Definitions

travois

travois

[truh-voi]
travois, device used by Native North Americans of the Great Plains for transporting their tepees and household goods. It consisted of two poles, lashed one on either side of a dog or, later, a horse, with one end of each pole dragging on the ground. It had straps or wooden crosspieces between the poles near the open end that served as a carrier. Like the sledge, the travois was used by Native Americans before any use of wheels was known to them.

A travois (Canadian French, from French travail, a frame for restraining horses; also obsolete travoy or travoise) is a frame used by Native Americans, notably the Plains Indians of North America, to drag loads over land. The basic construction consists of a platform or netting mounted on two long poles, lashed in the shape of an elongated isosceles triangle; the frame was dragged with the sharply pointed end forward. Sometimes the blunt end of the frame was stabilized by a third pole bound across the two main poles.

The travois was dragged by hand, sometimes fitted with a shoulder harness for more efficient dragging, or dragged by dogs or horses (after the sixteenth-century introduction of Mustangs by the Spanish). A travois could either be loaded by piling goods atop the bare frame and tying them in place, or by first stretching cloth or leather over the frame to hold the load to be dragged.

Although considered more primitive than wheel-based forms of transport, on the type of territory where the travois was used (forest floors, soft soil, snow, etc.), rather than roadways, wheels would encounter difficulties which make them a less efficient option. As such they found use in New France's fur trade by Coureurs des bois, who traded notably with the Plains Tribes.

Boy Scouts and similar groups still receive instruction on how to build a travois and it is suggested as a method of transporting a sick or wounded companion when the option of leaving the patient cannot be considered. It is possible for a person to transport more weight on a travois than can be carried on the back.

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