ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

American Indian life: Real life comparisons

Updated on November 14, 2017
wheelinallover profile image

In the middle of the 20th century there were only a few raising their children to be like the American Indians before Columbus.


My early life must have been much like a Serrano Indian child 500 or so years ago. We lived in the country which belongs to them. The Highland foothills in southern California with the San Bernadino mountains in the background was my home, as it is theirs. Their lives must have been much like my own ancestors the Mohawks and the Cherokee. They Both gathered what the foothills and forest provided for them, hunted small game, and lived in huts made of wood.The Serrano Indians had the desert from the beginning where part of my people were put there by the white man many years after he arrived in America.

As young children, four to eight years old, they would help their mothers gather whatever they could find to eat. In their free time they played learning games which would have them prepared for later years. When times were hard they gathered firewood and the older boys set trap lines.

My early life

When I was four there were walks with my grandmother beside the river. This was near her home. Picking berries and carrying home whatever fish were on her bait lines was the order of the day. At home I followed my older half brother and tried to help him feed the animals.

Why I was raised the way I was

My grandfather had died when my mother was eight. My grandmother was fulfilling a promise made to him before he died. His wish and her promise was to have one of his grandchildren able to live the way of the people. He spent his last two years bed-fast and talked constantly about how “the people lived” and how they were able to survive with no need of what the white man brought with him.


At about age eight the Indian children would start learning to set traps. In my case this started at age 5. There was no man present in my life until age 8. Then on very few weekends and special occasions so grandmother showed me the way.

Forest navigation

Serrano children must have learned to navigate the foothills and mountains with their fathers sometime before they turned ten. At ten it was expected for me to run about a mile through unmarked forest and return within fifteen minutes with the water my grandmother had put in my mouth before the trip still there.


Being raised in the old ways meant learning to make tools used by my forefathers. At age six I started working on breaking rocks. My first usable knife was completed when I was ten.

First bow

There is no way for me to know when Serrano male children received or made their first bow, for me it was at age twelve. My bow was made for my by my surrogate grandfather. There were so many talks about how to use it and what not to do, it’s a wonder it ever got used. Well at least that was my feeling at the time.

Learning curve

Once the Bow was my weapon it took even longer to learn how to hit anything. Traps kept us from going hungry while I learned how to use it. When we were in the forest from age five we lived off the land.

If you don't see deer track there isn't much need for a bow.
If you don't see deer track there isn't much need for a bow. | Source

Running as a way to get around

At age twelve running four miles a day five days a week was part of my training. The pace was slow so it took about an hour a day. My Mohawk ancestors had run thirty miles a day and it was going to be expected of me at age fifteen.

Surviving the desert

At this time we started spending time on the desert too. It was part of where we were and survival there was as important as breathing. Since grandmother was not raised near a desert we did what the ancients must have done.

•We followed animal trails to find out what they ate and where they found water.

•We always trusted their water sources but there were a few times we found out what an animal can eat a human cannot.

•We never carried a canteen so didn’t stray so far we couldn’t reach a known water source quickly (about four miles) for the first month.

Grandmother said it wouldn’t do use white mans inventions (like a water spigot or canteen) when you are learning the ways of the people. The Serrano people knew how to weave baskets which would hold water, we did not. There were times we did find spigots as we lived in a white mans world. They were never used though.

Preparing for the Right of passage

At age thirteen time was spent alone on the desert and in the mountains. There were times when there was no one around for three and four days at a time. This was time to learn how to pass the right of passage into adulthood.

Right of passage into adulthood

Grandmother had found a few places that were rarely used and that is where my trials took place. There were specific instructions given for what to do when someone came into the area where I was becoming a man. It was to hide from anyone including her for the proscribed time.

She came into the area every hour the first day then slowly cut the time to twice a day, then not at all once she figured out she was being obeyed. I was in the wilderness "alone" for a total of seven days.

What an Indian needed to know to survive

During the thirteenth year, after the right of passage, she taught me

•To hide my trail.

•How to be so quiet no one could hear me.

•How to find a good place to hide and stay till danger had passed.

•How to watch the trail, both in front of and behind me.

•What to avoid so no footprints were left.

•How to run and walk with very little noise.

Let me tell you this is hard for a thirteen year old. It would have been harder though to handle the disappointed look on her face if I had failed.

Final thoughts

My grandmother told me in the early spring of my thirteenth year, my right of manhood had been passed and she wouldn’t be returning for years. Life changed little for the rest of my 13th year after she left. Mother trusted me to go to the mountain and desert alone but never for days at a time. Running remained a part of my everyday life, however the thirty mile a day mark was never reached.

© 2011 Dennis Thorgesen


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)