This classification is a part of the Eastern Woodlands. The concept of a southeastern cultural region was developed by anthropologists, beginning with Otis Mason and Frank Boas in 1887. The boundaries of the region are defined more by shared cultural traits than by geographic distinctions. Because the cultures gradually instead of abruptly shift into Plains, Prairie, or Northeastern Woodlands cultures, scholars do not always agree on the exact limits of the Southeastern Woodland culture region. Shawnee, Powhatan, Waco, Tawakoni, Tonkawa, Karankawa, Quapaw, and Mosopelea are usually seen as marginally southeastern and their traditional lands represent the borders of the cultural region.
Culture and history
In the Late Prehistoric time period in the Southeastern Woodlands, cultures increased agricultural production, developed ranked societies, increased their populations, trade networks, and intertribal warfare. Most Southeastern peoples (excepting some of the coastal peoples) were highly agricultural, growing crops like maize, squash, and beans for food. They supplemented their diet with hunting, fishing, and gathering wild plants and fungi.
Frank Speck identified several key cultural traits of Southeastern Woodlands peoples — being matrilineal, exogamous, being social organized by towns, used of fish poison, purification ceremonies, practicing the Green Corn Ceremony, among other traits. Southeastern peoples also have traditionally shared a similar religious beliefs, based on animism. They observe strict incest taboos, and in the past frequently allowed polygamy and held puberty rites.Medicine people are important spiritual healers. Southeastern Woodlands societies were often divided into clans, the most common from precontact Hopewellian times into the present include Bear, Beaver, Bird other than a raptor, Canine (e.g. Wolf), Elk, Feline (e.g. Panther), Fox, Raccoon, and Raptor.
During the Indian Removal era of the early 19th century, many southeastern tribes were forcibly relocated to Indian Territory by the US federal government; however, many tribes remain in their traditional southeast homelands today.
Belonging in the Lithic stage, the oldest known art in the Americas is the Vero Beach bone, possibly a mammoth bone, etched with a profile of walking mammoth that dates back to 11,000 BCE.
The Poverty Point culture inhabited portions of the state of Louisiana from 2000–1000 BCE during the Archaic period. Many objects excavated at Poverty Point sites were made of materials that originated in distant places, including chipped stone projectile points and tools, ground stone plummets, gorgets and vessels, and shell and stone beads. Stone tools found at Poverty Point were made from raw materials which originated in the relatively nearby Ouachita and Ozark Mountains and from the much further away Ohio and Tennessee River valleys. Vessels were made from soapstone which came from the Appalachian foothills of Alabama and Georgia. Hand-modeled lowly fired clay objects occur in a variety of shapes including anthropomophic figurines and cooking balls.
The Mississippian culture flourished in what is now the Midwestern, Eastern, and Southeastern United States from approximately 800 CE to 1500 CE, varying regionally. After adopting maize agriculture the Mississippian culture became fully agrarian, as opposed to the hunting and gathering supplemented by part-time agriculture practiced by preceding woodland cultures. They built platform mounds larger and more complex than those of their predecessors, and finished and developed more advanced ceramic techniques, commonly using ground mussel shell as a tempering agent. Many were involved with the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex, a pan-regional and pan-linguistic religious and trade network. The majority of the information known about the S.E.C.C. is derived from examination of the elaborate artworks left behind by its participants, including elaborate pottery, shell gorgets and cups, stone statuary and Long-nosed god maskettes. By the time of European contact the Mississippian societies were already experiencing severe social stress, and with the social upsets and diseases introduced by Europeans many of the societies collapsed and ceased to practice a Mississippian lifestyle, with an exception being the Natchez people. Other tribes descended from Mississippian cultures include the Caddo, Choctaw, Muscogee Creek, Wichita, and many other southeastern peoples.
The Calusa peoples occupied the southern areas of Florida before European contact, and created carvings of animals.
The Seminoles are best known for their textile creations, especially patchwork clothing. Doll-making is another notable craft.
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Hann, John H. A History of the Timucua Indians and Missions. Gainesville, Florida: University Press of Florida, 1996. ISBN 0-8130-1424-7.
Hann, John H. (2003). Indians of Central and South Florida: 1513-1763. University Press of Florida. ISBN 0-8130-2645-8
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Sturtevant, William C., general editor and Raymond D. Fogelson, volume editor. Handbook of North American Indians: Southeast. Volume 14. Washington DC: Smithsonian Institution, 2004. ISBN 0-16-072300-0.