It's not surprising that the Indian saw the wolf as a significant animal. Both were hunters of which the survival of their families depended. The Indian was very aware of the many ways in which his own life resembled those of the wolf. The wolf hunted for himself and for his family. The wolf defended his pack against enemy attack, as the Indian defended his tribe. He had to be strong as an individual and for the good of the pack. It was a sufficient system of survival; and in the eyes of the Indian, no animal did this as well as the wolf. The Indian worked to be as well intigrated in his environment, as he could see the wolf was in the universe.
The hunter did not see the wolf as an enemy or competitor, or as something less than himself. His perception of the wolf was a realistic assessment of the wolf's ability to survive and thrive, to be in balance with the world they shared. He respected the wolf's patience and perseverance, which were his most effective hunting weapons. To say he hunted like a wolf was the highest compliment, just as to say a warrior fought like the wolf was high praise.
The wolf moved silently without effort, but with purpose. He was alert to the smallest changes in is world. He could see far and his hearing was sharp. When an Indian went into enemy territory, he wished to move exactly like this, to sense things like the wolf.
The wolf fulfilled two roles for the Indian: he was a powerful and mysterious animal, and so perceived by most tribes, and he was a medicine animal, identified with a particular individual, tribe or clan.
At a tribal level, the attraction to the wolf was strong, because the wolf lived in a way that made the tribe strong. He provided food for all, including the old and sick members of the pack. He saw to the education of his children. He defended his territory against other wolves.
At a personal level, those for whom the wolf was a medicine animal or personal totem understood the qualities that made the wolf stand out as an individual. For example, his stamina, ability to track well and go without food for long periods.
The definition and defense of home range was as important to the Indian as it was to the wolf. The boundries of most Indian territories, like those of wolves, changed with the movement of game herds, the size of the tribe and the time of year.
The tribe, like the pack broke up at certain times of the year, and joined together later to hunt more efficiently. Both the wolf and the Indian hunted the same type of game and moved their families to follow specific game herds.
Deer sought security from Indian hunters by moving into the border area between warring tribes, where hunters were least likely to show up, just as they did between wolf territories, where wolves spent the least time hunting.
The Indian believed that dying was not a tragic event. It was important to the Indian that he die well, with dignity, to consciously choose to die even if it is inevitable. This kind of self control in the face of death earns a warrior the greatest glory. This way of thinking is similar to the moment of eye contact when a wolf meets it's prey. This "conversation of death" determines whether the prey lives or dies. The prey must be willing to die. There is a nobility in this mutual agreement.
Among the Cherokee, was a belief that to kill a wolf was to invite retribution from other wolves. This way of thinking parallels the laws of the tribe, where to kill an Indian meant to expect revenge from his family members.
Wolves ate grass, as Indians ate wild plants, both for medicinal reasons. Both were family oriented and highly social in structure. Both the Indian and the wolf used a sign language.
Wolves and Cree Indians in Alberta maneuvered buffalo out onto lake ice, where the big animals lost their footing and were more easily killed.
Pueblo Indians and wolves in Arizona ran deer to exhaustion, though it might have taken the Pueblos to do it.
Wolf and Shoshoni Indian lay flat on the prairie grass of Wyoming and slowly waved, the one its tail, the other a strip of hide, to attract curious but elusive antelope close enough to kill.