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Home > Books > Mason > North American Bows, Arrows and Quivers > The Bow - Part 2
The Bow
Part 2 of 8

"The rule laid down by the Apaches for making their bows and arrows was the following says Bourke:

"The length of the bow or rather of the string should be eight times the span from thumb to little finger of the warrior using it.

"The curvature of the bow was determined almost entirely by individual strength or caprice.

"The arrow should equal in length the distance from the owner's arm pit to the extremity of his thumb nail, measured on the inner side of his extended arm; the stem should project beyond the reed to a distance equal to the span covered by the thumb and index finger. This measurement included the barb when made of sheet iron. The iron barb itself should be as long as the thumb from the end to the largest joint.

"Torquemada says that the Chichimees, among whom he includes the Apaches, made bows according to their stature, a very vague expression. (Mon. Ind. lib., xxi, introduction.)

"Gomara says that the Indians of Florida traen arcos de doce palmas. (Hist. de las Indias, 181.)

"Landa describes the Indians of Yucatan as making bows and arrows in the manner of the Apaches; La largura del arco es siempre algo menos que el que lo trae." (See Cosas de Yucatan, Brasseur de Bourbourg, Paris, 1864.[6])

Baegert says the bows of the Lower California Indians were more than six feet long, slightly curved, and made from the root of the wild willow. The modern cotton wood bow, from the same region, is a long, clumsy affair, very near to the most primitive types. (Plate LXI, fig. 1.) The bow-strings were said to be made of the intestines of beasts. The shafts of arrows were common reeds straightened in the fire, six spans long, feathered, fore-shafted with heavy wood, a span and a half long, with triangular flint point.[7] (Plate XLI, fig. 2.)

Coville says that the Panamint Indians of Death's Valley, California, make their bows from the desert juniper (Juniperus californica utahensis). The Indian prefers a piece of wood from the trunk or a large limb of a tree that has died and seasoned while standing. In these desert mountains moist rot of dead wood never occurs. The bow rarely exceeds three feet in length and is strengthened by gluing to the back a covering composed of strips of deer sinew laid on lengthwise. The string is of twisted sinew or cord made from twisted hemp.[8]

These Panamint belong to the Shoshonean stock, spread out over the Great Interior Basin, and all the tribes use the sinew-lined bow, with transverse wrappings of shredded sinew. (Plate LXI, fig. 4.)

The bow of the Chemehuevis (Shoshonean) is characteristic of the stock to which they belong, being of hard wood common in the region, elegantly backed with sinew and bound with shredded sinew, ornamented also at the end by the skin or rattle of the rattlesnake.[9] The type belongs to the stock everywhere.

"The Apache bow was made always of the tough, elastic mountain mulberry, called par excellence, 'Iltin,' or bow wood. Occasionally the cedar was employed, but the bows of horn, such as were to be seen among the Crows and other tribes of the Yellowstone region, were not to be found among the Apaches and their neighbors of Arizona.

"The elasticity of the fiber was increased by liberal applications of bear, or deer fat and sinew was, on rare occasions, glued to the back for the same purpose.[10]

It is not probable that any southern tribes of the family, to which the Apache belong, ever dwelt east of the Rocky Mountains. The Athapascan sinew veneered bow is found strictly west of the Rockies, the slender variety in the Basin and British Columbia, the flat variety on the Pacific Slope. The Navajo also have adopted this type of sinew-lined bow.

The Cherokees lived in the Piedmont portion of the Appalachians in Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee. The finest oak, ash, and hickory abounds in this region. These tribes used every variety of available elastic wood for bows, the toughness of which they improved by dipping them in bear's oil and warming them before the fire.[11] The Cherokees were Iroquoian and their bows may be taken as the counterpart of those made by the Six Nations. The Algonquin bows were similar.

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