Historical Events

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Hearne describes the methods of killing caribou employed by the Northern Indians, who were now dependent on trapping caribou and shooting them at a bottleneck with bows and arrows or simply using the newly introduced rifles in other parts of the year.

June 10, 1772

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A Journey from Prince of Wales's Fort in Hudson's Bay to the Northern Ocean in the Years 1769, 1770, 1771, 1772

Samuel Hearne

Hunter-Gatherer
Pre-civilization races
Carnivore Diet

Our Northern Indians who trade at the Factory, as well as all the Copper tribe, pass their whole Summer on the barren ground, where they generally find plenty of deer; and in some of the rivers and lakes, a great abundance of fine fish.

Their bows and arrows, though their original weapons, are, since the introduction of fire-arms among them, become of little use, except in killing deer as they walk or run through a narrow pass prepared for their reception, where several Indians lie concealed for that purpose. This method of hunting is only practicable in Summer, and on the barren ground, where they have an extensive prospect, and can see the herds of deer at a great distance, as well as discover the nature of the country, and make every necessary arrangement for driving them through the narrow defiles. This method of hunting is performed in the following manner:


When the Indians see a herd of deer, and intend to hunt them with bows and arrows, they observe which way the wind blows, and always get to leeward, for fear of being smelled by the deer. The next thing to which they attend, is to search for a convenient place to conceal those who are appointed to shoot. This being done, a large bundle of sticks, like large ramrods, (which they carry with them the whole Summer for the purpose,) are ranged in two ranks, so as to form the two sides of a very acute angle, and the sticks placed at the distance of fifteen or twenty yards from each other. When those necessary arrangements are completed, the women and boys separate into two parties, and go round on both sides, till they form a crescent at the back of the deer, which are drove right forward; and as each of the sticks has a small flag, or more properly a pendant, fastened to it, which is easily waved to and fro by the wind, and a lump of moss stuck on each of their tops, the poor timorous deer, probably taking them for ranks of people, generally run straight forward between the two ranges of sticks, till they get among the Indians, who lie concealed in small circular fences, made with loose stones, moss, &c. When the deer approach very near, the Indians who are thus concealed start up and shoot; but as the deer generally pass along at full speed, few Indians have time to shoot more than one or two arrows, unless the herd be very large.

This method of hunting is not always attended with equal success; for sometimes after the Indians have been at the trouble of making places of shelter, and arranging the flag-sticks, &c. the deer will make off another way, before the women and children can surround them. At other times I have seen eleven or twelve of them killed with one volley of arrows; and if any gun-men attend on those occasions, they are always placed behind the other Indians, in order to pick up the deer that escape the bow-men. By these means I have seen upwards of twenty fine deer killed at one broadside, as it may be termed.

Though the Northern Indians may be said to kill a great number of deer in this manner during the Summer, yet they have so far lost the art of shooting with bows and arrows, that I never knew any of them who could take those weapons only, and kill either deer, moose, or buffalo, in the common, wandering, and promiscuous method of hunting. The Southern Indians, though they have been much longer used to fire-arms, are far more expert with the bow and arrow, their original weapons.