Deer Found in the Longleaf
Pine Forests Were Highly Valued by Many Indian Tribes
(bolded words in text indicate key words
To the Indians of the longleaf pine forests, deer provided the
convenience of one stop shopping of todays grocery store.
From a single deer, clothing, tools, and food could be found. A
park-like longleaf pine forest with lots of green grasses growing
was very important for deer.
About 15,000 years ago, in the colder climate of the ice age, megafauna
like mastodons, wooly bisons, and mammoths roamed throughout
the southeastern United States. To hunt these large creatures, the
native people would hide around watering holes with spears in hand,
wait for an ambush, and thrust their weapons into the creatures
vital organs. More simply, it was neither a productive nor a wise
hunting technique to stalk a 4-ton
creature. As climate began to change over thousands of years and
the megafauna died off, smaller animals like white-tailed
deer began to radiate out throughout the landscape. Unlike
the extinct megafauna, deer traded size for speed, a good sense
of smell, and great hearing. More simply, deer are more alert and
not easily ambushed by clumsy humans. To hunt these fast, skittish
creatures, hunting techniques evolved.
As many land managers understand today, the Indians
realized that fire was a powerful tool that could be used to manage
habitats suitable for preferred game animals. Purposely burning
the forest not only attracted deer to areas of lush, new growth
but also made it possible for deer numbers to expand by increasing
their food supply. Human-induced fire
was also used to corral fleetly animals (like deer) into open areas
where hunters waited to shoot them. The use of fire kept the longleaf
pine forest open, giving hunters better shooting access. However,
because the forest was so open it would have been difficult to get
close enough to an animal to kill it by hand. For this reason, hand
held spears where abandoned and bows and arrows were adopted. Veins
of native flint rock made surgical sharp arrowheads and staves carved
from hardwood trees made precise bows.
Deer was an important resource to many tribes throughout the Southeast.
Among other things, deer hides provided clothing, antlers were used
as tools, hooves worn as ornaments, and venison consumed as food.
Some estimates have suggested that venison comprised about 85% of
these peoples protein intake. When Europeans arrived, deerskins
(buckskins) were used as a trade item. Deerskins traded to English
tanners purchased modern tools, weapons and clothing
for the Indiansthings the longleaf forest could not supply.
A conservative estimate of buckskin production in the late eighteenth
century suggests about 1.5 million pounds of leather per year were
supplied to the market (about 1 million deer). As the trade intensified,
deer populations became depleted and eventually the markets shifted
to other products like cotton textiles.
Key Words and Concepts (click
on for glossary definition): human-induced