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The Dog Days of Winter: Indigenous Dogs, Indian Hunters, and Wintertime Subsistence in the Northeast
Strother E. Roberts

Northeastern Naturalist,Volume 24, Special Issue 7 (2017): H1–H21

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Northeastern Naturalist 1 S.E. Roberts 2017 Vol. 24, Special Issue 7 The Dog Days of Winter: Indigenous Dogs, Indian Hunters, and Wintertime Subsistence in the Northeast Strother E. Roberts* Abstract - Prior to European settlement, indigenous members of the species Canis lupus familiaris (Domestic Dog) was, aside from humans, the most common large predator in the North American northeast. Dogs served Indian communities throughout the year, but their value increased over the winter. Light enough to run over packed snow, Domestic Dogs chased down Alces alces (Moose) and Odocoileus virginianus (White-tailed Deer). They protected food stores from vermin, provided warmth at night, and acted as a meat source during times of dearth. Domestic Dogs facilitated the fur trade by sniffing out the frozen lodges of Castor canadensis (Beaver). Although they often hunted and scavenged autonomously, it was through their symbiotic partnership with humans that indigenous Dogs helped to define the Northeast’s early modern ecology. Introduction The role of Canis lupus familiaris L. (Domestic Dog, hereafter Dog) in historical landscapes is little researched and poorly understood. As in most other areas of human habitation, Dogs have long been ubiquitous in northeastern North America (this article will focus on the lands stretching from the Great Lakes to the Canadian Maritimes). In the centuries before European settlement, indigenous Dogs certainly would have outnumbered any given wild predator population. Few records offer concrete numbers for indigenous Dog populations in the early contact era, but those (mostly French) European chroniclers who remarked on the role of Dogs in American Indian societies agree that such communities were home equally to humans and “large numbers” of Dogs (Biard 1898, Champlain 1880:237, Charlevoix 1761, Le Jeune 1897b, Rosier 1905, Sagard 1939). For example, Nicholas Denys, a French fur trader, claimed that among the mid-17th-century Mi’kmaq “[t]here is no hunter who has not from seven to eight of them [Dogs]” (Denys 1908:430). Assuming that adult male hunters made up approximately one-fifth to one-quarter of Mi’kmaw society, and that Denys’ estimate is anywhere near accurate, Dogs would have rivaled and perhaps surpassed the number of people living in some historical American Indian communities. Even if Denys exaggerated, he and other European observers left behind a clear picture of the importance of Dogs to Indian societies of the 17th-century Northeast. Reading through records from the 17th and 18th centuries makes clear that Dogs played a number of important roles within these societies. These records also strongly suggest that Dogs’ contributions varied seasonally. While Dogs were useful to some degree throughout the year—as hunting companions and for keeping *Bowdoin College, Brunswick, ME; Manuscript Editor: Thomas Andrews Winter Ecology:Insights from Biology and History 2017 Northeastern Naturalist 24(Special Issue 7):H1–H21 Northeastern Naturalist S.E. Roberts 2017 2 Vol. 24, Special Issue 7 downvermin—they exhibited their greatest value during the cold weather months that stretched from late September into March. It was during these months that indigenous Dogs contributed most to Native American subsistence and, consequently, had their greatest impact on regional wildlife populations. Dogs were ubiquitous in early modern American Indian villages. Allowed to run loose, they entered lodges and left at whim. European visitors often expressed displeasure at these undisciplined packs which, to European eyes, often looked more like the standard Canis lupus L. (Wolf) than proper domesticated Dogs (Anderson 2004). Yet as distasteful and unruly as European observers tended to find indigenous Dogs, they could not overlook the considerable advantages that these Dogs brought to the Indian communities in which they lived. Dogs stood as sentries, warning of the approach of human enemies and keeping dangerous predators, like Ursus americanus (Pallas) (Black Bear), at a distance (Charlevoix 1761). They also provided companionship and, on cold nights, warmth. French missionary Father Paul Le Jeune, in writing the narrative of his early 17th-century travels with the Innu (Montagnais), used a considerable amount of ink complaining about the inconvenience of sharing his lodgings with large packs of restless and often flea-ridden Dogs. He did, however, recognize that the animals had their value. In cold weather, his hosts’ Dogs would sleep indoors and Le Jeune recalled occasions where they “came and lay down sometimes upon my shoulders, sometimes upon my feet, and as I only had one blanket to serve both as covering and mattress, I was not sorry for this protection, willingly restoring to them a part of the heat which I drew from them” (Le Jeune 1897b:43). Of course, the real value of indigenous Dogs lay not in their ability to serve as living blankets, but in the crucial role that they played in contributing to native subsistence—something that was especially true during those cold months when Le Jeune actually came to appreciate their company. Indigenous Dogs as Wintertime Hunters Non-agricultural coastal communities, such as those of the Mi’kmaq (who are very well represented in the historical record) and certain other Wabanaki groups, practiced a seasonally migratory system of subsistence fishing, hunting, and gathering. During the warmer months from approximately March to September, Mi’kmaq families settled into large villages located along the coast or along rivers near their mouths, occupying a territory that embraced Nova Scotia, Cape Breton, and Prince Edward Islands, and that stretched north to the mouth of the St. Lawrence River. During these months, subsistence activities focused on the collection of marine resources— fish, shellfish, and marine mammals—and supplies of dried fish were laid in for wintertime rations. The fruits of the sea were supplemented by plant foods gathered from the near coastal environment, by large numbers of waterfowl hunted in the late spring and summer, and by limited hunting of terrestrial game species (Prins 1996). Dogs played an important part in this pursuit, and may have assisted in the hunting of waterfowl (the evidence is ambiguous), but seem to have had no role in the other warm-weather subsistence activities practiced by coastal communities (Charlevoix 1761, Denys 1908, Russell 1980). Seventeenth-century Jesuit Northeastern Naturalist 3 S.E. Roberts 2017 Vol. 24, Special Issue 7 missionary Father Pierre Biard (1989:85) confirmed the central importance of Dogs to Wabanaki hunting when he wrote of the expectation that young Mi’kmaw men complete an apprenticeship under an experienced