Looking back on Indian lives Student describes history vividly CARROLL COUNTY EDUCATION

December 07, 1992|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Staff Writer

Brad W. Rogers doesn't usually make a habit of hurling 3-yard-long spears through a gymnasium as 30 onlookers sit helplessly on the floor.

But Mr. Rogers isn't a usual kind of guy, and yesterday he hurled spears, tanned deer hide and carved arrowheads out of stone to illustrate how Indians went about their daily lives in the Northeast before Christopher Columbus landed in the New World.

The Western Maryland College senior's presentation was part of an independent study project he is completing before graduating this year. For more than two hours, Mr. Rogers showed the many uses of deer, the psychology of pre-Columbian battles and the versatility of the hands.

"Indians believed they were on the same spiritual plane as the microorganisms, as the deer and as every other living creature," the physical education and sports medicine major said yesterday. "They had great respect for everything around them."

His presentation, including arrowheads dating back thousands of years, began with the uses of a newly killed deer. Using a hide from a deer killed two weeks ago, he demonstrated how to remove the fur, separate the fats from the skin and prepare clothing.

"The native American Indians used every part of the deer," he explained -- the meat and skin, the bones, the ligaments, the fat and even the bladder.

After the deer was killed, the bladder would be drained and filled with sand. After the bladder dried, the sand would be poured out, leaving a bowl-shaped vessel perfectly suited for use as a canteen.

After showing the uses of what was hunted nearly every day of a male Indian's life, Mr. Rogers showed how the weapons used in hunting and warfare were constructed.

Before the advent of the bow and arrow, Indians often used long sticks with arrowheads on them. They would throw the spears at their prey and hope for the best.

One invention, the atl-atl, gave hunters great advantage in throwing their spears.

The device, an arm's-length lever, would give the spear thrower 300 percent more penetration than if the spear were thrown with the bare hands. To demonstrate, Mr. Rogers showed how fast and easily a 9-foot-long spear could travel across Gill Gymnasium.

Red cedar bows came into use several hundred years ago. The bows were honed and smoothed, as were arrows. The tips of the arrows, formed carefully from chips of stone, were usually detachable.

The bigger, rounder arrowheads were used for hunting, so that on the off chance that a bad shot hit an unwanted or unneeded animal, the arrowhead would be easier to dislodge. The smaller, sharper and more perpendicular arrowheads were used "to hunt people," Mr. Rogers said.

However violent the Indian tribes may have been over the years, one aspect of their early warfare was purely a mind game.

Using a device called a coup stick, the bravest of warriors would sneak into enemy territory and attempt to touch -- but not harm -- an opposing warrior.

By "counting coup," the warrior would gain much honor and fame. "The whole point was to get close enough to someone who is trying to bash your face in and be able to touch him," Mr. Rogers explained.

Yesterday's demonstration was an extension of Mr. Rogers' interest in Indian studies. He has been active as a counselor at Hashawha Environmental Center, and he often repeats his demonstrations at area schools. He was named the 1991 Hashawha/Bear Branch Advisory Council co-volunteer of the year.

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