There was a developed custom of marking trails through the forests by bending saplings and securing them in such positions that their directions of bend, indicated the directions of the routes to be followed. A line of similarly bent trees thus established a continuous uninterrupted route of travel that could readily be followed.
After being bent, the young trees were fastened by one of several methods. Sometimes the trees were weighted down with a rock, sometimes a pile of dirt was used, and often the tree was tied in position with a length of rawhide, a strip of bark, or a tough vine. The various methods used in each case were dependent largely upon the custom and ingenuity of the individual performing the work, and the materials at hand.
When settler’s arrived, this method of marking trails was in use by tribes inhabiting the forested regions of the eastern part of what was later to become the United States.
In marking a trail, after bending and fastening the young trees, an indigenous person would usually carve upon them his individual or clan insignia. Not every tree along the route of travel was bent, it being advisable to do so only at intervals.
Natives were thus able to follow a pre-established trail by continuing in the direction indicated from one bent tree to the next. If the trail crossed a non-wooded area, some other system of marking had to be resorted to, such as the placing of a stone pile, planting a pole, or the appropriate use of other materials.
The use of living trees was, of course, the most permanent, and therefore the most desirable method 🪶