Thanks to a tip from Blondie on a blog comment I found out something very interesting about Native American communication methods. In an article by about American Indians of the American Revolution there is a section concerning communicating with stones, twigs, and smoke signals.
As I read the "light bulb" in my head came on. I have documented countless trail markers made of limbs and stones over the past 3 years.
I have found rock piles and interesting stick formations on trails.
A very common trail maker is a "Y" limb broken off then put back onto the tree where it was broken inverted.
I have also found small limb circles in trees
Rock signs are very common
This also ties in with my recent post Signs and Wonders
I document a formation left on the ground in my back yard that I think was constructed by visiting Bigfoot.
When your in the field keep you eyes open for these and other signs. What looks like a random pile of sticks may be much more.
Communicating with Signs and Smoke
These signs done into stone-talk would be as in the top line of the cut.
These are much used in the Rockies where the trail goes over stony places or along stretches of slide-rock.
Grass and Twig Signs
In grass or sedge the top of the tuft is made to show the direction to be followed; if it is a point of great importance three tufts are tied, their tops straight if the trail goes straight on; otherwise the tops are turned in the direction toward which le course turns.
The Ojibways and other woodland tribes use twigs for a great many of these signs. (See second row.) The hanging broken twig like the simple blaze means "This is the trail." The twig clean broken off and laid on the ground across the line of march means, "Here break from your straight course and go in the line of the butt end," and when an especial warning is meant, the butt is pointed toward the one following the trail and raised somewhat, in a forked twig. If the butt of the twig were raised and pointing to the left, it would mean "Look out, camp, or ourselves, or the enemy, or the game we have killed is out that way." With some, the elevation of the butt is made to show the distance of the object; if low the object is near, if raised very high the object is a long way off.
These are the principal signs of the trail used by Woodcrafters, Indians, and hunters in most parts of America. These are the standards--the ones sure to be seen by those who camp in the wilderness.
There is in addition a useful kind of sign that has been mentioned already in these papers--that is, the Smoke Signal. These were used chiefly by the Plains Indians, but the Ojibways seem to have employed them at times.
A clear hot fire was made, then covered with green stuff or rotten wood so that it sent up a solid column of black smoke. By spreading and lifting a blanket over this smudge the column could be cut up into pieces long or short, and by a preconcerted code these could be made to convey tidings.
But the simplest of all smoke codes and the one of chief use to the Western traveler is this:
One steady smoke--"Here is camp."
Two steady smokes--" I am lost, come and help me."
I find two other smoke signals, namely:
Three smokes in a row--" Good news."
Four smokes in a row--"All are summoned to council."
These latter I find not of general use, nor are they so likely to be of service as the first two given.