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.
They relied on nature to help them find their way and send important messages to one another.
Have you ever seen a tree shaped like this?
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.
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.
They pointed out everything from plants that could be used for medicine to sacred burial sites.
Marker trees situated near rivers would indicate areas that were safe to cross.
Different nations had their own unique shapes to communicate a variety of messages.
Just like the highway signs we use today, navigating the dense forests of early America would have been difficult without 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.
Oaks, maples, and elms tended to make the best marker trees.
When settlers from Europe landed in America, they, too, learned how to read marker trees.
There aren’t many marker trees around today, but that hasn’t stopped Dennis Downes from sharing their fascinating history with people.
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.
Here’s the process, broken down step-by-step:
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.
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!