Hunting on the Frontier



Long before Columbus sailed to the New World, Indian men used the bow and arrow to hunt for large animals.  Even young boys used blow darts to bring down smaller animals.  Instead of trying to kill an animal from a distance, Indians got as close to the animal as they could.

Knowledge of animal habits was important for a hunter to be successful.  For example, the hunter would want to know where the animals got water and where herds of buffalo grazed. Indians would also need to be able to recognize tracks or other signs from different animals so they would know which animals to track.    

After contact with Europeans, Indians wanted guns for hunting and protection. By the mid-1700s, European-made guns began to replace the bow and arrow in both hunting and warfare, allowing for greater accuracy at longer distances.

The Proclamation of 1763 prohibited European settlement west of the Appalachian Mountains, which included all of Tennessee.  
The English, however, were unable to enforce the proclamation.  

White settlers began moving into East Tennessee in 1770 and claiming Cherokee land as their own. Land speculators purchased millions of acres of land in Tennessee to sell to new settlers. Much of these purchases were made with individuals who did not have the authority to sell the land, but it didn’t seem to matter. Settlers were still coming into the area. 

Even before The Proclamation of 1763 was issued, long hunters, such as Daniel Boone, began to enter Middle Tennessee to obtain pelts for themselves.

These hunters were experienced and skilled, so the Indians saw them as a threat to the diminishing wildlife populations.  In addition to harvesting animal skins the Indians depended on as trade goods, the long hunters told colonists about the abundant land west of the Appalachians.  Daniel Boone even led groups of settlers to the frontier. 

British explorer Thomas Walker was sent by a private land company in 1749. It is from Walker that we now have names for the Cumberland Gap, the Cumberland Plateau, and the Cumberland River. He named all these geographical features he encountered after the Duke of Cumberland.

Guiding Questions: 

  • How did long hunters who hunted in what is now Tennessee in the late 1700s affect trade with Indians and settlement by white settlers?

Objectives:  Students will 

  1. Compare and contrast what, how, and why Indians and long hunters hunted.
  2. Create a clay model of the Cumberland Mountain.
  3. Identify the location of the Cumberland Gap and describe its importance in the history of Tennessee.
  4. Consider how long hunters influenced the flow of white settlers into what is now Tennessee.


  • Have students write a journal account of traveling through the Cumberland Gap from the perspective of a long hunter, or European settler, with special attention to the surrounding geography.


1.      Divide the class into teams of 4 historians.
2.      Pass out copies of the Student Handout.
3.      Have students read the information on long hunters and Indian hunters.
4.      Have them examine the photographs of hunting equipment used by long hunters and Indians.
5.      Have them compare the paintings of Daniel Boone in 1757 and of an Indian dressed for the hunt.
6.      Have them complete the first section of the handout.
7.      Have teams share their findings. (Refer to the KEY to guide the discussion.)
8.      As time permits, have students try to imagine how Indians felt about long hunters hunting in their hunting grounds in what is now Tennessee.

  1. Pass out copies of the Student Handout (or have students get out their copies).
  2. Pass out copies of the 1796 map.
  3. Have students use the 1796 Map of Tennessee to locate the sites mentioned.
  4. Pass out copies of the map of the Cumberland Gap National Historic Park.
  5. Have students use this map to visualize the location and topography of the Cumberland Gap.
  6. Pass out clay and have teams create a model of the Cumberland Mountain, showing its ridgeline and the Cumberland Gap.
  7. Check the models to make sure they understand the concepts of ridgeline and gap.
  8. As time permits, encourage students to consider how the Cumberland Plateau continued to be a geographic barrier for travel between East Tennessee and Middle Tennessee even after Tennessee became a state.

Extensions:Have students

  • Prepare an oral report on the biography of someone who played an important role during this period of Tennessee history, such as Daniel Boone or Thomas Walker.
  • Write down a storyteller’s version of a Indian  returning with a hunting party and sharing his adventures hunting in what is now Middle Tennessee.
  • Design and create a diorama showing settlers traveling through the Cumberland Gap.
  • Create a poster depicting a long hunter or a Indian ready for a hunt, showing his hunting gear.


Daniel Boone Article in the Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture -
Cumberland Gap Article in the Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture -
Thomas Walker Article in the Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture -
French Lick Article in the Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture -


  • ITN Grade 8 Social Studies:
    Describe the immediate and long-term impact early European exploration had on native populations and on colonization in the Americas.
    Explain how physical features such as major river and mountain systems affected the development of early Native American and early European settlements.
    Recognize how topographical features such as mountain and river systems influenced the settlement and expansion of the United States (i.e., Cumberland Gap, Wilderness Road, and Ohio and Tennessee river systems).
    Explain the significance of the Cumberland Gap in Tennessee history.


            National History Standards:
Era 2: Colonization and Settlement (1585-1763)
Standard 1
Why the Americas attracted Europeans, why they brought enslaved Africans to their colonies, and how Europeans struggled for control of North America and the Caribbean.
Standard 1B
The student understands the European struggle for control of North America.
Grade Level
Therefore, the student is able to
Analyze relationships between Native Americans and Spanish, English, French, and Dutch settlers. [Compare and contrast different sets of ideas]
Compare how English settlers interacted with Native Americans in New England, mid-Atlantic, Chesapeake, and lower South colonies. [Consider multiple perspectives]
Analyze how various Native American societies changed as a result of the expanding European settlements and how they influenced European societies. [Examine the influence of ideas and interests]