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Home > Books > Additional Notes on Arrow Release > Part 17
Additional Notes on Arrow Release
Part 17 of 21

The most complete and satisfactory description of an arrow release, and all details of an archer's practice is given by SAXTON T. POPE in the University of California Publications in American Anthropology and Ethnology, Vol. 13, No. 3. In this Memoir, entitled "Yahi Archery," MR. POPE gives the results of a study of the last survivor of a tribe of Indians with whom MR. POPE associated for three years. The author says, "The present paper is an attempt to present the facts concerning the archery of one tribe, the Yahi or Deer Creek Indians of north central California, the most southerly division of the Yanan stock as represented in the person of its last survivor, Ishi, who lived from 1911 to 1916 at the University of California."

MR. POPE lived with ISHI for three years, hunted with him in the woods and watched him as he fabricated his bows and arrows, illustrating all the details in his paper. A colored plate is given of 18 arrowheads made from flint and obsidian. The incredible precision and delicacy in the making of these arrowheads almost exceeds belief. MR. POPE'S "Memoir" is really a monograph of the archery of a single tribe. In shooting, the bow was held in a horizontal position with the back of the hand downward, the arrow resting on the bow between the thumb and forefinger. MR. POPE says, "The arrow release was a modification of that known as the Mongolian type, that is he 'drew' the bow with the right thumb flexed beneath the string. On the thumb nail he laid the end of the middle finger, to strengthen the hold. The index finger, completely flexed, rested on the arrow to keep it from slipping from the string. The extremities of the feathers, being near the nock, were neatly folded along the shaft in the grip of these fingers, to prevent them from being ruffled." The outline, (Fig. 31), traced from his drawing clearly illustrates the position of the fingers. I do not regard this release as a modification of the Mongolian release but a new and distinct form, its only resemblance is seen in drawing the string with the thumb, the thumb-ring, which is invariably used in the Mongolian release, is absent. It is a distinct type and as MR. POPE is the discoverer of it I leave it to him to name this new species. MR. POPE says that "ISHI knew of several releases, saying that certain other tribes used them. The primary type, that where the arrow butt is gripped between the thumb and the flexed forefinger, he said certain Indians used, and it seemed to be a criterion of strength." The most extraordinary feature of ISHI'S use of the bow is that on the discharge of the arrow the bow is made to revolve in the hand as in the Japanese practice. He says, "When the arrow left the string, at the moment of release, the bow revolved, or turned over completely, in his hand, so that the back of the bow was toward him." The Japanese are the only people who cause the bow to revolve in the hand except those who use the stone bow. In this release no arm guard is required and MR. POPE said Ishi "never used a wrist guard or, bracer, on his left arm to protect it from the string, although he nearly always pulled up his shirt sleeve.This was to avoid striking any clothing with the string, which would check the flight of the arrow. At times the string did strike his forearm, and bruise it, and after prolonged shooting his left wrist was often sore and ecchymosed."

It is a curious linguistic coincidence that the name ISHI is identical to a Japanese word, meaning stone, and the first syllable of his tribal name, Yahi, Ya, is the Japanese word for arrow.

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