Mihšiiwia Kiilhswa (Elk Moon) is named for the Eastern American Elk (Cervus canadensis canadensis). In the 1400s, it is estimated that the Eastern Elk had the greatest range of any hoofed species in North America. But this dispersed and large population diminished quickly in the years following European settlement. By the 1840s, no Eastern Elk subspecies could be found in the state of Indiana and the subspecies was declared extinct in North America in 1880. Eastern Elk were larger than Roosevelt Elk, which are found out west in the United States. Adult Eastern Elk males could weigh as much as 1000 pounds and often grew to five feet tall at the shoulder.
To the best of our knowledge, this month is associated with the fact that the Eastern Elk used to mate around this time of this year (August & September). During mating season, the woodlands around the Wabash River would fill with the sounds of male Elk bugling, which is used to call out to females and warn off competing males (click here to listen to an Elk bugle). The Eastern Elk’s close cousin, the Roosevelt Elk, has been introduced to the woodlands east of the Mississippi, and so it is possible that in a few generations we may once again hear the bugling of Elk along the Wabash.