Saturday, March 11, 2017

About Native American Hunting and Fishing

About Native American Hunting and Fishing

To the Indian hunting and fishing were serious business. Upon the man's success depended the comfort and even the life of the household. Game was needed as food. The Indians had to learn the habits of the different animals so as to be able to capture or kill them. Boys tried early to learn how to hunt.
Clark tells of an Indian, more than eighty years old, who recalled with great delight the pleasure caused by his first exploit in hunting. “When I was eight years of age,” he said, “I killed a goose with a bow and arrow and took it to my father's lodge, leaving the arrow in it. My father asked me if I had killed it, and I said, ‘Yes; my arrow is in it.’ My father examined the bird, fired off his gun, turned to an old man who was in the lodge, presented the gun to him and said, ‘Go and harangue the camp; inform them all what my boy has done.’ When I killed my first buffalo I was ten years old. My father was right close, came to me and asked if I killed it. I said I had. He called some old men who were by to come over and look at the buffalo his son had killed, gave one of them a pony, and told him to inform the camp.” Such boyish successes were always the occasion of family rejoicing.

To the Indians of the Plains the important game was buffalo; and for buffalo two great hunts were made each year,—a summer and a winter hunt. Sometimes whole villages together went to these hunts. Few cared to stay behind, for fear of attack by hostile Indians. Provisions and valuables which were not needed on the journey were carefully buried, to be dug up again on the return. At times the people of a village went hundreds of miles on these expeditions. Baggage was carried on ponies in charge of the women. At night it took but a few minutes to make camp, and no more was necessary in the morning for breaking camp and getting on the way.

In journeying they went in single file. Scouts constantly kept a lookout for herds. When a herd was sighted, it was approached with the greatest care: everything was done according to fixed rules and under appointed leaders. When ready for the attack, the hunters drawn up in a single row approached as near as possible to the herd and waited for the signal to attack. When it was given, the whole company charged into the herd, and each did his best to kill all he could. All were on horseback, and armed with bows and arrows. They tried to get abreast of the animal and to discharge the weapon to a vital spot. One arrow was enough to kill sometimes, but usually more were necessary. A single successful hunter might kill four or five in a half hour.

After the killing a lively time ensued. The dead animals were skinned, cut up, and carried on ponies into camp. There the skins were pegged out to dry, the meat was cut up into strips or sheets for drying, or made up into pemmican. Every one was busy and happy in the prospect of plenty of food.

Sometimes, however, no herds could be found. Day after day passed without success. The camp was well-nigh discouraged. Then a buffalo dance was held. In this the hunters dressed themselves in the skins and horns of buffalo, and danced to the accompaniment of special music and songs.

In dancing, they imitated the movements of the buffalo, believing that thus they could compel the animals to appear. Hour after hour, even day after day, passed in such dancing until some scout hurrying in reported a herd in sight. Then the dance would abruptly cease, its object being gained.

Of course many ingenious devices were employed in hunting. Antelope were stalked; fur-bearing animals were trapped or snared. Sometimes all the animals in a considerable area were driven into a central space where they were killed, or from which they were driven between lines of stones or brush, to some point where they would fall over a cliff and be killed in the fall. Such drives used to be common in the Pueblo district. To-day deer are rarer there; so are the mountain lion and the bear. Hunts there are more likely nowadays to be for rabbits than for larger game. These are caught in nets, but are more frequently killed by rabbit sticks, which may be knot-ended clubs or flat, curved throwing sticks, a little like the boomerangs of Australia.