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The Hidden Secrets Of Native American "Marker Trees"

May 20, 2016

Unless you live in the middle of a bustling city, trees are probably something you take for granted. They surround us almost everywhere we go, making it hard not to forget about their existence every once in a while.

The average person can most likely identify a few types of trees, like an oak or a pine, but the rest of them sort of blend together after a while. There are a few trees across the United States, however, that you can't help but pay attention to when you come across them in the wilderness.

Referred to as "marker trees," these natural structures were a way for Native Americans to communicate important information from nation to nation. You can always spot a marker tree by its curved trunk, which makes it look more alien than earthly. Today, marker trees are becoming harder and harder to find, but, thanks to Dennis Downes, these gorgeous landmarks will be preserved for years to come. Check out the images below to learn more about these mysterious trees and the special purpose they served in Native American cultures.

Hundreds of years ago, Native Americans navigated the land without any help from Google Maps or Yelp.


Native American Trail Marker Trees

They relied on nature to help them find their way and send important messages to one another.


Great Lakes Trail Marker Tree Society

Have you ever seen a tree shaped like this?


Great Lakes Trail Marker Tree Society

They're called "marker trees" or "trail trees," and they held a wealth of information for Native Americans. Believe it or not, these trees were manipulated to grow in specific directions.


Great Lakes Trail Marker Tree Society

Members of different nations would use these trees to mark borders and guide travelers toward food and water. This tree stands in between two neighboring nations, which explains why its trunk points in two different directions.


Great Lakes Trail Marker Tree Society

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They pointed out everything from plants that could be used for medicine to sacred burial sites.


Native American Trail Marker Trees

Marker trees situated near rivers would indicate areas that were safe to cross.


Great Lakes Trail Marker Tree Society

Different nations had their own unique shapes to communicate a variety of messages.


Great Lakes Trail Marker Tree Society

Just like the highway signs we use today, navigating the dense forests of early America would have been difficult without marker trees.


Native American Trail Marker Trees

Native Americans were highly skilled when it came to following trails created by animals. Unfortunately, they needed to begin forging their own paths, and marker trees were the best means they had at their disposal.


Native American Trail Marker Trees

Oaks, maples, and elms tended to make the best marker trees.


Great Lakes Trail Marker Tree Society

When settlers from Europe landed in America, they, too, learned how to read marker trees.


Great Lakes Trail Marker Tree Society

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There aren't many marker trees around today, but that hasn't stopped Dennis Downes from sharing their fascinating history with people.


Great Lakes Trail Marker Tree Society

Downes founded the Great Lakes Trail Marker Tree Society to preserve these national treasures wherever they grow. He even conducts demonstrations that show people how saplings were shaped into marker trees.


Native American Trail Marker Trees

Here's the process, broken down step-by-step:


Dr. Raymond E. Janssen

So, the next time you walk through the woods, make sure to be on the lookout for marker trees. They're living pieces of history that many people will never notice.


Native American Trail Marker Trees

Check out this video for even more information on these fascinating trees:

Don't forget to SHARE these historic landmarks with your friends and family!

H/T: LittleThings

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