EAA Research Consultant
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Route 66
Rajesh, I am grateful for the opportunity to learn more about these American Indian weapons, and while I am constantly travelling through these very regions, I have been remiss in not learning more before.
In more research last night, I found the following which although pertaining to the Sioux tribes, certainly may be applied more broadly to Plains tribal situations in general. It is from a paper for the 'Academy of Science'
"War Clubs of the Sioux Indians"
and I hope will serve in our archived corpus of material for future research as well as insight into this particular case involving these weapons.
"...the most formidable war club was the one adopted about 1850 with a stone head and wooden handle Indeed a blow from one of these struck by a strong Indian, would crush the skull of most animals. They were made, however, primarily for warfare. That these stone head clubs were not made, prior to the period mentioned is proven by the fact that practically none are found in the territory occupied by the Sioux. This writer has never found one and has collected extensively along the Minnesota, Blue Earth and Wantonwan rivers of southern Minnesota where the Sioux lived for many years before coming into Dakota territory. A very few have been found in South Dakota, but the small number indicates that they were made only within a short period.
Why was the stone head adopted at this late date? Was it possible that the Sioux had no need of such a weapon of warfare until changes brought about by the readjustment of Indian affairs made it necessary to adopt it? The evidence shows that the period of activity of manufacture of the stone heads was during the 1870s and early part of the 1880s. This was the time of unrest, or rather when the Sioux made the last effort for supremacy over the whites. Nevertheless, historically, war clubs with stone heads are not old; practically all were made between 1850 and 1890. It may be said that they were the work of the last generation.
These stone heads were made from hard material, usually granite or quartzite The type form is double cone, varying to egg shape, but always with a groove around the middle in which the handle was fastened.
The stone head war club averaged about two pounds in weight. It was attached to a wooden handle about 20 inches in length. These handles were small. When they were shaped to the proper size, one end was split and half of it removed , leaving enough of the other half to reach around the groove and extend a few inches down the handle, which was then wrapped with green rawhide, the leather extending around the wood in the groove. When dried, the rawhide shrank and the handle was fastened on securely.
As with most native implements the war clubs were more or less decorated.This was usually done with three or four eagle feathers or a cluster of painted hair from the tail of a horse, fastened at one or both ends. Frequently the handle was decorated with beads or porcupine quills.
The fact should be emphasized that we must not confuse the Sioux war clubs with the grooved stone mauls found so abundantly over the northwest prairie states. The latter will average five or six pounds in weight, are differently shaped, and are a distant implement made by an earlier inhabitant.
Many fake or imitation stone head war clubs have been made since 1890 out of soft material, as pipestone, gypsum and sandstone.
Clubs made in earlier times were mostly for ceremonial or decorative purposes, while those made after 1850 were for warfare. ".
The reason I wanted to add this excerpted material from this important paper here is that it gives a unique overview regarding these very weapons written in an anthropological perspective in key seminal times in these studies.
It must be remembered that in 1920, new interest had been rekindled toward the American Indian, and actually many interviews and studies were accomplished with surviving members of these tribes who had actually been at historic events of earlier times. For the first time even warriors who had been at the Little Big Horn gave their own recollections of the event as recounted in "The Custer Myth".
Returning to the item posted here, while not made in exactly the same method as the stone war clubs described here, it does seem to have enough of the character to suggest it was probably made by a Native American individual following the manner used for actual weapons.
It may likely be 'reservation period' and produced for ceremonial or perhaps dance use, but as noted, certainly has its own ethnographic value as such.