Exploring Three Most Common Native American Weapons of War

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Exploring Three Most Common Native American Weapons of War

Warfare was a normal part of the lives of Native Americans. In fact, tribal wars were not uncommon and each tribe has their own unique customs, traditions and beliefs. It’s also not surprising that American Indian weapons are among the most common artifacts we can find today.

So, what were the weapons used by Native Indians? Here are three most common American Indian weapons.

  1. Bows and arrows

When you talk about American Indian weapons, the first thing that comes to mind are bows and arrows. And that’s for good reason, since these are easily available in their surroundings. These weapons are also not only used for wars, they are also useful in hunting. Native Americans are particularly good in using bows and arrows. Some of the earliest arrowheads date back to almost 13,000 years which were primarily used for hunting.

The regular bows are usually made of wood but some composite bows used layers of sinew and animal horn. These composite bows are more powerful and are able to shoot long distance and had more impact. Some tribes preferred short bows, particularly tribes who herded horses, while the other used long bows. The bowstrings are made of yucca and other plant fibers. The arrows were made of wood with flint or other hard stones as arrowheads. Other tribes used bone or copper as arrowheads. Arrows without arrowhead (only sharpened tip) were used mainly for hunting. One distinct feature of arrows from Inuit and other polar tribes is that they didn’t have feather fletching. Most American Indian arrows are fletched with feathers for more accuracy.

  1. Knives

You can’t compare the Native American knives with the modern survival knives reviewed here at AskLancelot.com. Native Indians used stone, such as flint, obsidian, and flint, as main material for their knives. They sharpened the edges of these stones. It’s amazing because they didn’t have any knife sharpener like these: http://asklancelot.com/best-knife-sharpeners/. They used hard, stone materials for sharpening knives. Tribes in the Northwest Coast are particularly adept metalworkers. They were able to produce copper, steel and iron knives that were stronger, harder and sharper. Meanwhile, the Inuit and other Eskimo had uniquely shaped knives (known as ulu) made from ivory, copper and bone for their knives.

To the Native Americans, knives were a weapon of last resort. However, they had many uses such as making crafts, prepare food, build igloos, and slaughter animals.

  1. Spears

Dating back to the ancient times, spears were very much common just like bows and arrows. Spears served like missiles that are launched using specialized equipment called atlatls (throwing board or spear-throwers). They are a powerful weapon that had better range compared to the arrows. Native Americans used spears and atlatls against the conquistadors and early European conquerors. According to the accounts of the Europeans, spears propelled from the atlatl were capable of penetrating chain mail armor thus slowing their military campaign.

The spears were made from lightweight wood with sharpened bone or stone as spearheads. Most spears were fletched with feathers just like arrows. However, North American tribes, such as Plains Indian tribes, used melee spear also referred as a lance. With the taming of horses and introduction to warfare, these war lances became ever more useful weapons particularly for mounted warriors. Meanwhile, the Inuit and Northwest tribes used harpoons for hunting large animals such as elephants, walruses and even whales. These weapons (harpoons) are not like the regular spears because they were heavier and are attached to cords made of sealskin. This allowed the hunters to reel the game in.

Aside from these three traditional weapons, different Native American tribes are adept at using other tools such as war clubs, axes and tomahawks, swords, coup sticks, and bolas. Their arsenal of weapons for hunting is also used for wars which gives them a fairly large collection to choose from.

Did Native Americans Ever Played Games?

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Did Native Americans Ever Played Games?

The answer is yes.

I’ve been hearing this same question for quite a long time now from both kids and adults interested about the Native American’s way of life. And many are still surprised when they learn that our ancestors actually know how to play games.

Traditional games were part of their ancient traditions and culture. But unlike modern sporting events, ancient games played by Native Americans had many purposes.

They strengthened the body and spirit through exercise as well as brought the community together. They helped instill values such as endurance, fairness and patience, as well as skills that they need in life.

Games were essential to our ancestors, such that, they were participated not only by children but also by adults and youth. Every member of the tribe is actually involved in sports, either as spectator or as an athlete. And it proved to be practical as it helped sharpen their survival skills and reinforce group cooperation. Traditional sports also maintained the warriors’ combat skills and readiness. They helped keep the tribe healthy and fit, and thrive in their harsh environment.

