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Home > Books > Mason > North American Bows, Arrows and Quivers > The Quiver
The Quiver

The quiver is difficult to study, because collectors have paid little attention to it. Among all the Plains tribes they are objects of beauty, and have been gathered as bric-a-brac, with little information of their whereabouts. (PL LXXVII-XCIV.) The same rules are to be observed in the study of the quiver that we apply to all other objects connected with aboriginal industries. The quiver is largely of the region. In the first place the material out of which each example is made must be furnished by nature; hence it is of sealskin in one place, of cedar wood in another, of soft pelt in another, and in the south land is frequently made of some kind of soft basketry. Again, the structure of the quiver must be adapted to its function, that is, to the bow and arrows to be carried; also to the exigencies of the weather and the surroundings The parts of a most elaborate quiver are:
(1) The bow case, a long, slender bag, into which the bow is thrust.
(2) The arrow case, a pocket in which the arrows are kept, points downward, as a rule.
(3) The stiffener, a rod of wood attached along the outside of the arrow case, to keep it rigid.
(4) Baldric, a band of buckskin, or in the finest examples, of elegant fur, lined and decorated with quill work, passing over the left shoulder, across the breast, and attached by its ends to the quiver. It is for carrying the quiver.
(5) Fire bag, a leather pouch in which the Indian hunter kept his flints, steel, spunk, awl, and other subsidiary apparatus needful on his journey. It was tied to the middle of the bow case or the stiffener. Among several of the mountain tribes the squaw lavished all her skill upon her husband's quiver. The costliest beaver, marten, otter, and mountain lion pelt was invoked. It was lined with soft buckskin, or in later times with red strouding. Beads of every imaginable color were worked upon the border of the arrow case and upon the lining of the long pendant therefrom. Strips of fur, daintily cut in fringes, were sewed about the bottom of the bow case, and every spot capable of rich decoration received it. Between this and the plain salmon-skin capsule, into which the Eskimo thrust his arrows, there are many gradations of quivers, as will appear in the treatment of the several tribes.

"The quiver of the Central Eskimo, says Boas, is made of seal-skin, the hair of which is removed. It comprises three divisions, a larger one containing the bow and a smaller one containing 4 or 6 arrows, the head directed toward the lower end of the case. When extracted from the quiver they are ready for use. Between the two compartments there is also a small pouch, in which tools and extra arrow-heads are carried. (Plate XCIII).

"When travelling the Eskimo carry the quiver by an ivory handle; when in use it is hung over the left shoulder. Boas's fig. 451, p. 508, represents quiver handles, the first being fashioned in imitation of an ermine."[41]

"The quiver of the Blackfeet was made from the cougar skin and was frequently valued at one horse."[42]

Throughout the area of fur-bearing animals the pelt of any one of them of sufficient size served as a quiver or arrow bag. These are, for the most part, slovenly in appearance. But the Blackfeet and other Plains tribes formerly made up their bow cases and quivers from large skins. In later times leather and cow's hide with the hair on were substituted. The elaborate make-up was preserved.

"The Yurok quiver was made of the skin of the raccoon or marten turned wrongside out and suspended by a string. In the lower end moss was stuffed as a cushion for the arrow-heads.[43] The bow was stuffed into this bag with the arrows and the wonder is how a man could keep the bow from destroying the arrows. In traveling, however, the bow was held in the left hand.

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