovered America in 1492. He initially thought that he was the first. In February of 1493, Columbus wrote about the natives of the land he discovered. He called them “Indios.” As time went on, the white traders used the expression “Red Man” when referring to the Indians.

So, how did the Indians get to America? It is thought that during the Ice Age wanderers from Asia crossed into America. The Indians had to have three things to survive; they were food, water and shelter. Our rivers and lakes provided the water, fish and other food. All along these areas was plenty of forest to make shelter for them. The Indians lived in small tribes and life was very hard. The average life span was about 35. Often people will discover shell mounds along the rivers or by lakes and wonder about them. Clams were a part of the main diet of the Indians, and they ate tons of them. Whenever they killed a wild animal, every part of it was used. The meat was eaten, and the hide was used to make tools and weapons. The women breastfed their young, but as the children got older they would have to chew the food then give it to the child. There was no baby food.

You might ask who some of the Indian tribes in Louisiana were. The Paleo lived from 10,000 to 5,000 B.C., the Meso from 5,000 to 2,000 B.C., the Neo from 2,000 to 1600 B.C., the Tchefuncte from 500 B.C. to 200 A.D., the Marksville from 50 to 400 A.D. and the Caddo from 1000 to 1600 A.D. The Tangipahoa, Homa, Washa and many others are among the other tribes that existed in the state.

Where would someone find arrowheads left by the Indians? If you know someone that has farm land, wait until they plow the field and then let it rain on the field. The rain will wash the dirt off the stone and make it easy to see when you walk the field.

My home is on the Natalbany River and also sits on a high hill, and I have been lucky enough to find numerous arrowheads in my yard. The photograph of the arrowhead is one that I found just last week; it was lying on the ground under an outside water faucet. I have probably walked over it a thousand times, until a hard rain washed off the dirt.

The Louisiana Treasures Museum has a large collection of artifacts from the surrounding area that are on display. Teachers that are interested in bringing students on educational field trips to the museum can call to set up a tour. The museum is open on Saturdays and Sundays and also upon request by calling 225-294-8352.

Wayne Norwood is a lieutenant with the St. John thhe Baptist Sheriff’s Department and owner and operator of the Louisiana Treasures Museum.