Native American Hunting & Fishing


Native Americans have long made efficient use of natural resources for food, shelter, and clothing. Historically, hunting and fishing by the men and boys was the center of these necessities. The various styles of hunting or fishing were dependent on location of the tribe, availability of different types of wildlife, and source of fish (lakes, rivers, streams, seaside). The tools they used were handmade from available resources.

Petroglyphs of Wildlife
(american-native petroglyp 1 image by Pierrette Guertin from

Native Americans hunted game of all sizes for food, however, they used every part of the animal in some form for shelter, clothing, tools, bedding or decoration. They hunted for available wildlife. Some tribes had group drives to herd game into an area of no escape. Some hunted individually, sneaking up on their prey. They made decoys of reeds to attract ducks for hunting. All wildlife, large or small, was prey.

Wild Fowl
turkey image by Terry Reimink from

Native Americans made their tools from surrounding resources. They used throwing sticks, known as atlatl, to hurl at the prey with deadly force. Later, they made bows from woods and strings of animal tendon. Arrows, spears and harpoons had points made of stone flattened and sharpened into arrowheads, using deer-antler tips for sharpening. They also used darts, and they had netting, made from hemp or grasses, for trapping small game or waterfowl.

An Arrowhead
indian arrowhead image by Jim Mills from

Native Americans fish in a variety of ways depending on the tribal regions. If fishing from the banks of streams, lakes or ponds they used spears and nets. In some areas, they floated in canoes or boats, made from bark, wood, or reeds, also fishing with spears and nets. Pacific Northwest natives fished from platforms built over the rocky areas of rivers. Attached to the platform under the water, was a barricade to stop the fish, and dip nets pulled out the catch. Coastal fishermen used large nets to pull in fish from the ocean. They dried and smoked fish for food use in the winter.

Fish Hanging to Dry
fish image by ska from

Native Americans used a variety of spears, harpoons and barbed hooks attached to hemp twine for fishing. In some regions, they used nets for all types of fishing. There were dip nets, held open by a hoop and attached to a long or short handle, often used in platform fishing. Trap nets, used in streams and lakes had a barrier that guided the fish into a trap where they could not escape.

Fishing Nets
fishing nets image by TEA from

Native Americans in the plains hunted and used every part of the buffalo in everyday life. Hunting buffalo was with bows, arrows and spears. The meat was for food and hides became clothing, moccasins, bedding and tepees. Nothing went to waste.

two buffalo roam image by Brenton W Cooper from

Native Americans in the Great Lakes region ice-fished in the winter, cutting holes in the ice with a tool called a skimmer. They set spearing tents over the holes to prevent light from shining in and scaring the fish. They used spears or jigging sticks (sticks with a barbed fish decoy attached with hemp twine) to catch the fish.

Ice Fishing With a Jigging Stick
fishing in the north image by harmonie57 from


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