3 Native American games we still see today

As you can see, games were not only a past-time of our ancestors. They are an integral part of their everyday lives. But while Native Americans had a lot of physical and chance games, there are virtually no traditional games that are still being played today. However, there are three modern sporting events that have a close semblance or have originated from traditional Native American games.

  1. Stickball

What we now know as lacrosse actually originated from a Native game, stickball. The forerunner of lacrosse has a very basic rule which is to move the ball down the field using only their sticks. A score is made when you are able to hit the opposing team’s goal posts with the ball. They used a hoop with an inner web-like mesh to catch the ball made of indigenous material. The players also made their own sticks. There were no lacrosse racquets, which now look more like the badminton rackets reviewed at https://peakstriker.com/.

Unlike modern lacrosse, stickball can have up to hundreds of players to a team and with the playing field spanning for miles. Aside from being a physical event, it was also a spiritual event and is thought to heal the sick. Different ceremonials rituals come along with the game – and some of which still remain evident with modern lacrosse.

  1. Chunkey (Hoop and Pole)

Different Native American tribes played unique versions of hoop and pole. In this traditional game, the teams roll along the ground a hoop with inner web-like mesh. The players (usually boys) will then attempt to pierce it using an arrow shot from a bow or a spear. The teams then take turns shooting the hoop. This hoop looks more like a tennis racquet. You can view one here at Peak Striker.com to visualize it.

Every time an arrow or bow hits the hoop, the team gets another chance to shoot. The game ends when one team runs out of spear or bow. This Native game helped sharpen their hunting skills.

The mechanics of Hoop and Pole is still being played today, such as in archery, darts and similar sporting events, as well as, in some children’s games.

  1. Pasuckuakohowog

This Native American game has been played as early as the 17th century and translates to “they gather to play ball with the foot.” It is akin to soccer or football. The Algonquin and Powhatan tribes were among its early players. Their playing field measured about half mile wide and had two goals that were one mile apart. For the ball, they used tightly wound animal hides or leather. Similar with modern soccer, the basic rule was to get the ball to the other team’s goal without using hands and primarily the feet. But unlike modern soccer that is less physical, Pasuckuakohowog is played in a violent and aggressive manner.

This ancient version of soccer was not a very nice sport with some players often retiring with serious injuries or broken bones. It can have up to a thousand players in one game. It can get chaotic and more likely symbolize warfare. However, it was culturally significant as it kept the warriors in shape and ready. There was also a celebratory feast after each game.

From stickball to Pasuckuakohowog, sporting events have played a vital part in the Native American culture!

Native American tracking skills

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Native American tracking skills

Living in harmony with nature means knowing how to follow her sings. Native Americans knew it, and they had developed orientation skills. They knew to predict weather conditions by the look of the clouds in the sky or to predict a natural disaster by the animal behavior. The hunt was an integral part of their lives, and it is quite logical that they have developed remarkable skills in tracking wildlife. If you are involved in hunting, probably you are using them to reach your prey.

One of the ways to get to the prey is to follow tracks on the ground. It takes a lot of practice and focuses to notice them, especially where there is plenty of other evidence on the ground. When you see an animal footprint, you need to know to which animal it belongs to. Simply, they are not all animals valuable for hunting. The Indians know much about animal tracks. They would first assess their size and whether the footprint originated from paws or hooves. Then, they would count the number of fingers and look for traces of nails. By the shape and size of the paws, they were able to assume which animal made footprints.

Finding traces is not the same thing as finding wild animals. Today, every hunter carries a good rangefinder, with which can observe the environment and see is there some wild animal around. The Indians had to find some other way to get to the animals – to monitor their movements tracking  the marks on the ground. The way the wild animals leave a trail meant a lot in the detection of animals. The diagonal pattern of tracks is characteristic for animals that move the front left and rear right leg at the same time (like a deer). Pacer pattern indicates that it is an animal that moves both limbs on the left and on the right side at the same time (like bears). Animals that jump also leave specific traces. All this can be recognized, and the man can determine the direction in which the animal has gone.

