1957 Indians

Don & Diane Pulliam Wells

Document Indian Trail Trees


“Mystery of the Trees”

Don Wells, President of the Mountain Stewards, a 501(c)(3) organization located in Jasper GA, has announced the publication of their book Mystery of the Trees. The book will be available for sale on the Mountain Stewards web site, www.mountainstewards.org. It will also be available in other locations to be announced soon.

The “Mystery of the Trees” is a never-before-told story about curious, oddly shaped trees that were used by Indians to guide themselves across the North American Continent, to trade, to hunt, to communicate with other tribes, to gather plants for medicines and more.

This book covers six years of work in documenting a part of the cultural heritage of the Indians that is rapidly disappearing. In the early 1900’s, some information was published, but then it languished in archives. It has remained below the radar for years. Through interviews with tribal elders and extensive research the story can now be told.

The Indian Trail Trees are sacred to the Native Americans and their preservation is very importance. Although, many of these trees can live to be 300 to 600 years old, some are near the end of their lives. Others, unfortunately, have been destroyed by urban development or vandals. The meanings of these trees are not completely known. The meaning may never be known since those who know are all but gone.

Some of these trees are found marking old Indian Trails. Others point to water, shelter, stream crossings, medicine plant sites and more. The techniques for bending a tree into a particular shape have, for the most part, been lost. However, these “living artifacts” are a testimony to the skills and knowledge of the Indian people in their being one with nature.

Native Americans traditionally transferred their culture and history through oral means. Each year, at festivals and family gatherings, the elders told the historical and mythological stories of their tribe. After the white settlers and the missionaries came, the oral stories began to disappear. By the time of the removal to Oklahoma, Indians had lost significant parts of their culture and history, and with each succeeding generation, more knowledge faded.

The methodology of bending the trees and their meaning are part of what has been lost. Wells said, “Probing the evidence will allow us to recover, explore and preserve this fascinating part of Indian culture. In addition to the book, a video documentary is being developed that will show the ingenious and resourceful ways that Native Americans used trees.” Interviews, historical research (both oral and written), dendrochronology, GPS, satellite systems and sophisticated computer-based mapping programs are being used to validate the extensive geographic knowledge Native Americans possessed.

In less than six years, bent trees have been documented as existing or as having previously existed in 39 states. Some of these trees clearly marked Indian Trails. GPS and digital topographic technology are being used to correlate trees with known Indian trails and village sites. The plotting of these trails and village sites on topographic and 3-D maps graphically tells more about the cultural history of Native Americans.

The Stewards have partnered with WildSouth, Inc. of Asheville, NC, and Moulton, AL. Together, these organizations are collecting cultural and historical data of Native American tribes in the Southeastern United States. The first project in this massive undertaking is the trail mapping for the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians (ECBI) in Cherokee, NC and in the surrounding territory of western NC. Work on this project began in April 2009 and continues through 2012.

Don Wells, 706-692-1565 mountainman93@gmail.com


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