Happy hunting ground

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The happy hunting ground is a concept of the afterlife associated with Native Americans in the United States.[1] The phrase most likely originated with Anglo-Saxon settlers' interpretation of the Indian description.[2]


The phrase first appears in 1823 in The Pioneers by James Fenimore Cooper:

"Hawk-eye! My fathers call me to the happy hunting-grounds."[3]

Historian Charles L. Cutler suggests that Cooper "either coined or gave currency to" the use of the phrase "happy hunting ground" as a term for the afterlife.[4] The phrase also began to appear soon after in the writing of Washington Irving.[5]

In 1911, Sioux physician Charles Eastman wrote that the phrase "is modern and probably borrowed, or invented by the white man."[6]


  1. ^ "happy hunting ground". merriam-webster.com. Retrieved 6 October 2020.
  2. ^ Meek, Barbara A. (January 2006). "And the Injun goes "How!": Representations of American Indian English in white public space". Language in Society. 35 (1): 93–128. doi:10.1017/S0047404506060040. Retrieved 6 October 2020.
  3. ^ Cooper, James Fenimore (1872). The Pioneers, or, The sources of the Susquehanna: a descriptive tale. New York, NY: D. Appleton & Company. p. 183.
  4. ^ Cutler, Charles L. (February 2000). O Brave New Words!: Native American Loanwords in Current English. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press. p. 132. ISBN 978-0-8061-3246-4.
  5. ^ Irving, Washington (1886). Astoria, or, Anecdotes of an enterprise beyond the Rocky Mountains. New York: J.B. Alden. p. 191.
  6. ^ Eastman, Charles Alexander (1911). The soul of the Indian; an interpretation. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. p. 156.