hunter, “for then only can they have a dog and a bag; that is, have something of their own, and do for themselves”. But other 17th-century records make clear that Dogs’ centrality to indigenous hunting shifted with the seasons, waning in the spring and summer and waxing in the late autumn and winter In winter, coastal communities, which secured most of their annual calories from fishing, would turn towards the interior and rely on hunting to get them through until drawn back to the coastal river mouths of the Northeast by the Osmerus mordax (Mitchill) (Smelt) spawning season in spring. During these months, from roughly late September through March, villages would break into smaller familybased hunting bands and head inland, ranging through New Brunwsick and eastern Quebec . The winter hunt was split into 2 distinct periods—one in early winter and one in late winter—by the Microgadus tomcod (Walbaum) (Tomcod) spawning season that drew hunting bands back to the coast for ice fishing from late December through January (Biard 1898). From late September through mid-December, and again from February through March, coastal hunters relied on their Dogs to track, course, and help bring down big game like Alces alces L. (Moose), Odocoileus virginianus (Zimmerman) (White-tailed Deer), Rangifer tarandus L. (Caribou), and Black Bear, as well as smaller prey like Castor canadensis Kuhl. (Beaver), Lontra canadensis (Schreber) (River Otter), Erethizon dorsatum L. (Porcupine), and Lepus americanus (Erxleben) (Snowshoe Hare) (Sagard 1939). As French missionary and Recollect Friar Gabriel Sagard traveled down the St. Lawrence River to the eastern shores of Lake Huron in 1623, he observed firsthand how Indians he referred to as “the nomad savages” made use of Dogs to hunt hibernating game during the winter (Sagard 1939). These “nomads”—nonagricultural hunter-gatherers who migrated seasonally to exploit different regional resource-bases—would have included the coastal Wabanakis (the Mi’kmaq and culturally and linguistically related peoples in what is today Maine and New Hampshire) and Innu (of southern Labrador and the lands north of the eastern St. Lawrence Valley), as well as inland groups like the Algonquins (who lived north of the western St. Lawrence Valley, stretching to the northeastern shores of Lake Ontario). “In winter”, these groups would “leave the shores of the sea and rivers, and encamp in the woods, wherever they know there is game” (Sagard 1939:100). Wabanaki bands, for example, spent most of the year harvesting marine resources or hunting waterfowl along the coast or on the banks of major rivers, but winter brought them inland, ranging across present-day northern New England, New Brunswick, and Quebec (Wickman 2015). Hunting bands would range the inland countryside with “dogs that follow them”, and although Sagard (1939:100) noted that “these do not bark, yet they understand quite well how to discover the lair of the animal they are looking for.” Once roused from their dens, Porcupines and hibernating game, like Black Bears, would be pursued by men and Dogs. Native hunters set “their dogs to worry” the prey “until they [the hunters] have brought Northeastern Naturalist S.E. Roberts 2017 4 Vol. 24, Special Issue 7 it down” (Sagard 1939: 100). English author John Josselyn (1674:91), declared Black Bear meat, in particular, to be “excellent Venison”, especially in the late fall and early winter after the bears had grown fat from gorging themselves on acorns. However, he observed that in New England, “there is none dares to attempt to kill him but the Indian[s]” who used Dogs to chase and tree bears so that the they could shoot and spear the fearsome creatures safely from below. The Indian hunters would then “cut open the belly”, give the entrails of “the quarry to the dogs, have a feast, and carry off the remainder” (Sagard 1939:100). Dogs, as the above passages illustrate, helped the natives of the Northeast transform winter from a time of potential famine into one of feasting. Although it may seem counter-intuitive, especially cold snowy winters were not necessarily bad news for the native communities of the Northeast. As Thomas Wickman (2015) has recently shown, winter was, in fact, often a “season of abundance” for northeastern Indians. While wintertime conditions varied from month to month and year to year, most early modern northeastern winters seem to have brought enough snow and cold enough temperatures to produce stable, seasonal snowpacks. Northeastern Native hunters wore snowshoes that allowed them to travel over the top of snowpacks in search of game. Their Dogs’ wolfish heritage allowed them to do the same without the aid of technology. A lean build, roughly equal dispersal of weight over 4 limbs, and splayed toes on a broad paw allow Wolves to pursue game across snowfields without sinking into drifts (Mech and Peterson 2003). European accounts show that Dogs were able to do the same, suggesting that they must have retained some of their wolfish kin’s morphological adaptations for wintertime hunting. Snowshoes thus granted northeastern American Indians an advantage that their canine companions had acquired naturally through the graces of evolution. Snowpacks, then, offered advantages to certain species of the Northeast (most notably for this article, humans and their canine companions), while posing an important obstacle to others, such as Moose and White-tailed Deer (Wickman 2015). It was actually these 2 large ungulate game species, rather than hibernating species like Black Bears and Porcupines, that were most important to the wintertime sustenance of native northeastern communities and which were, consequently, mentioned most often mentioned by 17th- and 18th-century European traders and settlers when recording Indian hunting practices in the region. In 1672, seventeenth-century French trader and colonial administrator Nicolas Denys drew on his 30 years’ experience of life in Acadia to explain how the region’s Indians benefitted from the assistance of Dogs when hunting in both warm and cold weather. In the spring, summer, and autumn, the Indian hunters of Acadia would turn their Dogs loose to track Moose through woodland, swamp, and plain. When a Dog encountered a Moose, it would howl to alert the human hunters trailing behind. The Dog would then seek to seize the Moose by its nose or ears, holding it in place until the hunters and other members of the hunting pack could arrive. When the human hunters arrived, the quarry would often break and run, pursued now by the full pack of Dogs leaping to grab hold of face or flank. In time, exhaustion from the chase, together with wounds from biting Dogs and the spears and arrows of hunters would bring the great beast down (Denys 1908). Northeastern Naturalist 5 S.E. Roberts 2017 Vol. 24, Special Issue 7 Winter, far from proving an impediment to hunters, actually increased the ease with which Moose could be taken. As in warmer months, hunting Dogs assisted in tracking