Survival — Native American Style

Good Morning!

Welcome!  Welcome!  Today in a continuing saga of survival tactics, I though we might have a look at another basic part of survival.  As you may know, the three main items a person needs to survive are food, clothing and shelter.  Last week we talked a little about food and if you were ever in a position of needing to survive on your own, what might you do.

In the book THE ANGEL AND THE WARRIOR, THE SPIRIT OF THE WOLF, RED HAWK’S WOMAN and THE LAST WARRIOR, the hero and heroine are thrown into situations where they must survive together in order to survive at all.  Actually in my new book BLACK EAGLE (due out in May of 2009), again the hero and heroine must fall back on survival techniques.  Luckily the heroine is with a Native American man who has been trained all his life on these same kinds of survival techniques.

This week I was going to talk about shelters, but before we go into the different kinds of shelters and how easy they are to build, let’s talk about one other necessity in the quest for survival — freedom of movement — or this might translate into modes of transportation.  This is an extention of the quest for food, since transportation is very important in the search for something edible to eat.  Getting around is very important.  In the East, Indians often used dug out canoes, because the area was littered with lakes and streams.  There was also traversing by foot, the preferred method of transportation used by scouts of most all tribes. (This is because scouting work must by its very nature be covert — one must not be discovered — and the only way to ensure that is to travel by foot.)

Horses in the East were a nuisance due to the fact that they could be easily tracked and in truth couldn’t travel as far as a man.  But horses came into their own in the West, where an Indian just wasn’t an Indian unless he was on horseback.  But I digress.  We’re talking about survival.  In the East, Native women often went out in groups and traveled over the countryside in search of roots, sap from maple trees, as well as pecans and other nuts.  They walked and were accompanied by at least one man who would act as their guard.  Men often took off on the hunt on foot.  The reason again is because game can hear and see and sense in other ways a horse.  The best way to be a successful hunter was to procure one’s game on foot.

But that was in the East.  In the West the best way to obtain food, since great distances were sometimes to be traversed, was to ride.  The warrior rode out to the buffalo hunt, he rode out to meet the enemy, he rode to new parts of the country, ever in search of trade and/or food.  There was even a saying amongst the tribes that a man without a horse was a sorry sight.  Indeed, a good friend of mine, who grew up in the wilds of Montana toward the first part of the last century once said that once when he had fallen off his horse, he was questioned by his parents not about how he was, but had he damaged the horse.  (True story.) 

Let’s not forget our northern regions, either.  In upper state New York, Vermont, New Hamphsire and all along the Canadian border, snowshoes were used as a mode of transportation.  They were also used out west in Montana, Idaho and North Dakota.  It does appear that man is ingenius in his inventions in the quest for survival.  Indeed, his cleverness may be a survival technique all of its own.

I know, I know, I’ve used this picture in this post already, but it’s quite something isn’t it?  Off topic,  here but Grandfather George, who lives with us, is a Native actor and has met this young man.  Deep sigh…  Okay, back on topic.  Transportation and freedom of movement is important to one’s survival.  One of the main problems that the Indians had that created such hard times for them in the early part of reservation life was not being able to leave the reservation to hunt and to obtain food.  They lacked freedom of movement.  Even today, where would we be without the car or bicycle to get us to the store?

  • I guess the main thing to remember in the quest for food is that so long as one can walk, one can gather food, go and buy it or in general find it.   But while we’re on the subject of modes of transportation, tell me, what is your favorite?  What do you like best? Airplane?  Car?  Horseback?  Travois?  Rollerskate?  So again welcome, welcome.  Come on in an let’s talk.



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KAREN KAY aka GEN BAILEY is the multi-published author of American Indian Historical Romances. She has written for such prestigious publishers as AVON/HarperCollins, Berkley/Penguin/Putnam and Samhain Publishing. KAREN KAY’S great grandmother was Choctaw Indian and Kay is honored to be able to write about the American Indian Culture.
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45 thoughts on “Survival — Native American Style”

  1. Karen, did you see the end of Law and Order SVU? They must be writing Adam Beach out of the show. (That’s who her picture is, ladies) I HATE that? Why would they do that?

  2. Hi Kay,

    This information is so fascinating and you are really knowledgeable. Not sure if I spelled that word right. Anyway, I love hearing how the Native Americans survived. I’m learning a lot.

    With gas prices as high as they are and still climbing a lot of people are opting for motorcycles or even bicycles. Shoot, we may go back to riding horses before everything is said and done!!

    Thanks for another wonderful post! 🙂

  3. Yes I mourn the loss of Adam Beach on SVU, too. YIKES.

    As always, such incredible info, Kay. Thanks for sharing. Every New Year I resolve to learn to ride a horse. Hmmmmm. Here is it July already. Better get busy LOL.

  4. Why oh why did he shoot that man?
    Adam, NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Well, let’s see who they bring in next year. Or maybe they’re just going to bulk up Richard Belzar’s part again, a recovery from when he was boss and moved out as partner with Ice T.

