Did Native American hunters eat the fresh heart of their kills?

There’s a scene in Dances With Wolves where the lead hunter cuts the heart from a freshly killed buffalo, takes a huge bite, and offers the rest to Kevin Costner. Other movies featuring Native American hunters often portray a very similar scene.

Is this something that actually happens, or is it a Hollywood invention?

Asking what Native Americans did is a bit like asking what Americans do today. There wasn’t much consistency across tribes and Native American culture is almost all tribal based.

That said, sure some ate the hearts of fresh kill. There is still related tradition in the South for young deer hunters. A young hunter has to drink the blood of his first kill and that supposedly comes from Native American influence. I can personally attest that it exists to this day.

Inuit people also have similar rituals. It is done out of respect for nature and the idea that blood and energy flows from one living creature to another.

I don’t think that’s supposed to be the heart. I suspect it’s the liver, which isn’t as tough.

Have you ever seen or tried to eat heart? It’s a great big tough knot of muscle, without the marbling fat that makes a steak tender. Even cooked, it fights back. Trying to bite off a piece – heck, even trying to pull it out of a fresh kill – would be a real challenge.

But liver isn’t a muscle, and isn’t anywhere near as tenacious.

I was thinking the same thing. From time to time I’ll buy beef hearts because it’s cheap and it makes a great stew, but cleaning a whole cow heart takes practice and a really sharp knife. I cant imagine trying to gnaw off a chunk of one of those things.

I am no anthropologist but I would wager that is a huge understatement. Modern America is a far more homogeneous society than that of the Native Americans. The lives and rituals of those weirdo Californians is much closer to that of Bible-Belt midwesterners and uptight Bostonians than the indigenous tribes who populated those those regions.

Yes, it was the liver in the movie.

I’ve seen it on the Blackfeet reservation within the last 10 years. If it’s still happening (on important occasions), I don’t doubt it happened in the 1800s. The Lakota Sioux and the Blackfeet are in the same general region. So, yes.

Recently Michaelle Jean raised some controversy by consuming raw seal heart as part of a traditional native practice in Rankin Inlet.