How animals were regarded in 17th century Sowams

Although Europeans placed all nonhuman creatures into a generic category of animals, Indians may instead have conceived of animals only as distinct species without a generic term for “animals.” European cattle were often seen as wild animals and treated as such by the Indigenous population as described in this Colonial Society narrative.

In 17th-century America, livestock were generally not fenced in as they aretoday. Back in England, grazing animals were guarded by herders. But in the New World, where labor was scarce, animals like sheep and cattle were turned loose to graze on common lands instead. (The town green, or common, was often used for this purpose.) If an animal strayed and was found wreaking havoc on private property, it was brought to the pound (as described in this marker in Duxbury, MA), where it was corralled with other wayward creatures and watched over by a town-appointed “pound-keeper”(sometimes called a “pound-master,” or “pounder”) until its owner could retrieve it—for a fee.

Hogs and other farm animals were distinct from wild animals to the English but not necessarily to the Indigenous population who assigned spiritual powers to some animals and not others.

The English brought domesticated animals like sheep with them as the Indigenous people never domesticated animals and only hunted them for food. The Native American Indian dog’s history can be traced back to the early 1500s and served as a hunting companion but never a pet.

Birds were hunted and eaten by Indigenous people who rarely assigned spiritual attributes to them.

Click here for Virginia DeJohn Anderson’s article entitled “King Philip’s Herds: Indians, Colonists, and the Problem of Livestock in Early New England