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Home > Books > Mason > North American Bows, Arrows and Quivers > Notes on the Bows, Arrows, and Quivers of Various Tribes - Part 2
Notes on the Bows, Arrows, and Quivers of Various Tribes
Part 2 of 7

"Arrows made out of domestic glass were described over a century ago by Lawson, in his account of the Carolina Indians. He mentions having seen in an Indian town, 'very long arrows headed with pieces of glass which they had broken from bottles.' (Quoted by Squier and Davis, Mounds of the Mississippi Valley, in Smithsonian Contributions, vol. VI, 213; but there the opinion is expressed that these may have been obsidian.)

"It may be well to remember that the Indians of the Southwest were perfectly familiar with obsidian, and that the Apache name for glass means obsidian. It may have been only a coincidence, but I do not at this moment remember any glass arrows that were not brown glass, the nearest approach in appearance to obsidian. I have seen the green arrows, but they were made of the semi-precious stone called aqua marina, found among the Navajoes.

"Lyon, quoted by Bancroft (Nat. Races, vol. I, p. 342), refers to an Indian (tribe not given) who made him a glass arrow from a fragment of porter bottle at the third trial, after he had learned the grain of the glass.

"The process of manufacture was in each case the same, and consisted in chipping small fragments from the edges of suitable pieces of material, the chipping implement being a portion of hardened deer or elk horn held in the right hand, the siliceous stone being held in the left over a flap of buckskin to protect the fingers.

"I once made it my business to solve the problem how long it would take Apaches whose village had been captured and destroyed by troops to provide themselves anew with weapons which would render them a menace to the scattered settlements of the frontier. I singled out an Apache at random and stipulated that he should employ no tools of iron, but allowed him to gather from the ground such chips of chalcedony as he pleased.

"He made a number of barbs, the time as recorded in my note-books being five, six, seven, and eight minutes; an expert might have done even better than that.

"I can not understand what Powers meant when he said that a Porno Indian will spend days and even weeks upon one piece, unless he is alluding to some one making a 'medicine bow and arrows for a special occasion'. (Bancroft, Nat. Races, vol. I, p. 342.)

"Gen. George Crook, who was a very close observer of the habits and customs of the wild tribes among whom he served, relates that the Indians of Oregon used obsidian and made the barbs with remarkable facility and rapidity, from fifty to sixty in an hour. (Smithsonian Report, 1871.) He also states that the Klamaths were making their arrows of broken junk bottles, the tool used, a knife in place of a horn, and a blanket instead of a buckskin.

[Captain Bourke is evidently thinking of the making of arrow heads. Every tribe of Indians spent days and even weeks upon arrow shafts and bows. As in the manufacture of pottery the operation can not be finished at a single sitting as has been shown previously.]

"The Hoopa Indian, who is a relative of the Apache, makes his arrows in much the same manner, but the obsidian or jasper head is untanged and lashed with sinew."[47]

"Catlin says that every Apache tribe has its factory in which arrow-heads are made, and in those only certain adepts are allowed to make them for the use of the tribe. Erratic bowlders of flint are col-lected (and sometimes brought an immense distance) and broken with a sort of sledge-hammer, made of a rounded pebble of hornstone, set in a twisted withe, holding the stone and forming a handle.

"The stone, at the indiscriminate blows of the sledge, is broken into a hundred pieces, and such flakes selected as, from the angles of their fracture and thickness, will answer as the basis of an arrow-head; and in the hands of the artisan they are shaped into the beautiful forms and proportions which they desire, and which are to be seen in most of our museums.

"The master workman, seated on the ground, lays one of these flakes on the palm of his left hand, holding it firmly down with two or more fingers of the same hand, and with his right hand, between the thumb and two forefingers, places his chisel (or punch) on the point that is to be broken off; and a co-operator (a striker) sitting in front of him, with a mallet of very hard wood, strikes the chisel (or punch) on the upper end, flaking the flint off on the under side, below each projecting point that is struck. The flint is then turned and chipped in the same manner from the opposite side, and so turned and chipped until the required shape and dimensions are obtained, all the fractures being made on the palm of the hand.

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