game. If a single Moose were encountered, Dogs and hunters would pursue their quarry through the snows. Moose are well suited for traversing ground bearing up to 2 feet of snow cover. Their long legs allow for a trotting gait that keeps their torsos clear of the snow and minimizes the amount of extra effort required to push through accumulated snowpack. They would, however, eventually grow fatigued when coursed by a pack of Dogs who enjoyed the advantage of ranging over the top of the snow. In deeper drifts, the Moose’s long legs offered less advantage and the creature would tire more quickly. Heavy snows thus offered the greatest advantage to American Indians hunting Moose with Dogs. As Denys (1908:428) observed, a deep snowpack topped by a firm crust “bears the Dogs, but the Moose does not find good going … he sinks into the snow, which fatigues him greatly”. Eventually, worn out, the Moose would either halt and perhaps collapse from fatigue or choose to turn and face its pursuers. Such hunts were not without their dangers. Dogs were constantly in peril of being speared by antler or crushed beneath hooves as the Moose sought to fend off its attackers. Josselyn (1764:137) wrote of a Moose pursued by Indian hunters constantly “yerking out his heels (for he strikes like a horse)” whenever “any of their dogs … come near”. Recollect missionary Chrétien Le Clercq, who ministered among the Mi’kmaq for 7 years, tells of Moose charging their attackers, knocking them aside, and burying them in snow drifts, sometimes crippling human hunters and killing Dogs outright (Le Clercq 1910). Against such formidable prey, Dogs played a crucial role in protecting human hunters from harm. The assistance of Dogs—snarling, snapping, and keeping the attacking Moose at bay—allowed Indian hunters to dispatch their prey from a safe distance using spears and arrows (Denys 1908). Hunting Moose in herds posed a slightly different challenge. Moose are usually solitary browsers, but often congregate closer together in winter as individuals and mother-calf pairs seek shelter and forage in stands of softwoods where they browse on the bark and shoots of young trees. The coniferous canopies of these woodlands keep the ground below relatively snowless, at least compared to neighboring areas that are open or home to stands of deciduous woods, which are leafless in winter. The constant milling about of a number of Moose within these constrained areas serves to trample down what snow cover does exist creating a “Moose yard”, which in Denys’ (1908:428) experience could be up to “a league and a half” (~4.5 miles) in circumference (Whitaker and Hamilton 1998 ). These yards offered a space where herd members enjoyed ease of movement between their arboreal food source and locally strategic sites such as water and salt licks. Under such circumstances, human and canine hunters could not exploit the advantage that deep snow offered on untrampled grounds. Instead, hunting in these wintertime Moose yards more closely resembled summer hunts. Dogs would aid Indian hunters in locating a herd and then both Dogs and humans would course the Moose, which would flee as a herd. Upon reaching the edge of their yard, the Moose would begin circling its Northeastern Naturalist S.E. Roberts 2017 6 Vol. 24, Special Issue 7 perimeter, making wide circuits as they attempted to evade their pursuers. At each pass, waiting hunters would spear or shoot 1 member of the stampeding herd and then wait for the next pass to take down another. Any Moose who scattered beyond the yard and into the deep snows would be pursued by Dogs who would track and hound it until the human hunters had finished with the main herd and were ready to track down their remaining prey. In such fashion, hunters could expect to take maybe half a dozen Moose at their ambush site, plus any strays that their Dogs had tracked and managed to bring to bay (Denys 1908). While Moose were the preferred big-game of the Wabanaki bands of the east, White-tailed Deer were far more important for Indian nations living farther west and inland. This is primarily because White-tailed Deer were scarce in the Canadian Maritimes; their pre-19th-century range was limited largely to more southeasterly coastal regions (Wickman 2015). In contrast, it was Moose that were (relatively) scarce as one ascended the St. Lawrence and approached the Great Lakes, while deer became increasingly common. The Huron villages north of Lake Ontario, for example, relied on agriculture and fishing for the majority of the calories that they consumed during the year, but supplemented their diets with game. Deer were the single most important source of meat for the Hurons and other agricultural nations of the eastern Great Lakes region (Stewart and Finlayson 2000, Trigger 1969). Algonquins and western bands of Innu also relied heavily on deer, and it is from this last group that we have the best picture of what wintertime deer hunts looked like among the natives of the Northeast. Samuel de Champlain (1880:237), who explored large portions of the Northeast in 1609–1610, recorded that the Innu kept “large numbers” of Dogs “for hunting”, but failed to provide the details of what role these Dogs played in the hunt. Champlain did, however, provide a description of the great communal drives that the Innu and Algonquins used to hunt Deer (a hunting technique common throughout the Northeast and elsewhere). Hunters would construct “V”-shaped hedges by weaving together tree limbs with live trunks and bushes. The point of the “V” would lead into a small corral constructed in the same manner. Hunters would spread out and walk through a stretch of woodlands making as much noise as possible, driving deer before them into the fenced “V”. A second group of hunters would then dispatch the animals as they entered the pen at the drive’s end (Champlain 1880). Dogs presumably assisted northeastern human hunters in herding and corralling Deer towards their eventual slaughter, a role they commonly filled among native communities living elsewhere (Benedict 2005, Brink 2005, Lescarbot 1896, Lewis 1994, Medicine Crow 1978, Sundstrom 2000). Pierre François Xavier de Charlevoix (1761), a French Jesuit working in Quebec a century after its founding by Champlain, affirmed that the Indians of 18th-century Canada used Dogs during their warm-weather hunting drives, suggesting that the same was likely true of the wintertime hunts that Champlain witnessed. Likewise, William Wood (1634), in his New England’s Prospect, told of hunting Dogs chasing deer through the snow, a practice perhaps learned from Indian neighbors. Champlain (1880) recorded a series of successful drives in which a party of ~24 hunters took a total of 120 deer Northeastern Naturalist 7 S.E. Roberts 2017 Vol. 24, Special Issue 7 during the month of November. The hunters moved on from these hunting grounds in early December, timing their departure with the final freezing up of the rivers and marshes in the region. Loaded down