In a series of blogs on men’s weaponry on the plains, I will discuss several different weapons, beginning with perhaps the most well-known: the bow and arrow.
The bows were also powerful, as mentioned by Paul Kane in his travels. Of Nakoda bows and arrows, he wrote, “these they use with great dexterity and force; I have known an instance of the arrows passing through the body of an animal [buffalo], and sticking in the ground at the opposite side.”
To enable men to efficiently use bows and arrows from horseback (once horses were available), Plains bows and arrows are uniquely designed and constructed for mounted use. For maneuverability they are short (~42-48″), and often reflexed with a distinctive “gull-wing” profile that gives a short bow the maximum amount of power for its size. The bows are often further strengthened by being “sinew-backed.”The sinews of buffalo or elk are dried, pounded into fine threads, and glued to the back of the bow in layers using glue made from hide scrapings/sinew scraps mixed with water. This layering of sinew and glue has the effect of making the bow faster-shooting, more powerful, and sturdier against breakage (avg. draw-weight of 50-70 lbs). Some men would even go a step further by gluing rattlesnake skins over-top of the sinew backing, to protect the backing from the weather. Truly a weapon for any age, there are men from many of our Buffalo-Nations that continue to make and use our distinctive archery equipment of the Plains.
For more info on Plains Indian bows:
- [email protected] [Nakoda bow/arrow maker Ernest Gendron]
- https://www.facebook.com/lakotabows/ [Lakota bow/arrow maker Richard Giago]
- www.plainsindianbows.com/ [Chickasaw bow/arrow maker Eric Smith]
 Catlin, George. Letters and Notes on the Manners, Customs, and Condition of the North American Indians: Written During Eight Years’ Travel in 1832-1839. Vol. 1. Tilt and Bogue, 1842, p. 141-142.
 Kane, Paul. Wanderings of an Artist among the Indians of North America. Courier Corporation, 1996, p.96.