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Home > Books > Mason > North American Bows, Arrows and Quivers > The Arrow - Part 7
The Arrow
Part 7 of 9

The author has measured a large number of quiver contents. The arrows of one quiver agree absolutely. The arrows of a tribe agree within a narrow margin. Often, especially in the buffalo region, there seemed to be a species of international agreement in the length of the arrow.

The foreshafted arrow finds its occasion first of all in the country of the reed cane—that is, along the southern portion of the United States. It may then be traced through those portions of California where the rhus, elder, and other pithy twigs abound. In the Eskimo area it has a multitude of structures and functions.

The foreshaft in the South and Southwest is a slender bit of hard wood sharpened and let into the top of the shaft and having the arrow head, attached to the fore end. The reasons are two. A hollow reed or a very pithy twig affords a very poor attachment for the arrow-head; and, secondly, this slenderer, heavier rod aids the directness of the flight. Indeed, the very long reed arrows of the Apache and Mohave tribes have for that reason insignificant feathers.

In the Eskimo arrows the heavy foreshaft of bone or ivory serves another purpose. Bone being heavier than wood, when one of these arrows is shot at an object in the water and the head is detached, the arrow stands perpendicular, and is dragged along by the divided line, the feather bobbing about and enabling the hunter to follow up his game.

In the harpoon arrow and the harpoon, the foreshaft furnishes an excellent socket piece for the barbed head or the "loose-shaft". There is no doubt, also, that its much greater specific gravity assists in the direct or straight-forward motion of the weapon. Many of these missiles are discharged into the water, in which case the ivory foreshaft is of great assistance.

It is often said by frontiersmen that the Plains Indians had two ways of mounting an arrow-head with relation to the notch at the nock. If the plane of the arrow-head be horizontal when the arrow is in position for shooting-that is, at right angles to the notch, the missile is a war arrow, to go between the ribs of men. But if the plane of the head be vertical when the bow is drawn, the missile is a hunting arrow for pass ing between the ribs of buffalo and other mammals.[33]

"Dodge explains that the Comanches place the notch of the arrow in the same plane with the notch of the string so that it may surely pass between the ribs of the animal which are up and down; for the same reason, the blade of the war arrow is perpendicular to the notch, the ribs of the human enemy being horizontal. (Wild Indians, San Francisco, 1882, 419.)

Captain Bourke thinks this is a mistake. He says, "I have seen all kinds in the same quiver."

There is more authority and reason for the assertion that the barbed arrowheads among these same Indians were for war and the leaf-shaped and rhomboidal heads were for hunting, because they could be easily withdrawn from the wound and used again; but the Eskimo have a barbed arrow, with ivory or bone barb piece, fitted into the head of the shaft in the most temporary fashion, so that when shot into an animal the head remains, rankles, and works its way into the flesh. For the same reason the foreshafted arrows of the South and Southwest are loosely put together. The coloring of the shaft of arrows is technically called the riband. The Eastern tribes, the Basin tribes, and the Eskimo paint their arrows very little. Not much stress could be laid on this characteristic except on the California and Oregon coast. Here the author finds the following to be true: The arrows in the same quiver have the same riband. The arrows in the same tribe have the same general type of riband, and the same colors occur in old arrows. From tribe to tribe there occur differences in riband, but they have not been studied out.

The selling of prepared paints and dyes to the Indians by traders has introduced inextricable confusion into this characteristic. The riband on the arrow is generally in the shaftment or that portion of the arrow covered by the feathering. These bands and stripes have been called clan marks, owner marks, tribal marks, and the like, but they are not decisive in such matters.

According to Mr. Hough "African arrow-heads and feathering are fastened on with grass, palm-leaf strips, and other vegetable fibers, and many are tanged or socketed, and are not lashed at all."[34] Papuan arrows are served with vegetal fiber, the Ainos use bark, and in South America many tribes lash with natural fibers.

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