with venison, Champlain and his hosts set out across the frozen countryside to rendezvous at a Huron town and join a military expedition against the Iroquois. Interestingly, Champlain makes no mention of Dogs being used to transport this haul of venison. In fact, references to northeastern Indians using Dogs as beasts of burden are surprisingly few. The Wabanaki nations, at least, occasionally made use of Dogs for their motive power during the months when snow covered the ground. Nicolas Denys (1908:360) recorded that the 17th-century Mi'kmaq, when travelling inland, harnessed their Dogs “like horses” to small sledges which served to “carry all the outfit of the hunters”. Thus unencumbered, Mi'kmaw hunting parties, accompanied by their Dogs, could easily traverse the snowpack in search of game. The Abenaki war party that took Deerfield resident Stephen Williams captive in 1704 (during Queen Anne’s War), used “slays & Dogs” to carry the men wounded during their raids on English settlements, suggesting a broader familiarity with the technology (Williams 1889:5). Most of the communal drives undertaken by the Innu and other hunter-gatherer groups would have taken place in the late fall or during the winter, when deer are most likely to congregate in large herds in those areas where forage is most readily available. Family groups of does and fawns begin to congregate into larger herds in late autumn, from roughly late November through early December. These herds seek out dense stands of softwoods, where up to 50% of snowfall may be sequestered in the canopies of trees. This coverage reduces snow depths on the woodlands floor below, making travel and foraging easier for deer. In mid-December, as the annual rut draws to an end, bucks also seek out these areas. Herding together in these wintertime deer yards allows deer to conserve energy as the trampling of multiple sets of hooves maintains a trail network connecting access to sheltering cover and food resources. Herding also offers some protection against wild predators, but made populations more vulnerable to the sort of drive hunting historically practiced by northeastern Indians (Smith 1991, Wiley and Hulsey 2010). Hunters from agricultural Huron villages operated on a schedule similar to that of their non-agricultural neighbors, staging group hunts towards the end of autumn and then again during the deep winter (Trigger 1969). This timing allowed the hunters to take advantage of the wintertime herding behavior of deer to increase the efficiency of the hunt and, presumably like the Algonquin and Innu hunters observed by Champlain, to make use of frozen landscapes to ease the transport of large quantities of venison and hides back to their villages (Stewart and Finlayson 2000). The swarms of Dogs that Sagard encountered in Huron villages would have contributed by pursuing deer during these large drives. These group hunts generally took place at some distance from Huron settlements because deer tended to be scarce in the immediate neighborhood of Huron villages. Presumably this scarcity was the result of hunting pressures placed on local game populations by the large populations housed in the agricultural villages of Huronia (Trigger 1969). Hunters Northeastern Naturalist S.E. Roberts 2017 8 Vol. 24, Special Issue 7 stalked individual deer and may also have pursued them with Dogs while hunting individually or in small groups. Dried meat from these wintertime hunts played a crucial role in the subsistence cycle of the agricultural communities living around the Great Lakes, helping villages through the relatively lean months of early spring until migratory fish and bird populations returned and wild berries began to appear (MacLeod 2012, Steckley 2007). The important role that Dogs played in assuring a successful hunt, illustrated by these 17th-century observers, is further suggested by recent research into modern hunting techniques. A Finnish study on 21st-century Moose hunting (a popular wintertime activity in Finland) suggests the importance that Dogs can play in a successful hunt (Ruusila and Pesonen 2004). The study found that groups hunting with Dogs were more successful at locating and killing game and increased the amount of meat they brought home by 56% per hunter compared to groups not using Dogs. Generally speaking, the more Dogs associated with a group, the more successful a hunt that group was likely to have. Hunting with Dogs had a particularly significant effect on the number of Moose killed by those hunting in small groups (1–9 humans working together). Dogs were especially important for hunting in areas where game was scarce. The ability of a spread-out pack of Dogs to track and locate a Moose by smell over a large area, and then to hold the animal in place until trailing humans arrived, proved critical for hunters who otherwise may have ranged over a considerable swath of countryside without ever encountering evidence of their quarry (Ruusila and Pesonen 2004, Shipman 2015). Another recent study, this time from southeastern Ontario, confirms the benefits of hunting deer with Dogs. This study found that hunting camps that included 2 or more Dogs could expect to take 26% more deer per hunter per day compared to hunters operating without Dogs. These modern sport hunters accompanied by Dogs also wounded, but failed to track down, 40% more deer than Dogless hunters, suggesting that subsistence hunters (with a greater incentive for recovering wounded game) may have been able to even further improve their take when partnering with Dogs. This study, based on 24 years of data collected during the Canadian Whitetailed Deer hunting season (in November), found that hunters accompanied by Dogs were especially successful during snowy days, although the mere presence of snow on the ground did not seem to increase the odds of a successful hunt (Godwin et al. 2013). This finding can likely be explained by the earliness of the modern hunting season, when firm snowpacks have not yet had a time to form. Another study has found domestic Dogs to be especially effective hunters of deer when operating in snow (Lowry and McArthur 1978). In fact, studies from throughout the world, focusing on various types of game, have shown that hunting with Dogs can substantially improve the chances of taking game and increase the amount of meat yielded from a hunt (Liebenberg 2006, Shipman 2015). Although modern hunters rely on different tools and hunting strategies than did the 17th-century hunters of the Northeast, these studies do suggest the valuable role that historical indigenous Dogs likely played in locating, tracking, and worrying game when operating alongside their Indian hunting partners. Northeastern Naturalist 9 S.E. Roberts 2017 Vol. 24, Special Issue 7 This advantage would have been of the utmost importance to the Indian communities of the Northeast, making the difference between a comfortable subsistence and famine. Prior to European settlement, Native American communities throughout the Northeast relied on White-tailed Deer or Moose to provide either a majority or a seasonally critical minority of the protein contained in their diets (for some protein from fish during warm months surpassed that obtained from venison). Dogs, both in their roles as independent hunters and by aiding Indian hunters in their pursuit of Moose and White-tailed Deer, would have played an important role in regulating population levels of both of these wild ungulates. By one estimate, the ~20,000 Mi’kmaq who in 1600 inhabited what would become the Canadian Maritimes would have required ~10,000 Moose to provide them with enough meat to make it through the 4–5 wintertime months during which they relied on inland hunting for sustenance (McCabe 1982, Minahan 2013, Prins 1996). This estimate is a rough one and depends on a number of variables—the relative abundance of other game species, fluctuating populations of both Moose and Mi’kmaq, etc.