The Native American Trail Marker Tree
Our farm has many trees, but none quite as special as this one. As it turns out, what we thought of originally as a beautiful quirk of nature isn't even natural at all! It is actually a Native American Trail Marker Tree.
So what is a marker tree? The answer is a nod to the ingenuity of the Native Americans, who used marker trees to point out trails, meeting points, and other important landmarks. Our specific tree was created about 300 years ago. They began by selecting a sturdy sapling in the area of the trail and bending it in the direction they wanted to indicate. A leather strap secured the tree in that position. After a few seasons of growth, the tree began to sprout branches along the top. An indigenous person, likely a hunter, then trimmed the excess branches, until there were only 1-2 spokes left growing up. This process would continue for several years until the tree could recover and grow the desired way on its own. After that, it could function as a signpost for any number of years. If a marker tree suffered damage or grew too old, indigenous tribes would simply make another one.
This tree's long lifespan is a testament to just how long Native American heritage can last. But unfortunately, many marker trees have been damaged or even cut down altogether. One of the biggest dangers these monuments face is logging.
We have logged our bush many times, as it often promotes new growth in the forest. However, that specific tree has always been off limits. Our late grandparents had always felt especially drawn to that tree, so it was natural that we keep it. It wasn't until August 2013 that we learned exactly what that tree meant.
John Enright, Forester, is a part of the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority. John was here on routine buisness when he spotted our tree and knew we had something special. After further research, we were astounded to discover what this tree had been through and what it meant, not only to us, but to our country's original inhabitants and to our community.
The marker tree is open for public viewing from November 18th to December 24th