Story Of Bent Trees By Native Americans

The Amazing Story of Bent Trees Made by Native Americans

Across the US, you might have once come across a tree that was oddly shaped and looked like it didn’t naturally grow that way. Bent trees could easily be just nature’s work, but if you stop and look closely, you might find out a magic secret of the forest – these trees could be some of the ones which were actually bent by Native Americans who used them as permanent trail markers. The trees were used for designing safe paths that would lead toward landmarks, food or water sources. More than that, these trees were also used for finding medicinal plants and even holy grounds.

Nowadays, if you find a tree that was actually bent by humans, you’ll discover that these trees have grown a lot in time, and just imagine the amazing stories that they have to tell. Where did those people want to go? Why did they choose those paths? Did they ever get to the destination? It’s amazing to think about what the trees were used for.

You might be wondering how to spot one of these trees to make sure that they’re actually the real deal. In nature, we can also find trees that bent because of natural causes, such as the soil, strong winds, storms or even heavy snow. Some other trees just grow this way because they are actually looking for the best place to grow, many times towards a source of light – trees need their photosynthesis, so they’re doing their best to adjust their growth towards the best light source.

With all the modern life that has sprung around these trees, we might be looking at something that’s really unique, with a life span that might unfortunately soon come to an end. Some of the trees are 150 to 200 years old, and many of them are threatened by massive land clearings. Many groups are currently working on preserving these mystical trail trees, one of them already having a database which contains more than a thousand of these trees which can be found across 39 states.

One of the most fascinating thing about these trees is that each tribe had their own ‘tree design’. Yes, the practice used by each tribe was different, each having different markers. Have you ever thought that one of these trees could be found even in your backyard? If you’re wondering how to spot this kind of bent tree, take a look at our tips on how to know exactly if the bent tree grew that way naturally, or if it was the work of someone who wanted it to really mean something for the people around them.

Normal tree near river

Normal tree near river

Seeing a bent tree does not necessarily mean that it was grown this way by people. Read more

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The perfect marker in the forest

The perfect marker in the forest

Bent trees would be the perfect marker in a forest – any other small plant or other sign would probably perish due to storms or bad weather, but the trees remained there no matter what happened in the forest. They could get covered in snow, be blown by the winds, but if their roots were fully grown in the ground, they wouldn’t be affected by bad weather or wild animals.

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A great way to communicate

A great way to communicate

To communicate with one another, members of the Native American tribes actually forced the trees to grow in shapes that didn’t look natural. Each kind of bent tree revealed a special message to different tribes. For example, some trees might have represented a geographical divide that would show the boundary between two tribes. Other trees, like the ones here, would show the direction of some important spot, water or food source. Just look closely and think about what that particular tree would have to say about its surroundings.

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Revealing safe-crossing points

Revealing safe-crossing points

Each tree could also reveal safe-crossing points, so it was really important to know what the sign was, especially during times of trouble. In the forests of North America, you can surely spot one of these trees if you look closely. Some of them have a special cut that was designed to reveal that it was specific to a certain tribe.

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How to spot a bent tree

How to spot a bent tree

You can easily see that the tree has a ‘notch’ or a ‘nose’ that showed how the tree was bent. This tree in Georgia reveals a spot that could have meant anything from a food source to a secret message, such as pointing towards a fresh water source, rock or mineral deposits for tools, and even the graves of their ancestors.

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Look for the tree type

Look for the tree type

A marker tree was usually made from the trees that are part of the hardwood family – elms, oaks and maples were used for the purpose of offering guidance to tribe members. Once the European settlers made their way into the North American forests, they started using these trees as guidance as well. Don’t be surprised if you’ll find one of these amazing trees in a local park, on a mountain trail or even in your neighbor’s backyard – if you see a tree that might be looking odd, just think that you might have discovered a valuable piece of history.

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How a bent tree was affected

How a bent tree was affected

Another amazing thing about these trees is that even if they were bent, they grew vertically without any problem. Just look at this bent tree here – you can easily spot that it was forced to grow that way, but then it found its way towards the light and grew up to the sky. If you’re looking for the best method to see if the bent trees were really bent my Mother Nature or by people, you should check out the inner bend’s top part, which should have some kind of scarring.

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A marker tree’s scar

A marker tree's scar

The scarring was made by ties which helped tribe members bend the trees. Those straps were tied when the trees were younger, and that’s why they remained there, similar to a scar. Like so, the bent became a permanent feature that could not be removed.

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Unique trees that should be protected

Unique trees that should be protected

Marker trees occupy a special place in nature, and since some of them are already 200 years old, they might not be here for long. Unfortunately, the government does not currently protect these trees, so they are threatened. The most alarming part is that the local industry is looking to log vast forested areas, and these trees could just disappear overnight.

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Real Native American marker trees are real

Real Native American marker trees are real

There are even a lot of skeptics who do not believe that these trees were actually made by Native Americans. There have been many disagreements about which trees are not made that way by nature, so that’s why some people say that true marker trees might not even be the ones that have already been identified. Even so, there are several pictures and historical accounts that can prove the fact that these marker trees have been created by Native American tribes, especially the ones used as navigational aids.

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Extra tips on how to find marker tree

Extra tips on how to find marker tree

There are other tips that could show you if the tree that you found is actually one of those incredibly rare trees that have been bent by American Indians. Like so, if you’re looking for how to discover a real marker tree, you could consider checking out these extra tips. For starters, make sure that you are in an area previously inhabited by Native Americans.

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Examine the tree to find its secrets

Examine the tree to find its secrets

Then, think about how old that tree is by looking at its bark’s texture, and especially at its size. If it looks too young, it’s definitely not what you’re looking for. The bend of the tree should also be pretty low to the ground, and making sure that it’s oak, elm or maple could represent a good indicator that you’re looking at the real thing.

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Look for the right location

Look for the right location

A good pointer would be if you’re east of the Mississippi river – American Indians were the first people to arrive in the Mississippi River watershed. More than that, you can also check out the surroundings of the potential bent tree and see if it there is any type of landmark in the area that could be seen as a marker – a river for example. Many trail marker trees have been found in Tennessee, Indiana or Michigan, so you could probably find one in any of these places.

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Preserving the Native American history

Preserving the Native American history

Taking care of these trees is an important part of preserving the Native American history. Even though they won’t be here for long, it’s important to take care of them as long as possible, since they were once an essential part of American Indian’s lives, and can be considered living Native American legacy.

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Try to find one yourself

Try to find one yourself

You’ll see that it is difficult to find information about locating such a tree, since the database that reveals where the trees are is confidential. Nonetheless, it’s incredible to find one of these trees on your own and imagine its story.

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