The Archery Library
Old Archery Books, Articles and Prints
Home > Articles > Arrows and Arrow Makers > Remarks
By Captain John G. Bourke, U.S.A.
Part 2 of 2

On the other hand, there were tribes which did not appear to feather at all. See Gabb, as above, for the Costa Ricans.

Gómara, Torquemada, and Landa are the only known authorities upon the Indians of this continent who alluded to the proportions which should be observed in the making of the bow or the arrow. Herbert Spencer's opinion that arrows had been made by "a differentiated class" did not seem to apply with correctness to our own tribes. The longest range that I can certify to is not much over one hundred and fifty yards, but the penetrativeness of the arrow is very great. I have seen them buried up to the feathers in pine trees, and have known one man, Mr. Kennedy, of Arizona, to have a headless arrow driven into his lungs. For references to this subject see the works of Mackenzie, Malte-Brun, Cabeza de Vaca, Espejo, and Domenech.

Amulets and Talismans,—Arrows which had been fired under any circumstances of special note became talismans, and were worn attached to the belt, bow, or hat of the owner.

Myths.—There were many references to the arrow, not alone in the myths of the Apaches, but of those of Durango, the Valley of Mexico, California, and elsewhere, as' may be seen by citations from Bancroft, Torquemada, Boscana, and others.

While on this subject it might be well to remember that the Romans were called "Quirites," from a word signifying lance, of which they had made a god. See, among others, Salverte, "History of Names."

There are some reasons for believing that the act of divination by arrows, which prevailed extensively all over the Old World, had not been unknown to the aborigines of America. I do not feel warranted in asserting that belomancy did prevail, but instances of throwing arrows and stones "for luck" are given by Ross, Mackenzie, Castañeda, Picart, and Gómara.

Arrow-swallowing seems to have very generally prevailed throughout the American continent.

Reserve Ammunition.—Every Apache kept in the roof of his "jacal" an extra mulberry bow and a collection of reeds to dry for making arrows. Gómara, Sahagun, and Torquemada relate that at a certain time of the year each and every Aztec had to contribute to the public supplies a fixed number of arrows. The number is not stated, but the arrows were to be tied up in "bundles of twenty."

Defensive Armor.—Some of the American tribes have employed defensive armor made either of reeds or, as among the Aztecs, of quilted cotton, called the "escaupil." The Apaches have never employed anything except occasionally a small round shield of rawhide. This fact is noticed by Torquemada and Clavigero.

Poisoned Arrows.—I do not believe in the virulence, or rather in the permanence of the virulence, of the poison made from the putrid liver of deer into which an enraged rattlesnake had ejected its venom; at least, I can say that I have seen men and animals struck by darts alleged to have been so poisoned, but could not perceive that any extra harm had been done thereby. Columbus, according to Herrera, found poisoned arrows among the natives, and there are references to be adduced from Peter Martyr, Castañeda, Clavigero, Corbusier, Herrera, Alegre, and Giralamo Benzoni, the last being apparently the first European to tell the story that the natives of South America compelled their old women to prepare this deadly mixture, and if it did not half-kill the old women they were beaten nearly to death.

Fire arrows have been in use among the Floridians (Picart), the Sioux, and other tribes of the plains, as well as among bands living along the Rio de la Plata, in South America, according to Schmiedel, in Ternaux.