Heritage Site / Ethnography Site / Dakota Nakota Lakota / Livelihood

Article: Traps and Snares

As described by First Boy - James Larpentuer Long, Fort Peck Assiniboine-Sioux, in The Assiniboine: From Accounts of the Old Ones Told to First Boy (James Larpentuer Long), edited by Michael Stephen Kennedy , University of Oklahoma Press, 1961, p 106-08 (originally published as Land of the Nakoda by the Montana Writer Program in 1942)

Traps and snares were frequently used for killing most kinds of small game.

Coyotes, foxes, skunks, badgers, and the other small prairie animals were taken in traps made in this manner:

Two roves of wooden stakes were driven in the ground about two feet apart. The rows were three feet long, two feet high, and open at each end. The south opening served as the entrance. A pole was imbedded in the ground across the entrance to form the threshold. Another, three feet longer, was laid directly on top. The top pole, being longer, extended two feet on one side and one foot on the other. Two large stakes were then driven, one on each side, which held the poles in place and also served as door posts.

Split poles, slightly longer than the enclosure, were laid lengthwise between the two rows of stakes, with the butts rest-ing on the top pole at the entrance. Several large boulders were than laid on top for weight.

To open the entrance, the short projecting end of the top pole `vas raised, the longer end resting on the ground. That made a horizontal V-shaped opening which was propped in place with a short, round stick, with the bottom placed on top of the thres-hold and the tip under the top pole. The trigger was a sharp-pointed stick about eighteen inches long, the butt of which was flattened out and placed directly under the prop stick so that the end of the trigger was sandwiched between the threshold and the lower end of the prop stick. A piece of fresh meat was stuck on the sharp end of the trigger. The trap vvas then set. It resembled a slant-roofed shed.

When an animal passed through the entrance, the bait vvas pulled away. The prop stick slipped, and the roof came down on the animal. The weight was usually enough to kill it.

To catch snowshoe and cottontail rabbits, a single snare made with a loop of twisted horsetail hair was used. One end of the loop was tied to the center of a round stick about two feet long. The stick was placed crosswise in the bushes or small trees be-side a well-beaten trail in the woods. The loop was large enough to slip over the head of a rabbit. As the rabbit ran along the trail, it was caught in the loop and strangled.

During the late fall mornings, prairie chickens were in the habit of congregating in large numbers. These were called "chicken dances," because the male birds strutted around and made a lot of noise.

Snares for trapping the birds were made by driving two stakes into the ground about eight or ten inches apart and leaving them a foot above the ground. A crosspiece was fastened to the top of the stakes, and to that was attached a loop made of horsetail hair. A number of these snares were built close together. As the chickens in their dance ducked in and out between the stakes, some were caught in the loops and strangled.

Ducks were taken in the summer, just before the young ones were ready to fly. As the young ducks dived and swam under water, they were detected by the movement of the wiregrass. A group of men wading abreast across the Slough reached down where there was such movement, grabbed the ducks, and wrung their necks.