March 11, 2011

Montana atlatl enthusiasts

A proposed Montana law would legalize the use of atlatls for big-game hunting. In response, the author seeks to learn about the Indian weapon.

Montana law moves to legalize ancient spear-throwing art

By Joe NickellThat truism hit home for me in early February, while having dinner with my brother-in-law. Apropos of nothing, he mentioned that his art teacher at Salish Kootenai College, Jay Laber, was into building and hunting with atlatls.

Two weeks later, I found myself in Laber's studio in Pablo, pondering a table laid over with various atlatls that Laber had made out of everything from a knobby hawthorn branch to a Louisville Slugger baseball bat.

Laber, recognized widely for his recycled-metal sculptures such as the one of an Indian on horseback that stands outside the Adams Center on the University of Montana campus, first got into atlatls about four years ago, after his cousin gave him a replica of a 3,500-year-old atlatl.

Since then, Laber has incorporated atlatl-making into a Reservation Arts class he teaches at SKC. As a registered member of the Blackfeet Tribe--which acknowledges atlatl hunting as a traditional fair-chase means of hunting--he has also hunted and killed deer with an atlatl on the Blackfeet Reservation.
Comment:  There's a whole community of people who make and use atlatls? Who knew?

Below:  "Jay Laber, an artist and teacher at Salish Kootenai College, demonstrates the use of an atlatl recently at Pablo. Laber’s own interest in the 30,000-year-old hunting technique used by his Blackfeet ancestors has become part of the curriculum of the Reservation Arts class he teaches at SKC." (Tom Bauer/The Missoulian)

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