Posts Tagged ‘Bear Heart’

I asked my son after he had killed his first squirrel, “Did you get that heart-pumping feeling?” He said, “Not really.” And I know where he is coming from.

My first kill was a blue-winged teal about 30 years ago. I didn’t have time to get that feeling I get now when I hear a squirrel or rabbit scampering closer or when a flock of ducks decides to give my decoys a second look. I think that hunting and what it means becomes more of a real thing as you get older, and when you are younger, you’re not really sure why you think you’re a hunter. We don’t really grasp everything that comes with it until we are mature enough to reflect on it. This may sound like I have had too many Oktoberfests, but the truth is I’ve only had four.

And kind of a follow-up to John’s comment on my last post. As far as that glow a father should get? It hasn’t happened to me, I must say. I actually feel that a MUCH heavier weight has been laid on my shoulders. That glowing feeling will come when I am looking back on life and know that I have raised a responsible, ethical, thoughtful, respectful hunter. That is when I’ll be proud.

So – without further adieu – the second part of Bear Heart’s hunting lessons. And thank you to all who read the first part.

From the book –

“I was about eight when I killed my first squirrel. I used something similar to a slingshot and got pretty good with it. Before I shot the squirrel I said, ” My little brother, I’m going to take your life. I have an old aunt who has come to visit and she’s not feeling too well – she’s blind and can’t do anything for herself at home. I understand that our four-legged relatives have medicine that can make humans feel better and I want this for my aunt. In time, when my body ceases to live and is put down into the ground, from it something will grow so that your people might eat and keep on living. That was the understanding between your people and mine. I will not let you suffer a long time, but I need you and the meat that you carry with you. I’m doing it for love.

I killed that squirrel with my first shot. Before picking it up, I placed my hand over it’s head and made a circular motion, saying, ” Mah-doh [thank you].” The circular motion made with the hand symbolized the circle of life – humans being fed by animals, then animals feeding on the plant life after humans have been returned to the earth. A never-ending exchange.

Then I pulled the fur from the forelegs and buried it at the base of the tree where I’d found it to ensure that many more squirrels would be born to take the place of the one I killed. As I headed for home, I carried that squirrel carefully. Once we picked up the kill, we tried not to let it fall to the ground until we got back to our home because dragging it on the ground showed disrespect. The animal, even if involuntarily, gave itself to us – it was a gift.

I had a cousin who cooked for us and, knowing that I wasn’t supposed to eat my first kill, when I got home, I gave the squirrel to her to cook for my aunt. I went back outside and was stooped over a wash basin washing my hands when all of a sudden – whack! My cousin whacked me with that squirrel, right on my rear end. I had forgotten all about it, but knew immediately what it meant. They did that with your first kill to make you a better hunter. She hit me on behalf of the squirrel, as if the squirrel itself was tagging me for killing him. Now we were even – I killed it but it hit me. It was a way of balancing everything out so that I wouldn’t feel guilty about taking it’s life.”

Until I can write again –

Your friend –



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I was hoping to bring you this week, a story about my oldest boy making his first, purposeful kill while out hunting. We were defeated by nature in this quest on two fronts! First, the father and mentor in the family (yours truly) was under the influence of some sort of bug that dashed our hopes the first two days of the weekend. And on the third, Monday morning, the bottom lands of my favorite squirrel pocket are still plagued by mosquitoes in biblical proportions. We did not last long, even with other folks in the woods popping off their .22’s. The squirrels are there, that I knew, but the Deep Woods OFF hardly fazed the bloodsucking skeeters.

So I’ll share with you a story from one of my all-time favorite books The Wind Is My Mother by Bear Heart, also known as Marcellus Williams, a Creek medicine man. These are his first hunting lessons. The second part will be his first kill, it being a squirrel. My boy’s first quarry, hopefully next weekend.

From the book :


As much as we learned from our parents, Native American children received most of their education from their elders. The boys received their training from either an uncle or grandfather, and the girls received theirs from an aunt or grandmother to learn the women’s ways.

My uncle Jonas Bear told me that a long time ago humans were able to talk to the animals. We were that friendly with them. They could understand us and we understood them, but at some point humans got into such a tight spot we had to take the life of certain animals for food and then we started getting sick. It turned out that various animals, even fish, were angry at us because we were eating them, so we started getting illnesses such as deer sickness and fish sickness.

A council of our people got together with all the four-leggeds, creatures of the waters, and those that fly in the air. We gave them offerings and told them, “My relatives, we have great need for you in order to live. When we hunt, we’ll try to kill you quickly so that you will not suffer. In time our bodies will lie down inside this Mother Earth and something will grow there so that our animal relatives can sustain their own lives. A cycle will be formed, an exchange, for the continuation of all life. In this way, we ask how to make our people well from the sickness you cause.”

So the animals told us how to cure the illnesses and allowed us to hunt them because they knew that we were not killing them for sport; our need was to feed hungry people, and we used every part of the animal for our survival. As long as we kept our word, no sickness came.

That was the origin of how our people began to have knowledge of curing different illnesses. And that is why our children were taught when they went out to hunt: “Never kill out of anger, nor for sport to see how man animals you can kill. Take just enough for survival and always be respectful of the four-leggeds. If you must kill, present an offering and talk to the animal, explaining, ‘I need you for my family.'”

Children were not allowed to hunt until they became skilled with their weapons. We were taught the anatomical structure of each animal and exactly where to hit so it would die quickly and not suffer more than it had to. When we brought back the kill, even that was a ceremony. We gave an offering to the animal, honoring and explaining why we took it’s life.

Young boys were taught never to eat their first kill – they were to give it to an elder. If you just killed and ate it yourself, that’s about all you would be able to do – you would not become a great hunter because you weren’t showing much respect for the animal you killed. But if you killed and made a sacrifice, giving that meat to others, then the motive for taking that life was based on generosity and respect. Those were the traits of a good hunter.


Part two coming next week.

I can agree with a lot of this. Your thoughts?

Peace and take care –


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