Bows and Arrows
described by First Boy - James Larpentuer Long, Fort Peck
Assiniboine-Sioux, in The Assiniboine: From Accounts of
the Old Ones Told to First Boy (James Larpenteur Long),
edited by Michael Stephen Kennedy , University of Oklahoma
Press, 1961, p 97-99 (originally published as Land of
the Nakoda by the Montana Writer Program in 1942)
the whiteman’s gun was traded for, the bow and arrow
was the Assiniboines' principal weapon both for hunting
game and for warfare. On long trips, extra bows were always
carried by the warriors.
were made from chokecherry, ash, and bur or scrub oak,
but bur oak was considered the best material for a de-pendable
first-class bow was made very carefully by the men. The
length was varied to suit the user. After the bow was
shaped, the back was grooved diagonally, at intervals,
the full length, in order to hold the glue, which was
made by boiling hoof ten-dons and other cords from the
buffalo into a jelly.
thin coat of this glue was spread over the entire back
of the bow. Next, two wet sinews were pasted on, with
the butt ends together at the middle and the thin ends
extending each way. More glue was spread over the whole
back and imme-diately sprinkled with powdered white clay.
After that coat was partly dried, still more glue was
put on and the bow again sprinkled with clay. This treatment
was repeated several times. The number of coats determined
how strong the bow would be. Some men used very flexible
bows, while others did not want the kind of bows that,
after a shot, sprang back and snapped the wrist with the
bow string. Those who had strong wrists preferred heavy
bows because, in a sudden draw, a strong man could break
a light-weight bow.
several coats of the glue mixture had been applied, the
bow was a transparent grayish color. To finish the job,
the back was decorated in different designs with colored
paints. Then it was coated once more with glue to preserve
the colors. The middle of the bow was wrapped with a piece
of buckskin ap-proximating the width of the hand. Colored
horse mane or human hair taken from an enemy was tied
to the top of the bow.
some bows a sharpened prong, made from the horn of an
elk, was attached to one end to be used in battle as a
bayonet after a warrior had shot away all his arrows.
Six kinds of arrows were used, the difference being in
the points. They were the flint, the bone, the iron, the
arrow that tapered to a sharp point, the dull-pointed
target arrow, and the knob-headed arrow used for either
target or game.
second-growth woods most used for arrows were the june-berry
and chokecherry. Currant was not often used because, while
it was straight and smooth, without any knots, it was
arrows were the finest. This second-growth wood was straight,
without a knot. It was also branchless and uni-form in
diameter for about three feet. Fully cured, the wood resembled
customary method of measuring the length of an arrow was
to grasp the stick so that the butt w-as even with the
bottom of the left hand, then measure hand over hand six
times. The length usually measured twenty-four inches.
feathers used for arrows were taken from the wings of
large hawks and eagles. They were split in two, the edges
scraped thin, and glued to the arrow. The ends were fastened
in place by wrapping them with wet sinew. Two halved feathers
were generally used; three and four were also popular.
The long, single half-feather, pasted on the arrow in
spiral fashion, was not often used.
pointed arrow without feathers nose-dived when shot. But
the knob-head arrow was often used without feathers, as
it was practical either way. Boys used the knobbed arrow
for practice and sports. Thirty arrows made a full quiver.
bows and arrows were used by boys at an early age. Their
bows usually were made of chokecherry wood. Tall Slough
grass, dried and cut to suitable lengths, served as arrows,
which were shot with the hard butts or joints against
the bow string.