View Single Post
Old 8th September 2007, 02:28 AM   #16
Jim McDougall
EAA Research Consultant
Jim McDougall's Avatar
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Route 66
Posts: 6,694

Hi Fearn,
That is good information and the placement of a mark to indicate draw length seems logical, but the use of colored bands or markings to identify either tribe or individual is more what I'm trying to locate.

I found this referenced from "Plenty Coups: Chief of the Crows" (Frank Bird Linderman, 2002) ;
"...all arrowheads were marked...the men of the tribe knew each others arrows by the marks".

"...the marking of arrows was not only individual, but tribal. The Crows call the Cheyenne 'the striped feather arrows' because of the barred feathers of the wild turkey usedon thier arrow shafts. Even the sign name for the Cheyenne was conceived from these feathers. It is made by drawing the right index finger several times across the left, as though making marks on it. "

Also, supporting the concept of claiming fallen game, James H. Howard in "The Ponca Tribe" (1995) writes, " was a custom of the Ponca tribe for each gens to have its peculiar manner of marking arrows, so there should be no dispute in hunting as to the gens to which a fatal arrow belonged. This mark did not interfere with a mans private mark".

It seems that in hunting at least, a warriors arrow markings may have been of more than one symbol, color or feature with both a tribal significance and a personal one, and these may have been used concurrently. In varied reading it is noted that points for hunting were typically quite different than for warfare and were quite blunt. I believe one note suggested that arrows were painted red for war, and obviously considerable application of paint to everything from the warrior himself to his weapons and horse were marked and or painted. Clearly the now cliche' term 'war paint' was well placed.

The marking of arrows for the purpose of claiming credit or personal triumph in battle seems to have quite ancient origins as I recall reading in one archaeological source (I believe in early Middle Eastern topic) that the arrowheads of warriors were marked for such purpose. It does not seem however that Native American tribes ever used any type of marking for arrows for war, and the points themselves would be the primary means of identification. This was of course complicated by the common use of the iron points acquired in trade.

These references are good indications supporting the general practice of the marking of arrows, but it would be great to find specific examples and instances that can be assigned to particular tribes.

Excellent reference to the fascinating case of Ishi, the last living member the Yahi tribe, found in 1911. Apparantly it was quite amazing to anthropologists that he could fashion obsidian arrowheads very quickly in the same manner probably done some 10,000 years before. His remains were buried with five arrows among other items, and it would be interesting to learn more from the studies on Ishis arrowheads done by Shackley. It is indicated that the method used by Ishi showed influence of Wintu and Nomalki tribes, enemies of the Yahi.

Best regards,
Jim McDougall is offline   Reply With Quote