Isn’t this the best site? So much talent from my fellow fillies and so much terrific information. I’m always amazed at the learned quality of the posts. Aren’t you?
After quite a break from the Native Style survival stories, I hope you’re ready to continue. Just to recap, so far we’ve discussed the quest for food. What kinds of food you might find in different regions of the country, how to find it and the necessary means of transportation to find food. One more comment I’d like to make before we head into shelters and how easy they are to make: I think TV has given people the wrong idea of survival. On TV you see people competing one with the other to “win.” It’s a tooth-and-claw type of survival. Now this kind of “survival” to the Native American is pure folly. None survive well alone. It is a team activity. Or one might say a family or a tribe activity. And survival doesn’t mean bare minimum. Optimum survival means food aplenty, a good warm place to put up one’s feet, the warmth of companionship, soft clothes that look good and feel good (or lack of clothes depending upon your environment), and happiness. That’s real survival. Not this struggle that one commonly sees on TV nowadays.
So, that said, let’s have a look at shelters. The most important things if one were to suddenly find himself lost from civilization — or in the event of some catastrophe, are food, clothing and shelter. Without these, man cannot live. Therefore, they are the barest minimum. And shelters — nice, wonderful, homey shelters aren’t that hard to build and set up. Do you remember your camping days and how cozy and warm were your tents?
Well, suppose you didn’t have time to grab your tent. What then? Well, here are some suggestions straight from Native America. The first important thing is…? Location, location, location. A good Real Estate maxim.
Now, it’s a good idea to find a dry and protected spot, one that is close to a supply of water and fuel (wood or something else to burn). And if one is being hunted by another or other’s or if one is simply alone, another feature you might consider would be to find a place that is secluded, one that is hard for the casual eye to see. Such things as a hollowed-out tree, a cave, a rock that allows only a casual view. As Charles A Eastman put it in his book, INDIAN SCOUT CRAFT AND LORE:
“…The first essentials are water and fuel; next comes sanitation and drainage, protection from the elements and from ready discovery by possible fores; finally, beauty of situation.
“…Find two trees the right distance apart and connect them by poles laid upon the forks of each at a height of about eight feet. This forms the support of your lean-to. Against this horizontal bar place small poles close together, driving their ends in the ground, and forming an angle with about the slant of an ordinary roof. You can close in both sides, or not, as you choose. If you leave one open, build your fire opposite the entrance, thus making a cheerful and airy ‘open-face camp.’ Thatch from the ground up with overlapping rows of flat and thick evergreen boughs, and spread several layers of the same for a springy and fragrant bed.”
Note that this requires very few tools save perhaps a hatchet or a strong knive to make the poles.
The coziness of the tepee was often commented upon by travelers in the old west. The structures were clean, warm, hospitable, with plenty of room for family and possessions. But more of that in another post. For now, let’s look at another kind of shelter, the dome-shapped ‘wickiup.’ Again from Charles A. Eastman, INDIAN SCOUT CRAFT AND LORE:
“…The dome-shaped wigwam or ‘wickiup’ is made in a few minutes almost anywhere by sticking into the ground in a circle a sufficient number of limber poles, such as willow wands, to make it the size you need. Each pair of opposites is bent forward until they meet, and the ends interlocked and tied firmly. Use any convenient material for the covering; an extra blanket will do.”
Again, you would cover it with whatever was available in the area you are in.
Okay you knew I was going to slip this photo in here somwhere, didn’t you? How could I resist? Are you, like me, sighing?… Well, continuing on, let’s touch on the traditional tepee. If you ever have the chance to go to a pow-wow in Indian Country, you might be able to catch the tepee raising race at the rodeo. Amazingly, these people set up tepees in a matter of a few minutes — quite spectacular to see. But here are the basics. Again, from Charles A. Eastman, INDIAN SCOUT CRAFT AND LORE:
“The skeleton of the conical teepee is made by tying three poles together near the top, and, when raised, separating them to form a tripod. Against this place in a circle as many poles as you think necessary to support your outer covering of cloth or thatch, usually twelve to fifteen. If of canvas, the covering is tied to a pole and then raised and wrapped about the framework and secured with wooden pins to within about three feet of the ground. This space is left for the entrance and covered by a movable door, which may be merely a small blanket. If you have nothing better, a quantity of dry grass will make you a warm bed.”
Finally, although we may have covered this already when we were discussing fires, small fires are best. Again, from Charles A. Eastman, “It is best in camping to build small fires. This rule is observed by all Indians. Smoke may be seen at a great distance, especially on a clear day, and may be scented by the ordinary Indian (or other person) a long way off, if the wind is right. Only in cold weather or for special purposes does the Indian indulge in a huge fire, and in no case does he ever leave it without seeing that it is entirely extinguished.”
Well, that’s it for today’s Native American lesson. What about you? Do you have a favorite camping story? Campfire tales? Cozy-warm tents that you remember? For me, I remember camping in Vermont. We had forgotten how important it was to set up camp so that one was protected from water. We awoke to find water all over the floor of our tent, once the rain had really settled in.
That was that. There we were in the middle of the night, digging trenches around our tent. Do you have a story? If so, I’d love to hear from you today. So come on in and let’s chat.