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Home > Books > Mason > North American Bows, Arrows and Quivers > Notes on the Bows, Arrows, and Quivers of Various Tribes - Part 5
Notes on the Bows, Arrows, and Quivers of Various Tribes
Part 5 of 7

"According to Dunbar much labor was spent by the Pawnees in the construction of arrows. The shafts were made from sprouts of dogwood (Cornus stolonifera). The bark was removed and the rods were rubbed between two grooved stones, held firmly together in one hand till reduced to a proper size and smoothness. The head, made of hoop iron, was then inserted in one end of the shaft and bound in position with sinew. The back end of the shaft was now furnished with a triple row of feathers attached by means of glue and sinew and the end notched to fit the bowspring. With a small chisel-like instrument three slight grooves or channels were cut along the shaft between the head and the feathers and the arrow was complete. Various reasons were assigned for this channeling. Some claimed that it caused the arrow to adhere more firmly in the wound; others that it was simply designed to facilitate the flow of blood. The manufacture of arrows, as of bows, was a slow and irksome process. Three or four were probably the limit of a day's work, even after the rough material was already at hand. So exact were they in making them that not only were the arrows of different tribes readily distinguishable, but even individuals could recognize their own arrows when thrown together with those of others of the same band. Disputes sometimes arose after the slaughter of a herd of buffalo as to whose some particular carcass rightfully was. If the arrow still remained in the body the question was easily decided by drawing it out and examining the make of it. Some Indians made two kinds of arrows, one for hunting and another for war. In the latter the head was so fastened that when an attempt was made to draw the shaft from a wound the head was detached and remained in the body of the victim. The Pawnee never used such. When once he had possessed himself of a good bow and a supply of arrows the Pawnee was as solicitous in the care of them as a hunter would be of a choice rifle. The bow, if not in actual service, was kept close in its case, and the arrows in the quiver. Great pains were taken that they should not become by any chance wet, and much time was spent handling them, that the bow should not lose its spring and the arrows should not warp. The average length of the former was 4 feet; of the latter 26 inches."[54]

The case for the bow and the quiver are of the skin of some animal, often of otter, fastened to each other; and to the latter the tail of the animal at full length is appended. The bow is partly covered with elk horn, has a very strong string of twisted sinews of animals, and is wound round in different places with the same to strengthen it. The bow is often adorned with colored cloth, porcupine quills and white strips of ermine.[55]

"The Pawnee bow case and quiver were made of skin, dressed to be impervious to moisture. The usual material was elk skin. Indians who could afford it sometimes made a quiver and case of the skin of an otter or panther. In removing a skin which was to be used for this purpose from the carcass, care was exercised that every particle of the skin, that of the head, tail, and even the claws, should be retained, and appear in the case when finally made up. Cases of this make, with their heavy coating of fur virtually waterproof, were very highly prized.”[56]

"The bow-makers of both the Hupa and Klamath tribes," says Ray, "are specialists, and the trade is now confined to a very few old men. I have here seen no man under 40 years of age that could make a bow or an arrow, and only one old man who could make a stone arrow-head.

"To make a bow, the wood of a yew sapling 2 1/2 to 3 inches in diameter is selected and rough-hewn to shape, the heart side inward and the back carefully smoothed to the form of the back of the bow. The sinew is laid on while the wood is green and held in place until dry by means of a twine wrapping. In this condition it is hung in the sweat house until the wood is thoroughly seasoned, when it is finished and strung, and in some cases the back is varnished and painted. The most deli cate part of the operation is to get the proper tension on the sinew backing. If too tight the wood crimps or splinters when the bow is strung, and a lack of proper tension leaves the bow weak and worth less. When the bow is seasoned it has a reverse curve of about 3 inches.

"The sinew for the backing and bow-string is taken from the back and the hind leg of the deer at the time of killing, and dried for future use. When required it is soaked until pliable, stripped into fine shreds and laid on by commencing at each end and terminating at the center of the bow. The sinew is slightly twisted and dried before it is placed on the bow.

"The glue used to fix the backing is obtained by boiling the gland of the lower jaw and the nose of the sturgeon. This is dried in balls and preserved for use, and is prepared by simply dipping it in warm water and rubbing it on the wood.

"The arrow shafts are usually made from the wood of the wild cur rant, and are worked to shape with a knife and tried by the eye. After roughing they are allowed to season and are then finished. Any curves are taken out with a straightener, made of a piece of hard wood, spindle shaped and perforated in the middle. The arrow-heads used in war and for big game are usually made from flint and obsidian, and more recently of iron and steel. The flakes for the stone heads are knocked off by means of a pitching tool of a deer antler. The stone heads are made with a chipper composed of a crooked handle, to which is lashed a short piece of antler precisely similar to those which I collected at Point Barrow. The work is held in the left hand on a pad and flaked off by pressure with a tool in the right hand in exactly the same manner as I found the Innuits doing in northern Alaska.

"The bows made by these people are effective for game up to 50 or 75 yards, and would inflict a serious wound at 100 yards. At 50 yards the arrows will penetrate a deer from 5 to 10 inches. I never heard of one passing entirely through a deer.[57]

"Eells says that "bows and arrows are used at present by the Twana in Washington state only as playthings, and are very poor; but formerly they were very common. The bows were about 3 feet long, and were made of yew wood, the strings of sinews or the intestines of raccoons. The arrows were about 2 1/2 feet long, were made of cedar, with feathered shafts, and points of stone, and of nails, after they obtained them; and the quiver of wolf skin. Arrow-heads are sometimes made of brass or iron, 2 or 3 inches long, half an inch wide, and very thin, and also of very hard wood, 5 inches long, and round. Sometimes, for birds, they are made of iron-wood, about 5 inches long, with two prongs, one of them being half an inch shorter than the other."[58]

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