If you are one of my regular readers you know that I have a real love of the history of our country, especaly the “old west” (the 19th century). So of course that includes our Native Americans, A word here, or one of my by now famous rambles. For a couple of centuries now the accepted word was Indian, now that is offensive to some, and they insist on Native Americans. Why they do not object to American, I do not know because that is a name bestowed on us by the Italians, after Amerigo Vespucci, Who they credit with actually discovering the Continent. “Indians actually had no name for the place they usually just had a word for their little tribes that meant “The People”. Enough of that, back to the article.
Lord where to start? I guess with the Bow and arrow, as that is where I first started messing around. Archery became one of my interest that lasted until last year just before I had the stroke this April. I had accumulated a collection of Bow’s of diffrent materials and style’s. I had 55# fiberglass long bow I had had since the early 60’s. And several re curve’s of different weights, pulse a Yew long bow . I had a 65# Compound Bow. My strengthhad dwindle with age and no one in the family had any use for any of them so I gave the bunch to a charitable agency for resale. I sent the Compound to a favorite niece’s husband in Oregon who hunts also he received the old crossbow. But here I go rambling from the original subject again, that is the price you pay for reading my junk. But thanks for the Patience anyway.
At about the age of 13 I found a long straight staff of about 5 feet, I at the time thought it was Hickory, but now believe it to have been Osage Orange, it was a common fast growing tree that often grew along fence lines. In later years I later learned the the Indians of that part of the country used it to fashion their bows. The tree which was really a rather gnarled growth would grow what we call sucker branches that would grow out of a mature limb in a straight offshoot. When one of these could be found of a desirable length and thickness it was prized for its suitability as a bow or lance. The limb that I found would have been to thin to make a proper bow out of, but for a 13 year old ignorant kid it was just right. Now I am talking about a Missouri country boy in the late 40’s, with no close companions, so I was left to my own devices. In those days I was eating the large shredded wheat cereal, which I really did not like, because in each box there was two cardboard separators that had Straight Arrow Indian lore and facts printed on them. It was there that I first heard of a Bow Lance. This was a Bow that when it was unstrung had a lance head on one end. In later years I found that this actually existed and even have a photo of one in one of my books from some ones collection.
I fashioned a lance head our of a piece of old wood shinglefor one end and fastened it with heavy twine as I had no seniue. With a piece of twine for a string I could bend the stave and shoot straight stick I found. I soon learned that a unfetched stick wobbles and wll turn any which way in the air. By slitting one end of the stick and inserting paper vanes and binding the stick closed I found the shafts would fly straight and hit point first and stick into the ground, a feat my step-mother was not to pleased about. And I soon learned to keep my Indian actives out of her sight.
So I wonder how many years ago the Native Americans learned the art of archery. Almost all the examples of their arrows all have the three feathers for fetching just like most of the rest of the worlds archers and I have seen examples from all over. As you might have guessed by now I look closely at the weapons of every culture I can see. I once saw some ones collection on display at the museum at San Diego’s Balboa Park, it was a quite extensive collection of Bows and arrows. And Arrow construction from all over the world was basically the same. Three sets of fetching, nock placement (the position of the string notch) and the placement of the head, all similar. Of course head material and construction was vastly different.
Sorry I got side tracked again, Heart of Ceder, although as you might guess extremely difficult to get, Hickory, Osage Orange are just a few of the woods used to construct bows by our Indian forbears. There is a definite art to the finding of the right wood and a drying process was involved, often hanging the limb high in the lodge so the heat of the fires could help cure it, the same witharrow shafts. Indian bows most often were flat staves narrow in the center and long tapering to the ends. I have never seen a Indian bow that was re-curved, they might exist but I have not seen one. Some were laminated with Bone orantlers, and I have read of some that were backed with seniue. The woodland tribes generally had a little longer bow with shorter fetching on their arrows as the woodland flights were shorter. The plains Indians after the advent of the horse fashioned their bows shorter for use on horse, back while warfare was at close range, hunting was at greater distances and their fetching was usually longer and thicker.
Before the white-man made iron arrow heads available the Indian used different materials for arrowheads. Most generally we think of flint, and it was the most common. However bone was a common material as well as antler. In a museum in Spokane, Washington, I saw one of the best collections of arrowheads in the world every material conceivable was on display. There was case after case full of amazing works of art, truly beautiful flaked arrowheads. from large war heads to tiny bird points.
Back in some of the early chapters of this blog I described my attempt at chipping a Obsidian arrowhead (I Think in one of the Mountain Man chapters). It is not a easy task and I have to respect those early artisans. Often The older braves turned to bow and arrow making when their ability to hunt declined. It also was not uncommon for them to be blind in one eye from a flake of the stone to hit a eye as they had no safety eye protection as we do to day. I know i was wearing my protective glasses with side Shields when I chipped my head and my glasses were struck several times in the process.
Smaller heads were required for smaller game and larger for bigger game. Head placement depended on the arrows intended use. For four legged game the head was positioned vertical to the ground so it would pass more easily between the ribs. For upright game (emeny warriors and the dreaded white-man) the head was placed parallel to the ground to pass through the ribs again. I have read about the Cheyenne supposedly cuttting straight and zigzag lines on their arrow shafts , supposedly for the arrow to fly straight with the straight line and have the speed of lightning with the zigzag. I have never seen this and had any realsupport for the claim. To me it seems it would have weakened the shaft. One person speculated that they groves served as blood gutters? What would the need be for blood gutters when the head is always bigger than the shaft.
Well I am going to stop here this has been more ramble than information, but it’s my dime so I guess I am entitled. So I gonna ramble on out of here the next time will be more researched this has all been out of my head.