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.

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