Native American Weapons – Part 2
Knives were excellent tools, great for preparing food, skinning animals and making crafts. Obviously, they are also a very effective weapon. Early Native American knives were made from a sharpened stone, often flint or obsidian, with a handle made from either antler or bone. Later copper knives became very popular, particularly amongst the tribes of the North West Coast. As with the axe with the introduction of iron and steel the knives were more frequently made from this material, it was much harder and stronger than the previous copper models, though the design remained very similar.
Unlike most of the items here, as the name suggests, were only used for warfare. Native American war clubs came in all shapes and sizes. Wooden clubs were mostly used by woodland tribes; these were carved from one piece of wood often with a ball shape at the striking end. Some tribes added a spike to the ball for more lethal damage. Plains war clubs were similar but instead of carving a ball into the wood they attached a stone to the top using raw hide, sort of like a large hammer. Some clubs were carved entirely out of stone, though it is likely most of these were used for ceremonial purposes. It is thought that after seeing the way the Europeans used the butts of their guns as a melee weapon in battle, some tribes started using what’s called a ‘gunstock war club’. This is a club shaped like rifle with a metal point on the end, a bit like a spearhead. This was also said to have occasionally been used to fool enemies into thinking that warriors were armed with real guns.
The coup stick is part of a tradition in which warriors would strike a non-lethal blow against the enemy and escape unharmed. This would award a warrior with prestige amongst his tribe named a ‘coup’. The stick was usually a wooden rod with a curved end that was often decorated, usually with feathers, beads and quillwork.
A bolas is a simple weapon made from ropes tied together, each with a weighted end. These were used mainly for hunting, they would be swung round in a circle then launched at their target, wrapping around and trapping them. These weapons were used by North American tribes in the Stone Age but likely were phased out once the bow and arrow was adopted. They were still used widely by South American cultures for catching birds and for roping cattle.
Where war clubs were used only for war, blow darts were used solely for hunting. Usually for small-game, though some tribes like the Cherokee and the Seminole did use it to hunt birds as well. Most blowguns were made from a firm reed or a stick of hollowed out wood in which the hunter would blow the dart through at their intended prey. Again, this is a weapon used widely throughout South America where some did in fact use it in combat, usually with poison darts.