10 Native American Survival Skills That Are Still Invaluable To Us Today

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In this age of technology, few of us can grasp the survival skills that saw past generations make it through all manner of hardships using only their brains and brawn. Take the Native Americans, for instance, whose ability to live off the land can teach us some vital lessons. And some tribes’ survival skills – from finding food and water in the wild to simply working together as a community – are in many ways still invaluable to us today.

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10. The ability to preserve meat

Whether Native Americans were the first to create jerky is up for debate. However, what is certain is that they were huge proponents of the process, making what they called “pemmican.” If you’re unfamiliar with jerky, it’s simply dried meat, which the Native Americans mixed with animal fat or dried fruit.

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The advantage of preparing meat in this way, of course, is that it will last – whether you need nutritious supplies for a long trip or just want to have a backup food supply in case your fridge dies. In fact, jerky is now a food staple worldwide, such is its usefulness.

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9. The ability to predict the weather

If you ever find yourself in a survival situation – say, lost in the woods with no phone reception – then it’s a good idea to be prepared for the worst. That may mean keeping an eye on the weather – and being able to predict when a storm is coming was a great skill of the Native Americans.

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For instance, a heavy storm is usually heralded by wind rotating the leaves on trees, rainfall on the horizon and birds nesting during that time of the day. Knowing what to look for in a survival situation, then, can give you time to prepare an appropriate shelter.

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8. The ability to find water

Predicting the weather isn’t the only useful tool in a survival situation, of course. You’ll also need to make sure you can find a water source – something the Native Americans were adept at too. While some tribes were able to continually use the same sources, others that traveled needed to be able to find water in a pinch.

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Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to discover water in the wilderness. Birds and animals usually signal a nearby source, and following their trails can lead you to it. Trees with green leaves are also a fairly reliable indicator, as are green plants. And even when a river bed looks dry, there may well be water hiding underneath the mud.


7. The ablity to tell which wild plants were safe to eat

While settled Native American tribes could simply grow their own crops, those who roamed the country had to forage for edible plants. Fortunately, nomadic peoples learned ways to tell which foliage could be safely consumed. And knowing those plants could help you out in a pinch.

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For example, animals such as deer and birds will eat wild berries, and, on the whole, those same fruits are safe for us to eat, too. Other critters such as squirrels will also hoard food for the winter that can be recovered and consumed by humans. However, plants with thorns should generally be avoided.

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6. The ability to never get lost

Of course, you’ll never need to resort to stealing a squirrel’s nuts if you can know the way home. And this particular skill is one that was likewise key to Native American tribespeople, who were typically keenly aware of their surroundings. Natural landmarks in the environment also helped tribes find routes.

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Furthermore, indigenous peoples could even determine a direction without the sun or a compass to guide them. And this mostly came down to knowing what to look for in their surroundings. For instance, the densest growth on a gorse bush is generally found on the side facing northwards.

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5. The ability to move undetected

Whether you’re hunting prey or simply want to be closer to nature, the ability to move through an environment undetected is crucial. And it’s a skill that many of us have learnt as a direct result of Native American teachings. Yes, we’re talking about the Fox Walk.

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The Fox Walk is essentially a method of ensuring that you don’t step on anything that’s going to make a noise. The practice mainly involves feeling the ground with your foot before putting any weight on it until you find somewhere safe to step – and with enough experience, your movements should ultimately become totally silent.

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4. The ability to make traps

While we don’t have to catch our own food these days, the art of making a deadfall trap can still be valuable knowledge. After all, you never know when you’re going to find yourself in a situation where you have to rely on your own skills for survival.

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And Native Americans were strong proponents of deadfall traps; the Paiute people even have a specific variant of the device named after them. To make a deadfall trap, then, simply prop up a heavy stone with a branch and place some bait underneath. When an animal then reaches for the bait, the branch will give way, and the stone will hit the unsuspecting critter.

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3. The ability to make herbal remedies

When you’re alone in the wilderness, plants aren’t just for eating; they can also be useful for remedying certain ills. And many Native Americans were able to treat themselves using these herbal therapies, coming up with a variety of plant-based cures.

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For example, certain tribes treated headaches by drinking tea made with the leaves of the pennyroyal plant. And foliage can even be used as the base of a sedative; the Meskwaki tribe, for instance, used the root of a specific type of cherry tree to make a tranquilizing brew. Knowing how to utilize these plants, then, can make a huge difference in a survival situation.

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2. The ability to camouflage yourself

Moving silently through the wilderness doesn’t make you totally invisible. But camouflage can help with that – and the Native Americans were experts at it. In addition to painting their skin to match their environment, they even drew birds on themselves to really blend in.

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This knack for camouflage gave Native Americans a unique advantage not only during hunts but also in battle. And while most of us aren’t likely to have to engage in similar conflicts today, camouflage remains a valuable practice for everything from hunting to wildlife photography.

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1. The ability to be part of a community

Humanity survives – and thrives – in groups of people. Indeed, you only need look at Native American tribes for proof of that. Forming a tight-knit community, where everyone has a specific role, is an invaluable and timeless idea; it teaches us to work together and learn from one another.

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Let’s just imagine, for a second, that some nuclear event struck the world. In the aftermath, it would be imperative that people band together for humanity to survive. But even in our normal lives, belonging to a community is an essential source of support, comfort and resources – all of which means that this survival skill will always be invaluable to us.