—but gives an idea of how the dietary needs of just 1 pre-contact Indian nation may have impacted the population of this particular wildlife species. It does not account for the impact of hunting by other Wabanaki groups, the Innu, or other native nations on the Moose herd of the Northeast. Nor does this figure take into account the share of meat that would have been due to the Mi’kmaq’s hunting companions, their Dogs. These considerations would have added to the number of Moose that Indians needed to hunt to ensure that the dietary needs of their communities (human and canine) were met. Similarly, groups living farther inland would have exerted significant downward pressure on White-tailed Deer populations. Based on the same study as above, the ~30,000 people living in pre-contact Huron/ Wyandot and affiliated villages may have harvested upwards of 100,000 deer each winter (McCabe 1982, Warrick 2008). Again, this ignores the dietary share of Huron hunting Dogs, as well as the ability of Dogs to hunt and capture deer while hunting independently. Dogs also played an important role in hunting Beaver, especially following the introduction of the trans-Atlantic fur trade. In warm weather, Indians would break the dams that held back beaver ponds, thus exposing the lodges in which the Beaver dwelt. The hunters then had simply to wait for the Beaver to exit their lodge, or, if impatient, to break open the lodge to spear the Beaver inside. The demands of the fur trade, however, precluded these hunting practices. The quality of Beaver pelts vary seasonally, with the animals shedding fur in the spring and summer and growing thicker coats in the winter. European/Euro-American traders paid a premium for wintertime pelts and often refused altogether to purchase furs taken during the warmer months. As a consequence, Indians engaged in the fur trade switched the bulk of their Beaver-hunting activities to the winter when dams were frozen solid and the lodges were well hidden under the ice and snow that covered ponds (Cronon 1983). They relied on the keen noses of their Dogs to locate Beaver, and then hacked through the ice and wood of the lodge to spear the animals inside (Denys 1908). The Sieur de Diéreville, who observed Indian hunting practices while Northeastern Naturalist S.E. Roberts 2017 10 Vol. 24, Special Issue 7 travelling through Acadia at the turn of the 18th century, recorded that Beaver would often escape this initial slaughter and attempt to evade hunters either by fleeing to shore or by hiding under the ice near breathing holes. A perimeter of Dogs around the banks of the pond cut of f such escape. As hunters finished with the lodge, they would call on their Dogs who, as Diéreville noted, “have such good noses that they never fail to smell them [the Beaver]” even under the ice. Once discovered, the hunter would smash through the ice with an axe, strike the Beaver on the head, and seize his quarry (Diéreville 1933, Le Jeune 1897b). The accompanying Figure 1, a detail from an early 18th-century Franco-Dutch map, illustrates this teamwork between Dogs and Indian hunters. While production for the fur trade was undoubtedly the driving motivation behind hunting Beaver for most of the 17th century onwards, Beaver taken for their pelts also offered an important source of protein for wintertime hunting bands, whether they came from agricultural villages or hunter-gatherer communities. Indeed, as the incentives of the fur trade encouraged hunters to focus more and more effort on taking Beaver, less time was dedicated to other subsistence activities, and Beaver meat became an indispensable part of the wintertime diet (Cronon 1983). Once the valuable pelt was removed, an average-sized Beaver could yield about 9 kg (20 lbs.) of meat, its high fat-content adding to the calories available to the hunter and his community (Jochim 1981). After 1760, Catholic missionaries and their native converts could even enjoy Beaver, which the Church chose to designate as a type of fish, during Lent and fast days. Archaeological remains from one pre-contact Iroquois site help illustrate the importance that Beaver played in native diets. Among the excavated middens, Beaver rank as the third most common source of protein—behind White-tailed Deer and Dogs (Stewart 1991). If Dogs made the winter hunting of Beaver practical, then they also bear some responsibility for the wide-ranging ecological changes that followed in the wake of the 17th-century fur trade. The opportunities to trade for French goods (and, where possible, for goods supplied by the British and Dutch) drove the native communities of the Northeast to rapidly deplete the Beaver populations of the region. Beaver became rare in some areas of the St. Lawrence Valley as early as the 1630s and had been largely hunted to expiration in the coastal regions inhabited by the Wabanakis by the 1670s. By the 18th century, the attention of both European traders and Indian hunters had shifted west to the Great Lakes and north to Hudson’s Bay (Hubbard 1677, Innis 1956). The fur trade left behind a region almost devoid of Beaver, their dams, and their ponds. The crumbling of beaver dams and the drainage of the ponds left behind a landscape transformed, missing many thousands of hectares (hundreds Figure 1, following page. An early 18th-century Franco-Dutch map depicting Indians hunting Beaver with the help of Domestic Dogs in the foreground. In the background, 2 hunters urge on their Dogs, which are pursuing and worrying a Moose. To the right, hunters have treed a bear. This image seems to have been based on Nicolas Deny’s account of Mi’kmaq hunting practices. (Henri Abraham Chatelain. 