10 Native American Survival Skills

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Believe it or not, “Native American” is a term that dates back just a few decades ago. Before that, the indigenous people of North and South America were mostly called by the name of their tribes. They were referred to as “Indians”, given the fact that when Christopher Columbus discovered this continent back in 1492, he was sure that it was India (the country he was initially looking for).

With this in mind, Native Americans were incredibly good at survival, as most of their culture was based on building shelters from scratch, hunting, traveling unnoticed, and predicting the weather. While you may be comforted by technology and common amenities in the times that we live in, knowing a couple of these skills can go a long way when it comes to making it while camping or surviving after a natural disaster has struck.

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Inspired by the fantastic survival guide called The Lost Ways by Claude Davis, we did our best to highlight the most useful Native American survival skills. Let’s get to it.

Native American Survival Skills That We Can Use Today

Traveling Unnoticed

In the 21st century, most traveling options, including cars and airplanes, are quite visible and loud. However, Native Americans were all about being able to move through the forest without scaring their potential prey or getting noticed by their enemies. How can this help you? If you find yourself in the middle of a forest, you won’t be able to go without food. To get your protein, you will need to conceal your movements as you hunt for prey.

There are two elements to this important skill – the first one is learning how to “Fox Walk”. The second one is that you create thin foot coverings made out of leaf litter, which will help you feel the ground while making as little noise as possible. Believe it or not, these coverings are quite comfortable.

Preserving Food

As we have mentioned above, surviving in the wild doesn’t have to be that tricky, as long as you come well-prepared in terms of essential skills. Imagine that you are able to hunt a larger animal, such as a deer, that you obviously can’t eat in a single meal.

Knowing how to preserve meat without a food dehydrator can save you. You will be happy to know that the only thing you will need is fire. Once you have cut the meat into thin, short strips, you should put it near but not too close to the flames, and enjoy it as the moisture is drawn out. Using this method, you will also be able to acquire an even better taste and crunch than you would with a commercial dehydrator.

Starting a Fire

Being skilled in starting a fire from scratch is not only necessary for preserving and cooking food but also for ensuring that you stay cozy and protected from wildlife. While methods such as using a hand drill or a bow drill with a fireboard are quite efficient, what Native Americans found to be most practical was striking two rocks against each other.

Using this method, you should be able to create a light spark that should turn into a strong fire when transferred to timber or bark. Another way is to create a hollow tent in a horn or a bamboo “piston” and strike a flammable material (such as tinder) through it until it reaches the desired temperature and sparks up.

Creative Traps

While hunting for food can be quite strenuous, if you are able to create effective foolproof traps, you shouldn’t have that much trouble. What Native Americans were known for is deadfall traps that are incredibly easy to make. You don’t need anything apart from attractive bait, a heavy rock, and a thick pole that holds it until you lure an animal under the collapsible structure.

Blending With the Setting

Along with being able to travel unnoticed, the indigenous people of North and South America were masters at camouflage. Whether that means using animal hides, body paint, mud, sap, or leaf litter, becoming one with the background will increase your chances of being successful at hunting.

Reading the Environment

While you probably won’t be growing crops, being able to read the environment and predict potential weather changes can be of great use, especially when it comes to finding proper shelter. You can do that by assessing the speed of the wind and by looking at the sky. If it is red in the morning, then rain is about to come. Additionally, you can track the direction that ravens are flying, as well as take notes on the migratory patterns of certain animals, such as deer.

Creating a Tepee Shelter

While there are a plethora of different shelter options, including a round lodge and a clay house, one of the most simple yet most protective housings has to be the tepee. Apart from a couple of animal hides and strong, wooden poles, you won’t be needing anything else. Most importantly, such a shelter will provide you the needed protection from sunlight and strong wind, as well as rough weather conditions like rain and thunderstorms.

Establishing Roles

One of the skills that we all need to practice in real life, whether you are in the wild or in the comfort of your own home is establishing roles. Depending on the community, this can lead to more efficient development, and when it comes to surviving in a forest (with your friend orpartner), you will have a better chance of making it through with less stress and effort.


If you were to ask Native Americans, and as Claude Davis suggests in The Lost Ways, blowguns are incredibly reliable. Of course, you will need some practice regarding the accuracy, but very soon, you should be able to catch small game animals even without tipping the dart in frog or snake poison.

Campsite Close to Water

Lastly, be wise when it comes to choosing the spot you will set up camp at. If Native Americans hadn’t realized the importance of having a source of fresh water nearby, they probably wouldn’t have been as successful in their nomadic style of life!

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