AMERICAN INDIANS' WAYS CHANGED WORLD'S CULTURE MORE THAN ANY OTHER CIVILIZATION, SAYS WRITER
By Dallas Bogan
Reprinted with Permission from Dallas Bogan. This article was published in the LaFollette Press.
Without a doubt, the American Indian and his ways changed the ways of the world and its societal culture more than any other civilization. It has been estimated that one-half of the world's food supply originated with the American Indian.
Early Hunting Methods
One of the Indian's more skillful traits was their ingenuity and cunning for hunting. The early European explorers were amazed at this skill which lay in their genius and knowledge of the animal habits. Speed and accuracy took second place to this ability.
Many methods were employed to trick the animals. One such maneuver was to imitate the call of birds and animals. Most of the time the sounds came from their throat. The cupping of their hands over their mouth allowed amplification or modifications of the sounds. Hunters would summon a buffalo cow by imitating the amplified sounds of her young calf. An Indian would be trained at an early age to imitate many bird calls such as the calls of ducks, geese, gulls, etc.
The human voice, with its limited sounds, could only range so far. Substitutes were manufactured which consisted of whistles of clay, wood, antler, and bone. The main objective was to produce the call of a mate in distress or imitate a courtship sound. A blade of grass held between two fingers and blown into would resemble the call of a fawn in distress, thus giving a summons for the doe. Another trick to attract the doe during mating season was by clanging deer antlers together.
Indian calls and whistles had their place, but the manufacturing of decoys to lure birds or animals were used extensively. Archaeologist have found ancient wooden and straw bird decoys throughout North America. These decoys were used then the same as today. They were floated on ponds and lakes to lure the migration of the birds overhead.
The hunters of yesteryear also adapted a means of disguising themselves by which they wore the skins of the animals they hunted. With this masquerade in place they were able to sneak into the center of their prey.
The buffalo was seemingly not frightened by the wolf. The Indian would slip into a wolf skin and walk amongst his prey. With much skill he would pick out the ablest animal and the kill would begin. If a skin was not available the hunters would camouflage themselves with plants that were tied to their body. A variety of dark paints were used on their bodies for the purpose of concealment.
The recent fires in the Western states are a reminder that we as a country are not entirely safe from this ravaging atrocity. The American Indian, through his cultural and survival techniques, solved this problem of obliteration from fire centuries before white man's entry into this country.
The great forests, upon the European's arrival, were not here simply because of natural occurrences, but because of the Indian's procedure of preserving them. They had been living amongst the mighty forests for centuries and had painstakingly sought to preserve them for future generations.
The Indians burned the forest every year to destroy the small brush, reasoning being the maximizing of the growth of the trees and plants they found useful. Another reason for this strict control allowed the large trees to survive for the purpose of the carving out of dugout canoes.
One advantage of the cleared forests was that during warfare the enemy had few places to hide and an ambush could possibly be averted. Uncleared land could pose a definite threat to the village living within it because the enemy could hide, set fire to it, and ultimately use it as a weapon.
Firing of the forests triggered new growth and logically attracted large animals which resulted in food and skins for the Indians' welfare.
Control by fire in the plains resulted in restriction of the buffalo. Because of this incident, the huge animal crossed the Mississippi and migrated into the Eastern forests and took up roots. Their adaptation caused them to be called "forest buffalo" rather than "plains buffalo."
In their annual burnings of the plains, forest and prairies, the Indians systematically reduced the danger from uncontrolled fires set by lightning. By the reduction of dead lumber and plants, they diminished the chances of uncontrolled fire that could destroy their villages and croplands.
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