Native American weaponry
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Native American Weaponry were used by Native Americans to hunt and to do battle with other Native American tribes. Native American weaponry can be grouped into 5 classifications: Striking Weapons, Cutting Weapons, Piercing Weapons, Defensive Weapons, and Symbolic Weapons.
Native Americans used many variations of striking weapons. These weapons were mainly used as melee weapons for close range battle with other tribes. In some cases these weapons were used as throwing weapons for long range attacks.
- Stone clubs were made from a stone attached to a wooden handle. The most common stone types that were used for stone clubs were chert and flint. There were also variations of stone clubs where tribes would carve the club out of a solid piece of stone, instead of just attaching a stone to a wooden handle. However there are indications that most of these solid stone clubs were used for ceremonial purposes, instead of actual battle.
- Wooden clubs were commonly used by the woodland tribes. The clubs were carved from a solid piece of hard wood, like the wood from a mesquite, similarly to the stone clubs that were carved from a solid piece of stone. The earlier forms of wooden clubs were carved in the form of a ball at the end of a handle, but later forms were often sharpened, more resembling a wooden sword. Some forms had a sharp stone shard driven into the end of the club, almost like an axe.
- The gunstock war club was mostly made from wood, but had a metal blade, like a spear point, attached to the end of the club. The club was shaped like the stock of a 18th-century musket. The design of these gunstock clubs were directly influenced by the firearms that the European settlers used. There are two possible reasons for creating clubs in these shapes: the Native Americans were impressed with how well the settlers used the ends of their firearms as striking weapons or the Native Americans wanted to intimidate other tribes by giving the impression that they had firearms of their own.
- The war hatchet is very similar in design to a battle axe and was influenced by the axes that the European settlers used. The hatchet consisted of a sharpened blade, made from iron or stone, attached to the end of a handle.
- The pipe tomahawk was a type of war hatchet that was also a smoking pipe. Tomahawks were used for close combat like most striking weapons, but were also popular throwing weapons. With time, the pipe tomahawk became more ceremonial and was used more as a pipe than as a weapon. They also use the for skinning animals.
Cutting Weapons were used by the Native Americans for combat as well as hunting. They did not use long cutting weapons, like the swords that the Europeans used at the time. The Native Americans preferred shorter blades.
- Knives were used as tools for hunting and other chores than as a weapon. Knives consisted of a blade made of stone, bone or deer antlers, fastened to a wooden handle. Later, Native American knives were also made from steel or iron, following the European Settlers' weapon making influences.
- Native Americans always carried a knife with them, either in a sheath on their belts or in a sheath around their neck. They often used beads, feathers and paint to decorate their sheaths with Native American symbols. Skinning animals was easy because they used the knife.
Bow and arrows where used in hunting, and would shoot into the animal.
Piercing weapons consisted of short range, hand-to-hand weapons, as well as long range weapons. Piercing were used for hunting and for combat.
- Spears were used by the Native Americans to thrust and strike their enemies or the animals they were hunting. The spears were made of a short blade (spear tip), made from stone, attached to the end of long wooden handle or shaft. Some variations did not even have a stone spear tip. Instead the wooden shaft was simply sharpened at one end. By throwing them, spears could also be used as long range weapons.
- Lances were very similar to spears, but were designed specifically for use on horseback. Lances had longer shafts and spear tips than spears. This gave the user a further reach, allowing him to stab an enemy from the top of a horse.
- Atlatl, or spear-throwers, are long range weapons that were used by Native Americans to throw spears, called darts, with more power and accuracy. The Atlatl is made from a hollowed out shaft with a cup at the end that holds that dart in place and to propel it forward. The thrower's throwing arm is extended, allowing for more leverage than throwing with the hand. This allows the dart to be thrown with more velocity.
- Bows and Arrows were used by most cultures around the world at some point or another and are at least 8000 years old. The arrow is created, similarly to a spear, from a small blade (arrow tip) attached to the one end of a wooden shaft. Attached to the other end of the shaft are feathers that helps stabilize the arrow's flight. An arrow is overall smaller than a spear and much lighter. The bow is made from an arced piece of flexible material, such as wood, bone or horn, with the two ends attached by a tautly spun cord. The arrow is drawn back with the cord. When the cord is let go it acts as a spring and shoots the arrow forward.
Some Native American tribes carried shields into battle for extra protection. These shields were mostly made from leather stretched across a round wooden frame.
- War shields had the main purpose of stopping the smaller projectiles, such as arrows, and redirecting the larger projectiles such as spears. These shields were mostly carried by the men on horseback. These shields were made from buffalo neck leather, and often had more than one layer of leather over one another.
Many of the weapons that the Native Americans used had symbolic uses, rather than practical uses.
- Medicine shields look similar to war shields, but unlike war shields, that are meant to give the carrier physical protection, the medicine shield is meant to give the carrier spiritual protection. Because these shields do not have to fend off physical attacks, they are built much thinner and lighter than the war shields. The medicine shields are often decorated by many symbols that represent the spiritual strength within the carrier.
- Taylor, pp. 6-9.
- Taylor, pp. 12-13.
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- Alchin, p. Gunstock Club.
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- McEvoy H, pp. 106-107.
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- Waldman, p. 335.
- Weir, p. 15.
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- Taylor, pp. 100-101.
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