Gifts from the Thunder Beings: Indigenous Archery and European Firearms in the Northern Plains and Central Subarctic, 1670-1870

Gifts from the Thunder Beings: Indigenous Archery and European Firearms in the Northern Plains and Central Subarctic, 1670-1870

Gifts from the Thunder Beings: Indigenous Archery and European Firearms in the Northern Plains and Central Subarctic, 1670-1870

Gifts from the Thunder Beings: Indigenous Archery and European Firearms in the Northern Plains and Central Subarctic, 1670-1870

Synopsis

Gifts from the Thunder Beings examines North American Aboriginal peoples' use of Indigenous and European distance weapons in big-game hunting and combat. Beyond the capabilities of European weapons, Aboriginal peoples' ways of adapting and using this technology in combination with Indigenous weaponry contributed greatly to the impact these weapons had on Aboriginal cultures. This gradual transition took place from the beginning of the fur trade in the Hudson's Bay Company trading territory to the treaty and reserve period that began in Canada in the 1870s.

Technological change and the effects of European contact were not uniform throughout North America, as Roland Bohr illustrates by comparing the northern Great Plains and the Central Subarctic- two adjacent but environmentally different regions of North America- and their respective Indigenous cultures. Beginning with a brief survey of the subarctic and Northern Plains environments and the most common subsistence strategies in these regions around the time of contact, Bohr provides the context for a detailed examination of social, spiritual, and cultural aspects of bows, arrows, quivers, and firearms. His detailed analysis of the shifting usage of bows and arrows and firearms in the northern Great Plains and the Central Subarctic makes Gifts from the Thunder Beings an important addition to the canon of North American ethnology.

Excerpt

This study examines North American Aboriginal peoples’ use of Indigenous and European distance weapons in big game hunting and combat from the beginning of the fur trade in the Hudson’s Bay Company trading territory in the late seventeenth century to the treaty and reserve period that began in Canada in the 1870s. It compares the northern Great Plains and the Central Subarctic, two adjacent but environmentally very different regions of North America and their respective Indigenous cultures.

Technological change and the impacts of European contact were not uniform throughout North America. Aboriginal people in the Northern Plains and Central Subarctic became much involved in the fur trade and from the early 1700s on had to deal with European newcomers, but they did so in divergent ways. Because Aboriginal people in both regions were affected by and participated in the fur trade, a comparative examination of continuity and change in their hunting methods and hunting equipment, as well as patterns of violent conflict, can shed more light on their history and the history of Aboriginal-European relations. Wherever possible, this examination focuses closely but not exclusively on the Omushkego (Swampy) Cree, exemplifying Central Subarctic Aboriginal peoples and on the Blackfoot as an exemplary Aboriginal group from the Northern Plains. the Omushkego Cree were chosen because they had a relatively long and quite early exposure to the fur trade and the changes it brought. the Blackfoot provide a good example of Plains cultures because their acquisition of horses and firearms was said to have been a crucial factor in their westward and southward expansion, causing important shifts in military and political relations between Aboriginal peoples in the Northern Plains.

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