    Yes, I know. I have too much info on this show. It’s one of the few I actually try to make time for each week. Lucky for me, this year, with the TV writer’s strike, they’ve managed to run the shows three or four times each so I haven’t missed many episodes.
    But I’ve felt a special connection to Adam Beach mainly because Karen compulsively puts his oh-so-cute picture up on this blog…nice work, Karen. 🙂

  5. Hi Mary!

    Unfortunately I don;t have TV and don;t watch it and so I have never seen this show. But yes, indeed, that picture is of Adam Beach. He is one of the handsomest Native actors that I know of. Deep sigh!

  6. Hi Linda!

    Yes, it’s too bad we don’t still have horse paths to carry us to the grocery store and back. Here in LA, one must drive everywhere to get anywhere, and many things — like grocery stores — are not easily traveled to even by bicycle.

    You’ve made a good point, however, on the gas prices. Horses are looking better and better.

  7. Hi Tanya!

    Thanks so much for you welcome comments. I must admit that I do ride, but not very well. In fact, I seem to keep falling off horses, and have done so since I was very young. Deep sigh…

  8. Mary, you made me laugh. Am so glad to be of service to you in your quest to get to know Adam Beach. There;s an older actor — he was in the 70’s or 80’s movie of the Lone Ranger, and his name is Michael Horse. He was extraordinarily handsome and still is to this very day. I often see him at pow-wow’s here locally. Has anyone here seen that newer than the TV 50’s version of The Lone Ranger — but I guess it’s old to us now.

  9. Tanya, that’s a movie I haven;t seen yet. I’ve been to Wounded Knee and it’s a very sad place. I have not been able to bring myself to see the movie, cause again the actual location just has too much sadness. How was that movie?

  10. Okay, one more thing, since we’re discussing the cute Native actors — what is the name of the guy who played Crazy Horse in the 90’s TV movie of Crazy Horse? I can;t recall his name, but goodness is he handsome. It’s Michael… Michael… Does anybody remember his last name?

  11. Was it Michael Gray Eyes? Is that it? Oh, and while we’re on the subject, Steve Reevis is also quite a handsome Native actor. He is also Blackfeet and he is one of those handsome Native actors that my husband and I know somewhat well. Gosh, I could go on and on.

    Does anyone know the name of the fellow who played the lead role in Dream Keeper?

  12. Hi Karen! Wonderful topic – and you gave me sooo much information.

    My favorite mode of transport is walking. Why? Well, I can see everything around me at the pace I want to go and it relaxes me. And when I get to walk from one meeting to the next I feel like I’m accomplishing two things – getting there and a little bit of cardio.

  13. Hi Maria!

    Thanks so much for coming to the blog today! Yes, I like walking, as well. Like you it relaxes me and puts my attention outward onto other things instead of keeping it centered in on me. Nice to see you here, Maria!

  14. Hi, Kay! Terrific post–you’re always such a font of information! And I’m with Maria–I like walking when I can (when it isn’t too hot out if there isn’t any shade). I appreciate being within walking distance of my kids’ school–although they sometimes complain, it’s fun to be able to exercise and get somewhere at the same time 🙂

  15. Hi Fedora,

    Yes, I’m with you on walking — except if it were across country, but even then, if one were prepared for it and had a lot of time, it would be a great thing to do — one would certainly see first hand, the beautiful country in which we live.

    Do you remember the old show, Route 66? What adventure one might have if one were to do what those guys did — just travel along Route 66 — Get your Kicks on Route 66 — anybody else remember that?

  16. Hi Kay,

    I love horseback riding, but it’s tough on the backside after about an hour. I love to use that in my stories, that my heroine’s rear end is hurting, but she won’t admit it to the hero. No whiny heroines for me. 🙂
    I used to ride western and English. I took lessons and always wanted my own horse, but you know where we live horse property isn’t common.

    Still and all, a car is the most comfortable for me.

    Great post today. You have such keen knowledge of the Native Americans!

  17. We never get tired of your Adam Beach photo, Karen! Did anyone else watch him on the PBS Tony Hillerman mystery series? Lets hope that after SVU he shows up somewhere else where we can enjoy him.
    Every year I tell myself I’m going to take riding lessons and become competent on a horse. I’ve ridden just enough to bounce around and get really sore. I’d like to learn to enjoy it.
    Thanks for a great blog.

  18. Hi Charlene,

    Thanks for your post, Charlene. Like you, I prefer a car and I love driving. I get a feeling of space from driving.

    I love horses and wish I could ride well, but I don’t. I truly do tend to fall off them. I think it’s my lack of knowledge and lack of control. Perhaps if I took lessons…

  19. Hi Elizabeth!

    Great comments. Because I don;t watch TV, I don’t have the leisure of watching Adam on TV — but I sure do enjoy him in films. And as I said earlier, there is also handsome, handsome Michael Grey Eyes and Steve Reevis to enjoy as well.

    I, too, would benefit from riding lessons. Maybe I wouldn’t be so prone to falling off. : )

  20. Hey Kay,

    How do ya fit all that info in that svelte body of yours? I know, your brain isn’t any bigger than mine, you just use more of yours!


