Trees Bent By American Indians Being Identified
Condensed by Native Village
Thanks to Kerry Steiner, American Indian Center of
A typical burr oak
single trunk trail marker tree
double trunk trail marker tree
These images from the Great Lakes Trail
Marker Tree Society also feature the group’s founder Dennis Downes.
"If they could talk, the stories they could tell,"
says arborist, Steve
Houser about Indian marker trees. He says they
"were like an early road map” for
Indian marker trees, or trail
trees, were like road signs that marked trails or
landmarks such as creek crossings. Native people
would bend and anchor young saplings into shape to mark
Houser is now on a mission: to protect these historic
trees and save their stories. A group he helped
Dallas Historic Tree
has already identified four marker trees. Dozens more
have been reported across Texas.
Other groups are also protecting and maintaining the trees.
Mountain Stewards, a nonprofit based
has a database of
marker trees in 39
Their process in verifying marker trees include age (at
least 150 to 200
years old) and marks that show where the tree was tied
Great Lakes Trail Marker Tree Society
posts photos of Indian marker trees on their
website. Their founder, Dennis Downes,
wrote the book
Native American Trail Marker Trees.
It documents the history of the trees through Downes’s
travels of North America.
are living archeology," Rick Wilson, Chief ranger at
Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument in Colorado.
Park Ranger Jeff Wolin said the Utes bent
ponderosa pines to mark a trail to Pikes Peak—tava
or sun in the Ute language—a sacred area
about 8 miles away.
"It's something that you want to hug and say, 'Hey,
there was a time in your life when you were special to
us and now you are still special and look how beautiful
you are,'” said Wallace Coffey, former Comanche Nation
Coffey said the marker
trees that the Dallas Coalition found probably helped Comanche warriors
find water or shelter during battles with the U.S. military.
"A lot of people don't recognize what they are, and
they're a really important part of the history of this
said Earl Otchingwanigan, Ojibwe, a retired
Bemidji State University. Earl found a trail marker shaped
like an “N” near his
"When I hear people are interested in
it, I think they are starting to understand that there
are a lot of messages on this earth that people cannot
take for granted anymore.”
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