Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Hostname: page-component-77c89778f8-sh8wx Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-07-23T14:32:13.375Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Chapter 8 - Crow Indian elk love-medicine and rock art in Montana and Wyoming

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 April 2018

Lawrence L. Loendorf
Affiliation:
Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA
Get access

Summary

The Crow Indians of Montana recognise the power possessed by a variety of animals, among them grizzly bears, eagles, and bison, but the power of the American elk to control human love and passion exceeds that of any other species. Through recent research, I have learnt that rock art sites associated with elk love-magic may be a relatively common component of the rock art record in Montana and Wyoming.

LOVE-MAGIC AND THE AMERICAN ELK

The American elk (Cervus elaphus), known in northern Europe as the red deer, is a large Artiodactyla that was originally distributed across most of North America. An average mature bull elk weighs 700 lb (315 kg), stands 5 ft (1.5 m) at the shoulder, and measures more than 8 ft (2.4 m) from nose to rump; cows are about threequarters the size of bulls (Figure 8.1). Each spring, as the testosterone levels in their blood rise in response to increasing amounts of daylight, bull elk begin to grow antlers from the pedicles on their skulls. By September, the antlers are hard and fully developed, weighing as much as 40 lb (18 kg) per pair. Rising testosterone levels in bull elk throughout September also stimulate mating behaviours. Bulls emit a loud whistling bugle sound to attract cows and then must fight other males seeking access to their harem. Charging at one another and locking their massive antlers, bull elk repeatedly engage in duels of strength. The reproductive pay-off for a successful mature bull elk is that he might control as many as 40 or 50 cows throughout the rutting season.

American Indians across North America identified the elk as an important power animal. This association was especially prevalent among Plains Indians, in whose mythology, songs, and art the elk occupied a significant position. Among the Lakota, for example, the elk has been described as:

the emblem of beauty, gallantry, and protection. The elk lives in the forest and is in harmony with all his beautiful surroundings. He goes easily through the thickets, not-withstanding his broad branching horns. In observing the carcass of an elk it is found that two teeth remain after everything else has crumbled to dust. These teeth will last longer than the life of a man, and for that reason the elk tooth has become an emblem for long life (Densmore 1918: 176).

Type
Chapter
Information
Seeing and Knowing
Understanding Rock Art With and Without Ethnography
, pp. 138 - 147
Publisher: Wits University Press
Print publication year: 2010

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats
×

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats
×