  21. Hey Kay, as usual I enjoy pettcoats and pistols very much, so much information for this ole gal. Just like Christmas, and your writting to me is the greatest. Keep up the good work little one.

    Love Ya,

  22. Hi Karen, I think alot of us would be disapointed if you quit using his picture lol !hand raised over here. My favorite would be by horse, with him in the saddle- sorry Karen don’t know what got into me. I’ll pick the car got to remember 100 degree temp’s in summer doesn’t make for a happy trip anywhere. Always love your post, hope your hand has gotten better. Love Ya! Lori

  23. Hi Karen,

    I loved your blog. And your photo of the hunk. 🙂
    I never thought about walking being the best mode of transportation for a scout, but of course you’re right! It makes so much sense. I think I’d make a good scout, then, because I walk a lot (my favorite mode of transport) and I’m sneaky. lol

  24. I have enjoyed reading all the posts. In my opinion there is something very beautiful about a woman sitting on a horse with her hair dancing in the breeze. But one of Kay’s indian leading men on a horse bareback with his hair dancing in the breeze… breathtaking and unforgettable.

  25. I can’t ride a bike and I’m not thrilled with driving so I guess that leaves walking lol. Too bad we didn’t mingle more the the natives – I think they are very striking in their looks!

  26. If I had lived in the old West, I would have chosen the horse. But in the present a car is so much more comfortable.

  27. Hi Lori!

    Nice to see you here on the forums. Yes, I love that picture — I only wish I had a scanner in order to scan in pictures of Michael Grey Eyes and Michael Horse and Steve Reevis and… There are so many of them…

    Yes, the 100 degree temperatures could get to you, but I remember when I was growing up we didn’t have air-conditioning and we went swimming an awful lot. I guess you find ways to cool off, be they more modern air-conditioning or just going down to the ole swimming hole.

  28. Hi Kate!

    Your comments made me smile. I’m not sure I would have made a good scout, but I sure do like to write about them. Yeah, they were sneaky… You know, oftentimes even those people in the tribe itself had no idea just WHO their scouts were. Interesting.

  29. Hi Donna-Gail!

    I haven’t talked to you in so long. It’s great to hear from you. Your post itself was beautiful. What images it provoked. Wonderful!

  30. Hi Jeanne!

    Yes, I think that walking is becoming the favorite mode of transportation here. You know some people do mingle with the Natives. My mom did, for instance. True, my father wasn’t pure blood Choctaw, but I still think it was romantic.

  31. Hi Estella!

    Yeah, I think a horse or even a buggy in the old days would have been great. Probably would have taken a whole day to go somewhere though, having to hitch up the wagon, etc. But then again I think times were slower then. A person had the time to do these things. The fast pace that we live in doesn’t always allow this and that’s a shame, I think.

  32. I loved any picture that had John Wayne starring in it. I just loved to hear that man talk. Westerns were a lot of fun. I enjoyed Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. I just finished reading a book about how life was in the Southwest when Indians were roaming the plains and attacking those brave enough to enter the territory. The tortures of those Camanches were so terrifying that I don’t see how anybody was brave enough to risk trying to make it to California. The book described the medicines that were made of seemingly every weed on the plains. Many proved deadly. Live wasn’t easy in those days.

  33. I’m happy with any mode of transportation that will not require me to wait in traffic or really long lines 🙂

  34. Hi
    Wow, hard to keep up with all the topics discussed. I loved Adam Beach in Windtalkers. I didn’t know they were writing him out of SVU. I like him and Ice T together.
    Not sure about the extra time people had for leisurely buggy rides. Think about all time it took to cook food from scratch, wash all those dishes, and clothes. By the time you got one meal done you had to start on the next. And instead of relaxing after supper to watch Adam Beach on SVU you had to mend clothes and darn socks.

  35. Hi Gladys!

    I, too, loved John Wayne and Roy Rogers. I have to add another one, and that’s Gene Autry. I think Gene Autry was my favorite when I was growing up. I barely remember it, I was so young. It is interesting that people were willing to risk so much. I guess that’s the call of freedom. Teenagers do similar things — they move out of a perfectly good house — one filled with food and every need met — to go and live on their own with little food and little wealth. But asked if they’d rather do that than live at home, most would answer, certainly. Why? I can only explain it in terms of freedom. I guess when it’s all said and done, people really do yearn to be free.

  36. Hi Kathy!

    Wow, I have never seen that show, but I’m so glad that you all like it. Yes, we are lucky in that we have leisure time.

    But I think people lived fulfilling lives. And in truth, I’m so much into health food and such that I actually do — even in this modern day and age — make everything from scratch, even my own mustard and ketsup — did I spell that right? It’s not that hard. Truly. I have certain days that are bread days and certain days that are make the beef jerky days and certain days that are fermenting/canning days. At first it was more work, but as I got better at it and started to know more about what I’m doing, it doesn’t really take up that much more time. And I have the satisfaction of knowing what’s really in my food. But that’s a whole ‘nother story.

    Thanks for the lovely post.

  37. I’ve got my fingers crossed that Adam Beach will
    by some twist of fate be returned to us on SVU!

    Pat Cochran

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