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Home > Books > Additional Notes on Arrow Release > Part 8
Additional Notes on Arrow Release
Part 8 of 21

PROF. E. N. HORSFORD informed me that when he was a boy his father was a missionary among the Seneca Indians in New York. He often played and shot with the Indian boys, the target generally consisting of a big copper cent held in a cleft stick. The practice of drawing the bow was with the thumb and bent forefinger pinching the arrow and two other fingers assisting in drawing the string, a distinct secondary release.

LIEUT. SCHAWATKA, an arctic explorer, who had traveled in Mexico told me that the Baramos Indians, a tribe of the Tarahumari, living in southwestern Chihuahua practiced the secondary release.

The Menomini Indians who now live on their reservation in north central Wisconsin have been minutely studied by MR. ALANSON SKINNER and the results form a monograph in the publications of the Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation. The Indians are typical Algonquin people and MR. SKINNER states that they use the tertiary release while the neighboring Ojibwa use the primary and secondary releases.

In an interesting article by CARL LUMHOLTZ, in Scribners Magazine, Vol. XIV, 1894, entitled "Tarahumari Dances and Plant Worship," he gives a picture of an Indian using the bow. The method of release is clearly depicted and represents the tertiary release. Tracings of figures in certain ancient Mexican codices sent me by MRS. ZELIA NUTTALL represent the tertiary release.

PROF. W. JOEST, of Berlin, kindly sent me some observations he made regarding the arrow release of indians and bush negroes of Surinam. In his letter he makes the distinction between the Arawaks, Caribs, and Galibes of the coast and interior of Surinam and of the Upper Maroni which he calls indians, and the inhabitants of Surinam and the Upper Maroni which he designates as bush negroes. They no longer use arrows and bows as weapons, but only for shooting fish, small deer, turtle, tapir, birds, etc. He says: " I observed a remarkable difference between Indians and 'Bosch.' The American aborigine, Arawaks, as well as Caribs, keep the bow horizontally, the 'Bosch,' whose ancestors were imported from Africa, vertically. Both put the arrow at the upper or left side of the bow; both keep the arrow steady with the forefinger of the left hand, the palm of course undermost. The way of pulling corresponds to your 'tertiary release' with the difference that Indians and Bush negroes use all their four fingers while the thumb (stretched) helps the forefinger. The forefinger is nearly straight. I had the impression that the forefinger and thumb were only keeping the arrow in its position whilst the 3rd, 4th and 5th fingers were really pulling." He found an astonishing number of the Bush negroes were left-handed. They accordingly put the arrow at the right side of the bow. He thinks no difference exists between the natives of Guyara in the method of release.

DR. THOMAS BARBOUR, in his travels in New Guinea, secured a photograph of a Papuan in the act of shooting the bow. The release is with the thumb pressed against the arrow and all four fingers bearing on the string, the arrow being between the thumb and forefinger. This represents the tertiary release. This release varies as does the Mediterranean form. In both releases two, three and even four fingers may be used in drawing the string, though rarely is the little finger used. (Fig. 15).

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