Monday, July 10, 2023

Laura's dog, Jack, goes to the "Happy Hunting Grounds"

This is a quick post due to lack of a stable Internet connection.

On Thursday, June 8 of this year (2023), I wrote about the "Wilder" postcast that Glynnis MacNicol and Emily Marinoff are doing for iHeartPodcasts. 

Right now I'm listening to episode 5, titled This American Life. There's discussion about things that actually happened and things that did not. In this episode, I paused when I heard "Happy Hunting Ground." 

In By the Shores of Silver Lake, the family dog, Jack, dies. Pa tells Laura (location 293 of my e-copy):
"Don't cry, Laura," Pa said. "He has gone to the Happy Hunting Grounds."
"Truly, Pa?" Laura managed to ask.
"Good dogs have their reward, Laura," Pa told her.
Perhaps in the Happy Hunting Grounds, Jack was running gaily in the wind over some high prairie, as he used to run on the beautiful wild prairies of Indian Territory.
Laura clearly knows what Happy Hunting Grounds means. My guess is most AICL readers know "Happy Hunting Grounds" is supposed to mean heaven according to...   Hesitating here, as you see, because this is one of those phrases that gets attributed to Native peoples, but is it something a Native person said? Does a Native Nation have the idea of an after life that when translated, becomes happy hunting grounds? 

I asked similar questions about the phrase in 2006 when I came across it in Lois Lenski's Indian Captive: The Story of Mary Jemison. The entry at Wikipedia says the phrase first appeared in 1823 in The Pioneers by James Fenimore Cooper. It also says that Washington Irving (author of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow) used it. I found it in Astoria, which came out in 1836: 
The same provident care for the deceased that prevails among the hunting tribes of the prairies is observable among the piscatory tribes of the rivers and sea-coast. Among the former, the favorite horse of the hunter is buried with him in the same funereal mound, and his bow and arrows are laid by his side, that he may be perfectly equipped for the “happy hunting grounds” of the land of spirits. 
I'm gonna hit 'publish' on this draft so it goes online. Later today I'll finish listening to the the Wilder podcast. If they take up the phrase, I'll definitely be back to add to this post. And when I have stable internet connections, I'll do some more research.