O’siyo. Hunting season is here in Indian Country. This special article from the Navajo Times illustrates the importance of training young hunters correctly. The Navajo teach their young that there is more than the “kill”. Lessons include showing respect for the land, the animals, other hunters, and the culture of the elders. This teaching is exemplified by Navajo hunting mentor Larry Joe, an officer of the Navajo Nation Fish and Wildlife Conservation department.
Excerpt: More than hunting…By Marley Shebala, Navajo Times
“ As Brandon Nicholls, 13, of Teec Nos Pos, Ariz., hunted on the high ridges and deep crevices of the Carrizo Mountains for trophy bucks, Navajo Nation Fish and Wildlife conservation officer Larry Joe pointed out various plants to him. For Joe, one of 20 volunteer mentors in last weekend’s 4th Annual Navajo Nation Fish and Wildlife Youth Hunt, hunting is more than hunting.
He learned from his grandparents and Navajo medicine men that hunting involves knowledge of Navajo culture and in the old days took several years to learn.
As Joe walked, he offered quick, quiet briefings to his young charge, telling what each plant was named and how they are used in the Navajo way.
He pointed out a small pine tree that had its branches broken on one side. That’s where a buck had rubbed its antlers, he told Nicholls. Passing a small cluster of towering pine trees swaying in the wind, he pointed under them and showed Nicholls where deer had lain – here a buck, there a doe.
Joe had awakened Nicholls at 5 a.m. so they could be out in the thickest parts of the mountains while it was still semi-dark and cold – a time when the biggest bucks would be feeding…Nicholls grew more and more tired. It was not easy for him to climb up and down steep slopes that were thick with brush that hid loose rocks, all the while carrying a backpack and rifle.
Nicholls quickly learned that it took skill to trek the hills with as little noise as possible. Joe often had to turn and whisper a warning to walk more quietly because the sounds of breaking twigs and sliding rocks was keeping the trophy bucks ahead of them…
At about 3 p.m. when Joe and Nicholls resumed their quest joined by two other hunt participants, Nathan Dooley, 14, of Vanderwagen, N.M., and Kolt Mike, 12, of Mexican Springs, N.M., who had each harvested a buck.
As they walked down a streambed lined with pine, blue spruce, cedar and pi–on trees, Joe showed the three teens the tracks of mountain lion, elk, bucks, does, and a bear.
Joe then showed how to field dress the carcass…Joe asked Dooley and Mike to tell Nicholls how they disposed of their bucks’ intestines and when they said to throw it away, he laughed, pointed at a nearby pine tree, and told Nicholls to place the entrails on the east side of it.
The three boys were then instructed to hang the carcass from the tree, using its antlers, so Nicholls could pull out the esophagus and tongue, all in one piece, and add them to the pile under the pine tree.
Joe explained to the young hunters that in the Navajo way, after all the entrails are placed on the east side of the pine tree, the hunter then makes an “X” with white corn meal.
Disposing of the innards in this way continues the breath of life in the spirit of the spike, who will bring life and strength to other bucks and does.
And all of this was done by the light of Joe’s truck headlamps. As soon as the sun set in a majestic blaze of color, darkness had enveloped the mountains.
As Joe prepared to break camp, Dooley asked if he would help him finish skinning the head of his buck and teach him how to tan the hide.
Another young hunter overheard Dooley’s request and chimed in his request.
Joe smiled and nodded his head yes.” Read the entire article…
For more information concerning the 2013 Annual Youth Hunt click here.
For general hunting information: Navajo Nation Fish and Wildlife Dept.
Kudos to Larry Joe, and to all of the mentors at the Navajo Nation Fish and Wildlife Youth Hunt. Also, to the parents and grandparents who teach their young to hunt with respect.
Talking-Feather would like to give A special “thank you” (Ahe’hee’) to N.S. Dooley for bringing this wonderful article to our attention!
“…in the Navajo way, after all the entrails are placed on the east side of the pine tree, the hunter then makes an “X” with white corn meal. That makes the place holy, it becomes the center of the world. It is the entrance between this world and the spirit world for the young deer.” ~Larry Joe~ Navajo mentor-Navajo Nation Fish and Wildlife Dept.