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The Arrow
Part 5 of 9

This is a charming connecting link between the prehistoric and the historic. The knife with a blade of beaver tooth may at this very day be seen in the hands of the Eskimos about the Yukon mouth. One could say that a grip or handle of wood or antler had a groove sunk into one end, the root of the tooth was laid in this, and the two lashed with wet rawhide. At present the Eskimos use their beaver-tooth knife to put a fine edge on their blades of steel. The front enamel of the tooth is so much harder than the rear that it makes a perfect chisel, and would act well for knife or saw. " The little bone that he weareth at his bracer" for flaking his arrow-heads one might see any day in the hands of a Ute warrior a few years ago, and Maj. Powell collected and deposited several in the National Museum. This is simply a little bit of the fibula of the deer. On the west coast and in Eskimo-land this tool has its grip and its working part distinct. Finally, in the administration of the sinew for seizing, and the glue for binding all tight, one had only to watch the Apache Indian described in this text.

The arrows (qaqdjung) of the central Eskimos are made of round pieces of wood, generally tapering a little toward the lower end, to which two feathers of an owl or some other bird are attached. The bone heads of these arrows are joined to the shaft, as represented in Boas's fig. 443, p. 504. The difference in the methods used by the Mac kenzie and the central tribes in fastening the point to the shaft is very striking. The arrow tang of the former and of the western tribes is pointed and inserted in the shaft (Boas's fig. 444, p. 505), while that of the latter is always beveled and lashed to it (Boas's figs. 442 and 443, p. 504). The direction of the bevel is either parallel or vertical to the edge (id. fig. 445, p. 505). Other forms of arrows are shown in id. fig. 446, p. 506. A similar difference between the fastenings of the foreshaft to the spear handle exists in the two localities. Western tribes give its base the form of a wedge (id. fig. 447, p. 506), which is inserted in the shaft, while the central Eskimos use a mortise. (Plates LII-LX.)

Formerly slate heads were in general use (id. fig. 448, p. 506); now the heads are almost everywhere made of iron or tin, riveted or tied to the point (id. fig. 446, p. 506). In ancient graves flint heads are frequently-found, some of which are represented in id. fig. 449, p. 507. On Southampton Island stone heads are in use even at the present time. Fig. 423, p. 491, probably shows how they were attached to the shank.[27]

The Panamint arrows are made from the stems of the reed (Phragmites vulgaris) and from willow shoots. The shafts are about 3 1/2 feet long. Nearly mature, but still green, reeds are cut, their leaves removed, and the stems dried and straightened in the hands before a fire. Use is also made of a small stone, across the face of which have been cut two grooves large enough to admit an arrow shaft. This stone is heated, and a portion of the crude arrow is laid in one of the grooves until it is hot. The cane is then straightened by holding it crosswise in the teeth and drawing the end downward. By repeating this process throughout the whole length of the shaft a marvelously straight arrow is produced. The head of the arrow is a pin of very hard wood taken from some species of greasewood (Striplex). It is about 5 inches long, and tapers evenly to a blunt point. The base of the head is inserted about three-fourths of an inch into the hollow of the reed, and rests against the uppermost joint. It is bound in place by a thin band of sinew. At each joint of the arrow shaft is burned a ring of diagonal lines. The base of the shaft is notched to receive the bow string, and feathered with three half feathers, bound on with sinews and twisted so as to give to the arrow a rotary motion.[28] (PL XLI, fig. 1.)

"The Spokane Indians laid apiece of buckskin on the hand, and from a flint pressed off flakes with a piece of deer's horn." These Indians belong to the Salishan family, and it is easy by means of the old material in the Museum to rehabilitate this ancient arrowmaker of Washington State. His process of flaking is that marked 4 in Plate I. The material on which he worked was incomparable, and his handiwork now forms the treasures of the Museum.

"At the base of Mount Uncle Sam" says Dulog, "on the west of Clear Lake, California, there is a tract 2 or 3 miles in extent covered with fragments of obsidian.

"With material so plentiful, the surrounding Indians are careful to choose only those pieces best shaped by nature for their purpose, but at places distant from the source of supply, the obsidian, which is often brought in large blocks, is chipped off in flakes from around a central core by blows of a rock.

"The old expert put on his left hand a piece of buckskin, with a hole cut in it to let the thumb pass through, something like the 'palm' used by sailmakers. This was of course to protect his hand while at work. In his right hand he took a tool of bone ground down to a blunt point. These tools, made often from the leg bone of a deer, are assorted in sizes, large ones being used for coarse work and small ones for fine work.

"A piece of obsidian of the right size was held in the left hand, then the right thumb was pressed on the top of the stone, while the point of the bone was strongly pressed against the under edge of the proposed arrowhead, and a little splinter of obsidian worked off. The operation was similar to the opening of a can with one of the old-fashioned can openers that work without leverage. Oftentimes material is spoiled in the sharpening. Around deserted camps piles of rejected fragments are sometimes found, either broken in putting on the edge or not being near enough the desired shape to pay for working up.