- A member of the rodent family, related to squirrels and marmots, but
which lives in and near water. This small, industrious animal was
a great favorite with the Indians and was praised by him in song and story.
Indians believed that beavers could think
like men - that they lived in colonies ruled by a chief and had their own
laws and language. Some Indian tribes ate the beaver, and its skin
was used for making clothing and, especially, pouches. Beaver teeth,
with which the animal could cut down large trees, were prized by the Indian,
who would set them at the end of a stick and use this as a weapon or tool.
Beaver skins, with their glossy fur, were favored articles of trade.
The beaver is found west of the Mississippi
River - less frequently to the east of the river - and to the south of
the Great Lakes. The lodge of the beaver is round or oval, and built
so that it is about two thirds out of the water. It is plastered
with clay so that it is almost airtight. The entrance below the surface
of the water and deep enough so that when ice forms on the water in winter,
the beaver can come and go at will.
Indians often caught the beaver by cutting
a hole in the ice. When the animal came up for air, the hunter grabbed
it by the paws and pulled it out on the ice and killed it. Indians
also trapped the beaver or caught it in nets.
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