Notes on the Bows, Arrows, and Quivers of Various Tribes
Part 3 of 7
"In selecting a flake for the arrow-head a nice judgment must be used or the attempt will fail; a flake with two opposite parallel or nearly parallel planes is found, and of the thickness required for the center of the arrow-point. The first chipping reaches near to the center of these planes, but without quite breaking it away, and each chipping is shorter and shorter, until the shape and the edge of the arrow-head are formed.
"The yielding elasticity of the palm of the hand enables the chip to come off without breaking the body of the flint, which would be the case if they were broken on a hard substance. These people have no metallic instruments to work with, and the instrument (punch) which they use I was told was a piece of bone; but on examining it I found it to be a substance much harder, made of the tooth (incisor) of the sperm whale, or sea lion, which are often stranded on the coast of the Pacific. This punch is about 6 or 7 inches in length and 1 inch in diameter, with one rounded side and two plane sides; therefore presenting one acute and two obtuse angles to suit the points to be broken.
"This operation is very curious, both the holder and the striker sing ing, and the strokes of the mallet given exactly in time with the music, and with a sharp and rebounding blow, in which, the Indians tell us, is the great medicine (or mystery of the operation).
"The bows also of this tribe, as well as the arrow-heads, are made with great skill, either of wood and covered on the back with sinew, or of bone, said to be brought from the sea-coast, and probably from the sperm whale. These weapons, much like those of the Sioux and Comanches, for use on horseback, are short, for convenience of hand ling, and of great power, generally of 2 1/2 feet in length, and their mode of using them in war and the chase is not surpassed by any Indians on the continent."
"The bows of the Beothucs are all of sycamore, which being very scarce in their country, and the only wood it produces that is fit for this use, becomes very valuable. Mr. Peyton informed Lloyd that their bows were roughly made of mountain ash or dogwood; they were formed by splitting the piece of wood selected for the purpose down the middle, the round side of which formed the back of the bow. The sticks are not chosen with any nicety, some of them being knotty and very rude in appearance, but they show a considerable amount of constructive skill. Except in the grasp the inside of them is cut flat, but so obliquely and with so much skill that the string will vibrate in a direction coinciding directly with the thicker edge of the bow. The bow is fully 5 1/2 feet long. The string was made of deer's sinew.
"Beothuc arrows were made of pine (white) or sycamore, and were slender, light, and straight. The head was a two-edged lance about 6 inches long, made of iron taken from the traps, and other objects of that metal, which they had stolen from the furriers and fishermen.
"Cartwright says, in his journal of a residence in Labrador, that the head of the arrow was a barbed lance 6 inches long made out of an old nail let into a cleft in the top of the shaft, and secured there by a thread of deer's sinew. The stock was about 3 feet in length. It was feathered with the 'gray goose wing.' They also use the feathers of the 'gripp,' or sea eagle, on their arrows."
This testimony is of the same character as that relating to John Smith. The Beothucs did not belong to any of the great Indian families known, but were a stock apart. The rudeness of manufacture is also noticeable in contrast with those of the Eskimo.
"The weapons used in the Ioway tribe, and of which these people have brought many, are very similar to those used in most of the uncivilized tribes of North America, consisting of the bow and arrows, the lance and the javelin, war-clubs, knives, etc., and with these, as a protection in battle, a leathern shield, made of the hide of the buffalo bull, sufficiently thick and hard to arrest an arrow or to turn the blade of a lance."
The Ioways belong to the Siouan stock and their arrows are a shaft, iron head, and three tolerably long feathers. The nock is either bulbous or flaring, affording a grip for the thumb and fore finger. The quiver is an elaborate affair. Indeed the quivers of the Siouan and other stocks preying upon the buffalo were the most complicated on the continent.
The Blackfeet do not make bows of the horn of the elk or of the mountain sheep. Their country does not produce any wood suitable for bows, and they obtain by barter the bow wood, or yellow wood (Maclura aurantiaca) from the river Arkansas. For their quivers they prefer the skin of the cougar (Felis concolor, Linn). The tail hangs down from the quiver, is trimmed with red cloth on the inner side, embroidered with white beads and ornamented at the end or elsewhere with strips of skin-like tassels.