1719. Carte Tres Curieuse de la Mer du Sud. Amsterdam; map reproduction courtesy of the Norman B. Levanthal Map Center at Boston Public Library, Boston, MA.) Northeastern Naturalist 11 S.E. Roberts 2017 Vol. 24, Special Issue 7 Figure 1. [Caption on preceding page.] Northeastern Naturalist S.E. Roberts 2017 12 Vol. 24, Special Issue 7 of thousands of acres) of wetlands, and considerably less biodiverse (Hey and Philippi 1995, 1999; Johnston and Naiman 1990; Pastore 2014). The wintertime hunting activities of indigenous Dogs thus had profound consequences for the human communities with which they partnered, but also for wildlife species and the northeastern landscape as a whole. Dogs as Food Of course, if heavy snows and solid snowpacks could facilitate Dogs as hunters, less-ideal winter conditions could act as an impediment. An absence or dearth of snowfall robs Dogs of a part of their advantage over game, although even then, as in warmer months, they could still play an important role in tracking, coursing, and bringing game to bay. Especially wet snowfalls or warm temperatures provides a greater obstacle. Father Pierre Biard, A Jesuit who lived among the Mi’kmaq from 1611–1613, commented on the problems that faced indigenous hunting Dogs under such conditions. “[W]hen it snows a great deal, and does not freeze over”, Biard observed, “they [the Mi’kmaq] cannot put their dogs upon the ch ase, because they sink down … the snow being too soft” (Biard 1898:77). Indian hunters could still manage in such snows “for they wear snowshoes on their feet which help them to stay on top”, but they would be denied of their canine assistants. If the tops of snowbanks failed to freeze and crust over, Dogs, just like the game they pursued, could break through as they ran, impeding their mobility. In such conditions, Dogs were likely at a disadvantage compared to their prey. With their longer legs, Deer could only have moved slowly through snow, but still more quickly than foundering Dogs. Moose with their lanky legs and high-body clearance, would presumably have had little trouble escaping Dogs attempting to pursue through soft snows, especially if snow accumulation was less than 2 feet. Given the attested importance of Dogs to wintertime hunting, such conditions likely threatened native subsistence, especially if damp, warm conditions persisted through the early and late winter hunting seasons. “If the weather then is favorable,” by which Biard meant consistently frigid, “they live in great abundance, and are as haughty as Princes and Kings; but if it is against them, they are greatly to be pitied, and often die of starvation” (Biard 1898:77). But even when adverse weather limited the utility of Dogs in wintertime hunting, they still had an important role to play in assuring the subsistence of the Indian communities in which they lived. Although Dogs are not usually considered a form of livestock, they functioned as such in Native American societies. In the modern American tradition, the esoteric category of livestock includes a range of species that are raised and cared for by people in exchange for their fiber or hides, motive power, and as a source food (among other uses). Various Indian societies exploited Dogs for one or all of these purposes. In particular, Dogs, like other forms of livestock, represented a way to store protein—to bank excess calories produced in times of plenty against future uncertainty. Jesuit missionary Barthélemy Vimont (1898) recorded that the Mi’kmaq of northern Acadia experienced a season of particular want during the winter of 1644–1645. A poor catch of Salmo salar L. (Atlantic Salmon) in Northeastern Naturalist 13 S.E. Roberts 2017 Vol. 24, Special Issue 7 the autumn was exacerbated by a scarcity of game encountered during the early winter hunt. As a result, the Mi’kmaq of Vimont’s acquaintance “were compelled to eat their dogs, their [animal] skins, and their shoes, and often passed several days without food” (Vimont 1898:25). The Indian captors of Mary Rowlandson, taken during King Phillip’s War, resorted to eating Dogs when other provisions failed during their flight towards Canada in February of 1675 (Rowlandson 1682). The Innu, too, according to Le Jeune (1897b), turned to their Dogs for meat when they failed to encounter game (Allen 1920). Indeed, Father Le Jeune (1897b) suggested that a desire to provide against future uncertainty was one important reason that Indians kept Dogs, comparing the raising of Dogs by the Innu to the raising of Ovis aries L. (Sheep) in France. Sagard (1939), likewise, compared Huron Dogs to Sheep. This comparison is suggestive. While European elites might sometimes enjoy a meal of lamb or mutton, peasant farmers kept Sheep primarily for wool (or milk). Sheep were not eaten except when an animal reached the end of its productive lifespan or during times of famine (Epstein 1955, Johnston 2011). Le Jeune suggests that Indian Dogs paralleled French Sheep in that they were chiefly raised not to be eaten; instead they served as sentries and hunting partners. During times of scarcity, however, Dogs provided a reserve of readily available meat. In fact, Dog meat seems to have been a crucial component of northeastern native diets. Archaeological evidence from a 16th- through 17th-century Neutral village site near the northwestern shores of Lake Ontario, for example, shows that Dogs were the second most consumed meat source for its inhabitants, following only deer (Stewart and Finlayson 2000). Beyond serving as an emergency source of meat for when famine threatened, dogs may, then, have functioned as a dietary staple in some northeastern cultures. Dog meat also played important ceremonial roles, and the ritual consumption of Dogs was common to nations throughout the region. While Dog-feast ceremonies could occur at any time of the year, in some cases ceremonies may have been strategically timed to provide protein during otherwise lean winter months. For example, records for the 17th century make clear reference to the antecedents of what by the late 18th century had evolved into the Iroquois ceremony of the White Dog Sacrifice. This ceremony took place in midwinter and may originally have involved the sacrifice of 10 Dogs, followed by a feast at which their remains were boiled in a stew and then consumed (Blau 1964, Tooker 1965). It is worth noting that while Dogs served a number of utilitarian roles in Indian communities, including as a food source, it seems likely that affective ties also linked human and canine—at least for some Indian masters in their relationships with certain individual Dogs (Kercsmar 2016). An Innu origin tale celebrated the loyalty of Dogs, even suggesting that Dogs had earned the enmity of the rest of the animal world by choosing to hunt alongside humans (Schwartz 1995). Le Jeune (1898b:13) remarked—disapprovingly—that the Hurons held their Dogs “as dear as the children of the house” and allowed them “to share the beds, plates, and food of their masters”. Huron women fed puppies as tenderly as they did infant children, Northeastern Naturalist S.E. Roberts 2017 14 Vol. 24, Special Issue 7 and Mi’kmaq mothers even allowed orphaned pups to suckle at their breasts until the Dogs were able to subsist on soup (Denys 1908, Sagard 1939). A Huron hunter whose beloved Dog (named Ouatit) had recently been killed by a Black Bear eulogized his