Besides the footprints, the animals leave other traces. Big animals can break branches passing through their trajectory. A careful eye of Indians would not miss that. There are also traces in the form of animal feces, or in the form of food that has been dropped. Some animals leave their mark with their way of eating -tips of the plants that are eaten and the like. A good tracker will know to distinguish the fresh broached plant from the one eaten before a few days. Also, it will recognize the freshness of other marks. In this way, they will know whether they are on the right track to reach the prey.

To get a catch, the Native Americas had to know a lot about nature and its inhabitants. They supposed to know where are their habitats, where they sleep, where they like to eat and where to hide, to find all the marks they leave and to recognize their external anatomy. It’s a survival skill that all people once had.

Popular Native American Bird Legends

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Popular Native American Bird Legends

When looking at Native American mythology, we see that birds are an important part of it. This is because these creatures generally are messengers and deliver the message of the Almighty and even humans as pigeons have been proven to be used for communication in the past, several of these considered war heroes today. They also allow the interaction between the spirit and the human realm. Moreover, throughout varying Native American tribes, we see that birds feature as clan animals.

It is commonly observed that several important clans are associated with particular bird types – for instance the Raven and Eagle Clan. Besides this, there also exist specific Bird Clans throughout quite many tribes, for instance Creek tribe’s Bird Clan. It is also essential to note that the majority of tribes present throughout the Northwest Coast keep birds as their essential clan crest. And that they are usually engraved on totem poles.

In light of all of this, here is a look at some popular Native American bird legends:

The Bittern Folklore

The “bittern” terminology originates from Old French and does not feature Native American roots at all. Although you should note that “sun-gazer” comes as a translation of it throughout varying Native American languages.

By doing a careful analysis of the Native American mythology, it can be seen that bitterns fail to play any major role in it. Also, in many tribes (like Blackfoot), bitterns are related with the factors of rain as well as water. Throughout Native American art, a specific silhouette of a bittern is often utilized as a figure for water, thereby clearly showing its association with the element. Also, in several flood stories, it has been mentioned that bittern aided in order to conclude the Great Flood, and they did so by consuming flood waters which they later on spew out in river form.

In some of the Native American cultures, bitterns were utilized as animals of the clans. Here, Chippewa was a well-known tribe that featured a Bittern Clan.

The Blackbird Folklore

Throughout a range of Plains Indian cultures, blackbirds are recognized as a sign of corn. Due to this factor, they are considered sacred in quite a few contexts. By doing a careful analysis of the Mandans and Arikara mythology, it is found that blackbirds serve as the Corn Mother. It is held as a belief by quite many Sioux individuals that whenever blackbirds’ flocks consumed their crops, this was merely a form of price they have to pay because they failed in honoring the corn appropriately. Throughout the rituals of Arapaho Sun Dance,the blackbird medicine is utilized. Furthermore, blackbirds are considered by the Hopi as among the guardians that are related with the underworld.

In quite a number of Native American cultures, blackbirds are utilized as clan animals as well. Here, the Chickasaw is a prominent tribe that features Blackbird Clan. Besides this, the Blackbird Dance is a tradition of the Chumash.

The Bluebird Folklore

Throughout the traditions of several Native American culture, bluebirds stand as an essential nature spirit. Additionally, in many tribes, bluebird is a sign representing spring. As per the famous Iroquois mythology, because of the bluebird’s singing, Tawiscaron (a demigod representing winter) was driven off. The Cherokees relate bluebirds with the wind. It is also believed that they forecast (and can also regulate) weather. The sun was related with bluebirds by the tribe of Navajo. Moreover, throughout various tribes of Pueblo, it was considered that bluebird was actually Sun’s son.

In quite a number of Native American cultures, bluebirds were utilized as clan animals. Some of the tribes that featured Bluebird Clans are Navajo, Hopi and Pueblo. Among them, Navajo features a special Bluebird song which is in fact part of their Native American music traditions.

The Blue Jay Folklore

In reference to the bluejay, it is observed that several Native American tribes view them negatively. This is primarily due to their aggressive actions. By studying legends, it can be seen that bluejays are represented as a self-centered and bullying thief. It is also important to note that in quite a number of Northwestern tribes, the representation of bluejay is of a trickster, which is still self-centered and greedy,but here it is also clever and caring towards mankind. There are relatively very few tribes that feature bluejay as a clan animal, one of which is the Hopi.

