The original human arrivals into North America initially followed the wandering herds of large animals across the land bridge, and wherever they roamed. The transition from hunting and gathering plants to growing crops for food took place over thousands of years during the Archaic Period (7000 – 2000 BC).

In the Eastern Woodlands, gourds and squash were grown too. Between 2000 and 1500 BC, these farmers had domesticated lamb’s quarter, marsh elder, squash, and sunflower before maize was introduced from the southwest about 200 AD. Maize cultivation was adopted in the region from Florida to the Great Lakes and the north benefited from a maize variety requiring a shorter growing season. The shift to maize in the northern regions of the United States toward southern Canada occurred between 1000 and 1500 AD and varied in time from sub-region to sub-region.

The tribes that transitioned from nomadic hunters and gatherers to cultivators established fortified agricultural villages along lakeshores, major waterways and wetlands. There is archaeological evidence that tribes that cultivated also hunted elk, deer, raccoon, muskrat and beaver.

The relative security of agriculture for adequate food supply allowed population increases and as a result, there evolved competition between villages to secure ‘zones of influence’. There was competition among tribes to secure access to overlapping hunting and agricultural areas. Tribes would join together in common cause for added strength, with the Iroquois being a prime example.