Notes on the Bows, Arrows, and Quivers of Various Tribes
Part 6 of 7
According to Capt. Wilkes the Klamet bows and arrows are made the first of yew about 3 feet long, flat, 1 1/2 to 2 inches wide, backed with sinew and painted. The arrows are over 30 inches long, some of close-grained wood, a species of Spiraca, others of reed. Feathers are 5 to 8 inches long. The barbed head of obsidian is inserted in a fore shaft 3 to 5 inches long. This is left in the wound. Shallow blood channels are sometimes cut in the shaft. The bow is held horizontally, braced by the thumb of the left hand and drawn by the thumb and three fingers of right hand. The chest is thrown back and the right leg for ward in shooting. Quivers are of deer, raccoon, or wild-cat skins.
The Clallam bows were short and small, made of yew. The arrows were small and pointed with bone or iron. The Clallams are one of the Salishan tribes from whom Wilkes gathered many bows and arrows, now in the National Museum. The arrow shafts are of cedar, and have a large, bulbous nock, wrapped with birch bark. Some of them have two-barbed points of wood, bone, or metal.
Bows of the Shushwap were formerly made chiefly of wood of the juniper (Juniperus Occidentalis), named poontlp. They were also some times made of yew (Taxus brevifolia), named skin-ik, though this tree is scarcely to be found in the Shushwap country. It is reported how ever to grow far up in the North Thompson Valley. The bow was often covered on its outer surface with the skin of a rattlesnake, which was glued on in the same manner which was customary among some of the tribes of the Great Plains. Arrows were made of the wood of the service berry. Arrow-heads and spear-heads were made of various kinds of stone, always chipped.
"The native bow in Vancouver's island is beautifully formed. It is generally made of yew or crab-apple wood, and is 3 1/2 feet long, with about 2 inches at each end turned sharply backward from the string. The string is a piece of dried seal gut, deer sinew, or twisted bark. The arrows about 20 inches long, and are made of pine or cedar, tipped with 6 inches of serrated bone, or with two unbarred bone or iron prongs. I have never seen an Aht arrow with a barbed head." (Sproat's Scenes, p. 82.)
"Having now, to a great extent, discarded the use of the traditional tomahawk and spear. Many of these weapons are, however, still preserved as heirlooms among them." (Barrett-Lennards Trav., p. 42.)
"No bows and arrows. Generally fight hand to hand, and not with missiles." (Fitzwilliam's Evidence, in Hudson Bay Co., Rept., 1857, 115.)
"The arrows and spears in Puget Sound were usually pointed with bone; the bows were of yew, and though short, were of great power. Vancouver describes a superior bow used at Puget Sound. It was from 2 1/2 to 3 feet long, made from a naturally curved piece of yew, whose concave side became the convex of the bow, and to the whole length of this side a strip of elastic hide or serpent skin was attached so firmly by a kind of cement as to become almost a part of the wood. This lining added greatly to the strength of the bow, and was not affected by moisture. The bowstring was made of sinew." Vancouver's Voy., vol. I, p. 253.
"At Gray Harbor the bows were somewhat more circular than else where." (Vancouver's Voy., vol. II, p. 84; Wilkes's Nar. in U. S. Exploring Expedition, pp. 14, 319; Kane's Wand., pp. 209, 210.)
Lieut. Allen, U. S. Army, has described the excessive pains which the Copper River Indians bestow upon the fashioning and caring for their bows. There are no first rate, tough, elastic woods near them. Birch and willow and such soft species are the only stock in trade. And yet, by dint of heating or toasting, boiling, greasing, and rubbing down they convert these poor materials into excellent arms. It is here that the wooded wrist guard or bridge is attached to the grip on the inside.
The Hong Kutchin Indians (Athapascan family) closely allied with Lieut. Allen's people, make their bows of willow after the same pains taking fashion, and their arrows of pine. The bows are almost straight, and in order to prevent the string from lacerating the wrist they do not wear a wrist guard, but lash a bit of wood to the inside of the grip (see Plate II). The Kutchin tribes all use a similar bow, but do without the guard. The quiver is simply a bag of skin worn under the left arm. It has two loops for the bow and the arrows are inserted notch down.
"The arrow-heads of the Kutchin are of bone for wild fowl, or bone tipped with iron for moose or deer; the bow is about 5 feet long, and that of the Hong-Kutchin is furnished with a small piece of wood 3 inches long by 1 1/2 broad, and nearly 2 thick, which projects close to the part grasped by the hand. This piece catches the string and prevents it from striking the hand, for the bow is not bent much. There are no individuals whose trade is to make spears, bows, or arrows."
"The Kutchin still retain the bow, which is of the same shape through all the tribes, with the exception of the small guard in the Hong-Kutchin bow, mentioned before. The quiver is the same, and worn under the left arm; it is furnished with two small loops to hold the bow, thus leaving the hunter both hands free to use his gun. The arrows are placed in the quiver with the notch downwards. The Kutchin are not expert with the bow; no doubt they were better shots before firearms were introduced among them. The bow is made of willow and will not send an arrow with sufficient force to kill a deer more than from 50 to 60 yards. The arrows are made of pine."