This article covers everything you need to know about the Seneca bow and arrow. You will see what the Seneca bow was made from, how it was used, and what it was used for. We will also discuss the arrows the Seneca archers shot from their bows.
Now before we continue here is a short summary of the Seneca bow. What the Seneca bow was made from and what it was used for.
The Seneca bow was from 51″ to 61″ inches in length. It was made from hickory wood which was popular among Native American bowyers. The bowstring on the Seneca bow was made from twisted rawhide skin or animal sinew. As with other Native American bows, the Seneca bow was primarily used by the Seneca tribe for hunting and occasional warfare.
Now, that we got this short summary out of the way let’s get into more detail. But before we delve deeper into the actual bow and arrow used by the Seneca tribe. I’ll briefly describe the history of the people behind the bow.
If you came here just for the bow feel free to skip the overview and go straight to the breakdown of the Seneca bow. If not, then enjoy this short introduction to the history of people that used the Seneca bow.
A Brief Introduction To The Seneca Native Americans
So, who are the Seneca Native Americans? And where did they live?
Seneca Native Americans or “Onödowáʼga” (Great Hill People) as they called themselves are a tribe that inhabited the area of modern-day western New York and parts of Ohio. As a tribe, they were members of the Iroquois federation.
This was a collection of Native American tribes that joined together for their own protection. The Seneca first came into regular contact with the colonials through the lucrative fur trade. This inevitably leads to clashes with their neighbors and colonials as well. Conflicts in which the Seneca bow played a large role.
As was the case with the majority of tribes the Seneca were forced to relocate during the formative years of the United States of America.
So, now let’s proceed to the Seneca bow. What it was made from, and of course the dimensions of the Seneca bow.
Breakdown Of The Seneca Bow
Seneca bow was a self bow made of hickory. It was between 51″ to 61″ in length, depending on the size of the archer. The bow handle was an inch wide at its slimmest. The bowstring was made from a single-ply twisted rawhide skin or several strands of twisted animal sinew, with an overhand loop.
An intriguing part not found in many other Native American bows is that the handle had a brass tack to assist in consistent hand and arrow placement. Which was a clever aid for the archers as is described in this book.
The Unusual Part Of The Seneca Bow
In the History of Native American Archery, there are plenty of examples of bows being decorated by their owners. Seneca bows are no different. As you can see in the below picture some bows had bundles of feathers and red thongs tied to the bow.
How Was The Bow Used And What Was It Used For?
A widespread technique used by the Native Americans was the “instinctive way of shooting”. This meant they did not have a set anchor point. But rather drew their bow towards their chest and then fired the bow in a fluid motion. They relied on years of practice to hone their instincts and they got remarkably close to their targets.
This way of shooting was possible by the fact it was common to fire from shorter distances at the enemy or at wild animals. Those were the two main purposes of the bow as well. To hunt and provide for the tribe. And to fight off the enemies of the tribe.
Now, let’s proceed to the Seneca arrows. What their arrows were made of and how they looked.
Breakdown Of The Seneca Arrow
Seneca arrows had arrow shafts that were made from hickory much like their bows. They were fletched with two to three feathers using hawk tail feathers. And the arrows were 28 ½” to 33″ long.
When it comes to the arrowheads, they used blunt arrowheads made from wood, stone arrowheads, and even in rare cases iron arrowheads that were gained by trade with the colonizers.
As is the case with many other Native American bows arrowheads were attached to the arrow shaft with plant fibers.
Now, let’s move on to a brief description of the typical quiver used in the Seneca tribe.
Breakdown Of The Seneca Quiver
The average Seneca quiver was between 25″ to 26″. It was designed to almost cover the entire length of an average arrow, less a few inches. It was made from a hollowed branch with a wooden plug at the bottom.
The opening of the quiver was 3 ¼” wide. And they usually buckskin around the “mouth” of the quiver to stop the arrows from rattling. As you can imagine, a bunch of arrows rattling in the wild alerts either the animals or the enemy of the presence of a Seneca archer.
Which was not good.
Thank you for taking the time to read this article on the Seneca bow and arrow. It’s an addition to our series on Native American archery. And if you wish to continue with our series of articles on Native American bows I suggest you take a look at this article. It covers everything you should know about the Caddo bow and arrow.