former companion to Father Le Jeune by declaring, “I dearly loved Ouatit; I had resolved to keep him with me all his life”; the hunter went on to declare that he would never have sacrificed Ouatit to the stewpot even if commanded to do so in a spirit dream, a remarkable statement given the sacredness of such messages (Le Jeune 1898a:14). Mi’kmaq hunters also seem to have had favorite dogs, although these Dogs’ fates differed than that of Ouatit. According to Denys (1908:430), the gift of a Dog served as a “mark of friendship”, and hunters offered “testimony to a friend of the esteem in which they held him” by giving “him that Dog to eat which they valued the most”. It is unclear whether effective hunting Dogs might, at least occasionally, be spared such a fate, but this observation certainly suggests that in Mi’kmaq society the line separating a valued hunting companion from a convivial bowl of stew could be a thin one. For all that they had to offer, Indian Dogs “cost their master very little”, as Gabriel Sagard (1939:226) noted. Denys (1908:430) mentions puppies being “nursed” by Mi’kmaq women, and observed mature Dogs sometimes being fed with “soup”; although during the winter hunting season, he makes clear that the Dogs were given “nothing but the offal of the beasts” which they helped their Indian partners to hunt and catch. “If eight days pass without any animals being killed”, Denys (1908:430) declared, “they are just so long without eating”. This almost certainly overstates the hunger faced by indigenous Dogs. Rather, the Dogs living within Indian communities did not depend on direct feedings for most of their sustenance, but instead combined independent hunting with a diet that consisted of scavenging the excess and waste produced by their human companions. Sagard (1939:253–254) recorded that like Sus scrofa scrofa L. (Domestic Pig), the Dogs in Huron villages ate “nothing but the refuse they find in the streets and on the roads”, contributing, in Sagard’s opinion, to the pork-like flavor of their meat (Anderson 2004). Indeed, Sagard’s comparison of indigenous Dogs to Pigs seems even more appropriate than comparing these domestic canines to European Sheep. Pigs, like Dogs, at first glance seem poor choices for domestication since both species overlap to a considerable extent with humans in their diets. However, this dietary overlap, combined with the ability of both domesticated species to hunt independently, meant that Dogs, like Pigs, could maximize the exploitation of food resources shared with humans by consuming scraps that might otherwise go to waste. (White 2011). For example, Dogs were allowed to lick eating vessels clean, leading Le Jeune (1897b) to complain that Innu Dogs, accustomed to feeding off of leftovers, would often thrust their noses into his dish before he had a chance to finish his meal (Sagard 1939). Le Jeune also recorded other organic refuse—the leftover skins from a meal of smoked Anguilla rostrata (Lesueur) (American Eel) and scraps of hide from making clothing—being fed to Dogs, as well as a highly illustrative insult hurled at one member of the Innu band with which he travelled: “Oh the glutton! ... He has no sense; he eats everything like a dog” (Le Jeune 1897b:173). Northeastern Naturalist 15 S.E. Roberts 2017 Vol. 24, Special Issue 7 Feeding bones and scraps from game to Dogs was common, contrary to the great attention that historians have paid to the various taboos against the practice. One of the most often quoted passages from Chrétien Le Clercq’s journal, for example, is the missionary’s observation that Mi’kmaq never threw the bones of Beaver to their Dogs “lest they lose their sense of smell for the rodent” (Martin 1978:35). In a similar vein, an Innu hunter informed Le Jeune that the spirit of a dead Beaver would know if a Dog were allowed to chew on its bones and in retaliation for this slight “the other Beavers would be apprised of it and therefore they would make themselves hard to capture” (Krech 1999:202). Similar taboos are mentioned frequently in 17th- and 18th-century accounts and appear to have been nearly universal among the cultures of the Northeast. However, these taboos were both species- and culturally specific. Where particular taboos did not prevent it, Dogs were free to dine upon bones tossed away by sated humans. A later Mi’kmaq oral tradition blames their nation’s split from the linguistically related Maliseets upon a fight between 2 Dogs over a bone cast aside during a feast, suggesting that the cultural prohibition against giving Beaver bones to Dogs did not apply to all species utilized for meat (Prins 1996). Le Jeune shows that some prohibitions, depending on the animal involved, applied only to certain parts of a carcass. He observed that the Innu did “not throw to the dogs the bones of female Beavers and Porcupines—at least certain specified bones … Yet they make a thousand exceptions to this rule, for it does not matter if the vertebrae or rump of these animals be given to the Dogs” (Allen 1920:468). Teeth marks on bones found in the middens of 1 Iroquois site show that Dogs were allowed to scavenge meat from the discarded remains of meals made up of a full range of game animals—including Beaver and other Dogs (Stewart 1991). If Le Jeune (1897a) and Father Isaac Jogues (1898), another Jesuit missionary, are to be believed, both the Innu and the Iroquois even allowed their Dogs to feed on the bodies of slain enemies. Indigenous Dogs likely supplemented the calories they obtained scavenging refuse with prey taken while hunting independently. Indigenous Dogs would have been the most numerous non-human predator in 17th-century North America. The Northeast (in this case narrowly defined as New England and the Canadian Maritimes) likely contained no more than 14,000, and likely far fewer, wild Wolves (Hampton 1997, Paquet and Carbyn 2003). Black Bears and Puma concolor L. (Cougars), which live at far smaller population densities, would have been rarer still. By contrast, indigenous Dogs may have numbered well over 100,000 if Denys’ estimates for the Mi’kmaq are to be applied to the region as a whole, with its human population of ~140,000 (Bragdon 1996, Denys 1908, Schwartz 1995). If we assume that Denys exaggerated, Father Pierre Biard’s (1898) implication that every adult male hunter owned at least 1 Dog would suggest a lower bound estimate of around 30,000. Although estimating historical populations is difficult, it seems likely that C. lupus familiaris numbered well into the tens-of-thousands in New England and the Canadian Maritimes at the beginning of the 17th century. As 1 of the 2 most numerous predator species (alongside humans) in the region, indigenous Dogs would have had a critical impact on wildlife populations. Northeastern Naturalist S.E. Roberts 2017 16 Vol. 24, Special Issue 7 Research on the ecology of modern Dogs suggests that this would have included deer in those areas where deer were plentiful (Bergman et al. 2009, Boitani et al. 