The Buzzard Folklore

In the majority of Native American tribes, buzzard are looked at negatively. Few tribes also relate it with death. Besides this, several are of the view that watching buzzards take a flight should be taken as a sign of either strife or danger. By studying Native American legends, it can be found that buzzard is generally showcased as a trouble creator that frequently cheats and lies. It also stores up precious resources that otherwise deserve to be spread across the masses. Buzzard also utilizes its massive size in order to bully others.

Even despite all the negativity that surrounds it, buzzard still occupies a respected place among various other clan animals – at least in few cultures. The buzzard clans are present in tribes such as the Miami and Menominee.

The Crane Folklore

Generally, cranes are viewed in a positive note. Great numbers of Native American tribes associate them with good fortune. Additionally, it is important to note that the native fishermen used to consider crane as a good sign – this during their fishing campaigns. It is commonly observed that crane is a peacemaker. And in others, it is also prominent due to its vanity. Cranes were a symbol that showcased good speaking skills as well as leadership – this as per the Anishinabe tribes. Besides this, the Cheyennes connected lightning with sandhill cranes.

Few Native American cultures utilized cranes as clan animals, these are the Chippewa and the Zuni. A few of Northwest Coast tribes also adopted crane as an essential clan crest. This is even more evident from the fact that it was engraved on quite a number of totem poles. The Chumash as well as the Creeks also featured a Crane Dance within their dance traditions.

How Native American Indians Celebrated Winter Solstice?

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How Native American Indians Celebrated Winter Solstice?

North American Indians have a legendary environmental wisdom and spirituality. They seemed to know when winter will come, when summer rains will start, when to hunt for specific animal species, and even when a storm is coming. They were very observant of the things that happen in their surroundings.

And since nature directly impacted their life, their cultural beliefs and traditions were also very much rooted in nature. Changes in season determined the time for sowing of crops, bearing of fruits, mating of animals, migration of birds, and basically their survival. One of the astronomic events that directly impacted their life is winter solstice.

winter-solstice-fireModern winter solstice traditions would usually include going on a ski trip or looking for a jacket or ski clothing and accessories. As soon as winter comes near, you’d likely start reading reviews about mountain skis from websites such as this WinterNinja.com.

But thousands of years ago, traditions were different. Native Americans celebrated winter solstice for far deeper and more significant reasons. For the ancient civilization, this astronomic event marked a time of change and renewal. It marked the New Year. It signified life.

It was difficult to survive through the cold months so winter solstice was celebrated with much fanfare. Cattles were slaughtered at this time of the year. Although it was mainly for practical reasons since the cattle couldn’t be kept alive through winter, the tradition has become a much-celebrated, spiritual event. It is also the only time of the year when the tribe can feast over fresh meat. Further, the winter solstice marked the return of the sun to the sky, which many tribes consider as sun god or a sign of rebirth and renewal.

Different tribes celebrate different traditions to mark the winter solstice. The Navajo ceremonies involve memorizing prayers, songs and arts. A Medicine Man leads the tribe in singing the Night Chant. The doctor priest is someone who has undergone years of apprenticeship and has mastered the complicated and detailed practices of the chant.

The Hopi, one of the many Pueblo tribes, celebrates a festival called the Soyaluna or Prayer-Offering Ceremony on December 22. They use a symbolic black Plumed Snake which signifies new life. This tradition is one of the most sacred ceremonies of the tribe and is celebrated to wish each other good health and prosperity for the New Year.

Each Iroquois tribe celebrated winter solstice a little differently. Some tribes slept early “to dream”. These tribes believed that Mother Night reigns the earth and walks through their dream to send message. At dawn, every tribe member is gathered to relate what their visions were. For some Iroquois tribes, this time of the year signified the start of the spiritual year and is a time to choose new council members. They also gave names to all children born that year during the winter solstice.

Today, we also celebrate winter solstice in many different ways. For the younger generations, gift-giving such as a nice winter ski or any other gift has become a common tradition during Christmas (a Christian celebration that coincides with winter solstice). And although winter solstice traditions have greatly changed over time, one thing has remained– it’s a time of thanksgiving.

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