Like other aspects of Native American life, transportation and skills varied based on where the tribe lived, and if they stayed in one place, or migrated. Transportation was frequently on foot, or by boat, with dogs, or other pack animals. Traveling everyone under the power of your own feet would change how distances are viewed. While many think of 20 miles as only a few minutes away, our ancestors saw it as a one to two day trip.
Skills were valued differently among the ancestral tribes of the Americas. Medicine was so valuable, that to deny it to anyone would be a serious crime. Food, clothing and shelter were equally valued, and a young person was not considered an adult unless they knew how to prepare and provide food, and shelter. Most people could make their own clothing, unless they had a disability. Art was one of the most valued skills. Art helped people remember who they were, and communicate at a distance. Up to 20 miles, with the mound builders.
Skills were not limited to the able-bodied. Even the disabled had skills that were valued. Perhaps, because everyone who lived long enough expected to have a disability at some point, they were treated with respect, and encouraged to participate in daily life. Most tribes used some form of sign language, especially when hunting. If a person lost their hearing, they could still communicate with their family and friends. The artists used vivid colors. If a person lost most of their vision, they could still recognize where they were. Physical disabilities had to be the most difficult, as they didn’t have wheels. Or wheelchairs. However, even the physically disabled could be moved, with the help of blankets, or dog sleds.
Thinking about how the Native Americans traversed the landscape is prevalent in my writing. In both Crosswinds and Trails 1 I share information about the lost skills that are undervalued today, and how many have been lost to present and future generations. As the novels discuss, if out technology suddenly stopped working, few people would have the skills to feed, clothe, and house themselves in the environment they live in.