1995, Lowry and McArthur 1978). Today, for example, Domestic Dogs are the most widespread non-human predators of White-tailed Deer, a fact which may represent a long-standing ecological relationship (Smith 1991). Smaller game, however, likely made up the bulk of independently hunted prey. Denys (1908:389) observed that in Acadia, “the entire country is furnished in all its parts” with rabbits—presumably Lepus americanus (Erxleben) (Snowshoe Hare)—“provided that one goes to places a little removed from the dwellings.” In the immediate vicinity of villages, he recorded, “Dogs chase and even eat them”, making such prey scarce. Dogs are also accomplished mousers (even if it is cats that are more often celebrated in this regard), and indigenous Dogs would have helped protect Indian food stores from destruction by North America’s native Peromyscus maniculatus (Wagner) (Deer Mouse) and other rodents while also supplementing their own diets (Bergman et al. 2009, Causey and Cude 1980, Vanak and Gompper 2010). This role would have been especially important in agricultural communities— such as the Huron village in which Sagard (1939:227) encountered “mice without number”—where grain storage provided an important food reserve and ensured seed for the next season’s planting. Studies of modern feral and loose Dogs in the United States suggest that these historical indigenous Dogs likely also supplemented their winter diets by hunting Sciurus carolinensis (Gmelin) (Eastern Gray Squirrel), Tamias striatus L. (Chipmunk), and, in more southerly portions of the Northeast, Meleagris gallopavo L. (Wild Turkey), among other small prey species (Bergman et al. 2009, Causey and Cude 1980, Ritchie et al. 2014). It is impossible to know from a distance of 300 years later what proportion of indigenous Dogs’ diets were composed of independently hunted game and what proportion was provided to them by their human partners. Likewise, it is difficult to say just how large an impact these Dogs had on local wildlife populations and the larger ecosystem in general. However, that indigenous Dogs, along with the humans with whom they lived, were the region’s most numerous and likely most productive predators seems hard to ignore. Conclusion Indigenous Dogs are surprisingly absent from the existing environmental history of North America. In most cases, scholarly focus on livestock rearing as a primarily Old World activity has severely marginalized discussion of indigenous Dogs. Alfred Crosby (1972, 1986) and Jared Diamond (1999), to take 2 notable examples, highlight indigenous American Dogs in their influential and wide-ranging global macrohistories as exceptions to the more general dearth of domesticates among Native American societies. This fits well with each author’s thesis that keeping an array of domesticated livestock provided Europeans with substantial material benefits which, in turn, aided in their conquest of the Americas. Indigenous Dogs are noted as exceptional, but otherwise relegated to unimportance (Crosby 1972, 1986; Diamond 1999). Northeastern Naturalist 17 S.E. Roberts 2017 Vol. 24, Special Issue 7 The cultural biases of available sources have likewise distorted scholarly views of indigenous Dogs. An understandable, if sometimes misleading, willingness to take historical English observers at their word has allowed the ethnocentrism inherent in these 17th- and 18th-century sources to influence modern scholars’ conceptions of Indian Dogs as semi-wild and not true domesticates. William Cronon (1983:24), in his seminal Changes in the Land, mentions indigenous Dogs only once, ignoring their ecological roles and undermining their domesticated status by dismissively declaring them “near kin of the wolf”. To support this characterization, Cronon cites John Josselyn, a 17th-century English visitor to New England, and similar assertions of the wildness of Indian Dogs were common among English writers (indeed, Englishmen often mistook indigenous Dogs for wild Wolves). Among environmental historians, Virginia DeJohn Anderson (2004) has presented the most sustained inquiry into the relationship between Native Americans and their Dogs. But in Creatures of Empire, she, too, repeats the cultural prejudices of 17th - and 18th -century English writers by presenting Indian Dogs as wild creatures that were at best only partially domesticated. Anderson even goes so far as to suggest that Eastern Algonquians—a linguistic family that includes the Mi’kmaq and other Wabanaki peoples, Innu, and Algonquins, as well as most other of the native peoples who lived along the Atlantic seaboard south to Virginia—did not make use of Dogs in their hunting, an assertion contradicted by the historical evidence presented above. More broadly, the cultural biases that led early English authors to largely ignore the important role of indigenous Dogs in Indian societies, dismissing these essential companions as little more than wild animals, is patently dispelled by contemporary Francophone authors who were more likely to live within Indian communities and who tended to take a greater ethnographical interest in Native American life. Close attention to the full range of available sources shows how humans and Dogs, by working together, could most efficiently exploit the wildlife resources available to them. Partnering in hunting provided advantages to both species—especially during the winter months when Dogs enjoyed their greatest advantages as hunters of large game. Dogs helped Indian hunters acquire calories to feed their communities, at the same time that hunting alongside humans likely increased the hunting success of Dogs, increasing the dietary security of both species. Indian hunters and indigenous Dogs stood together as the apex predators of the early modern Northeast; defining the ecology of the region and placing an important check on the populations of game species (especially during those long northeastern winters). Their partnership also maintained the 2 species as the region’s most numerous large predators. As livestock, Dogs offered a ready-store of calories for Indian consumption—especially important if winter snows failed to come, fell too wet, or temperatures failed to drop and thus do not produce a stable snowpack. Humans, for their part, provided Dogs with year-round shelter, a share of the hunt, and scraps from meals prepared from agricultural crops or gathered wild plants. This symbiosis between indigenous Dogs and human communities undergirded Indian strategies for seasonal subsistence—especially in the winter—while also making Dogs the most Northeastern Naturalist S.E. Roberts 2017 18 Vol. 24, Special Issue 7 numerous and, from a genetic perspective, the most successful non-human predators in the historic Northeast. Ultimately, this cross-species partnership helped ensure the survival and prosperity of indigenous communities, human and canine alike. Acknowledgments The author is grateful to the Henry E. 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