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The gar is the historic tribal emblem of the Coushatta tribe of Louisiana.
In the late nineteenth or early twentieth century gar were carved on the front posts of the Coushatta tribal leader’s bed, and a large carved wooden gar was used by the tribe for ritual dances.
This discrepancy recently caught our attention, and prompted us to look more closely at the modern and historic accounts of garfish use by Native Americans in the Southeast, with the idea that these might reveal information that would allow us to more thoroughly and accurately interpret garfish remains from archaeological sites.
Moreover, the two accounts of gar consumption are directly contradicted by ethnographic data suggesting gar were eaten by certain Native American groups.
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So, if garfish were not eaten, why do we find their scales and parts of their skeletons in our excavation units and artifact screens?
Discussions of gar in online fishing forums often state that Native Americans used larger scales as arrow points.
Conversely, when garfish parts are reported from late prehistoric (i.e., Mississippian) sites, they are usually interpreted as the remains of feasting events held by and for the elite residents of the site.