This article details what a Sioux bow and arrow looked like. What it was made of. And how it was used. So by the time you finish this article, you will know all the important details about a Sioux bow and arrow.
Before we go into detail on the Sioux bow and arrow, here is a short summation.
Key facts about the Sioux bow:
- it was between 40 ½” to 47″ in length
- made from osage orange or hickory
- the bowstring was made from plant fibers or animal sinew
Or to put it in paragraph form:
A Sioux bow was between 40 ½” to 47″ in length, depending on the version. A Sioux bow was made using osage orange, whitewood, or hickory. The bowstring was made using plant-based fibers or more commonly animal sinew. The use of animal sinew on the bow itself was something that distinguished a Sioux bow from some other Native American bow designs.
After this short explanation, let’s delve deeper. We will even discuss a steel bow that was found and said to be used by the Sioux during the second half of the 19th century. And of course, we will discuss Sioux arrows and their quivers.
So, now let’s proceed with what a Sioux bow looked like, and its dimensions.
A Full Breakdown Of The Sioux Bow – Dimension And Everything
A Sioux bow was made using dosage orange, whitewood, or hickory. The use of these materials is quite common in Native American bowmaking. Since the vast majority of tribes in Northern America used them.
What the Sioux did, which was brilliant, was to reinforce their bows with sinew. This added elasticity and power to their bows. The practice was really common in the northern North American tribes but was not often used in the modern-day U.S.
So, reinforcing the bow handle and the bow tips with sinew was a smart call on their part.
Esthetics Of The Sioux Bow
Another thing to keep an eye out for is that these bows were decorated. Very decorated! Among the Native American bowmakers, there seems to have been an unofficial race of who can decorate their bows the most.
The Comanche bows were the ones that seem to have avoided that trend for the most part.
As you can see in the picture above the Sioux employed a purple green and yellow color scheme. And during the bow-making process, they rubbed particles of finely ground material on the back of the bow. This made the bows glitter in the sunlight.
So now, let’s proceed with the dimension of the Sioux bow.
Dimensions Of The Sioux Bow
A Sioux bow was 40 ½” long at the low end and could go all the way up to 47″ in some cases. The bow handle was 1 and one-sixteenth of an inch wide, while the bow tips were 3/8 of an inch wide.
A cool characteristic of Sioux bow tips, aside from the diamond nock is that they were rather thin. This translates to higher arrow speeds.
Now, that we went over Sioux bows, let’s discuss Sioux arrows. What they were made of, how they looked, and of course their dimensions.
Breakdown Of The Sioux Arrows
Sioux arrows ranged in length from 25 and 3/8″ of an inch all the way up to 27 inches and one-sixteenth. They were made using the wild rose shaft for an arrow shaft. The fletchings were made using hawk tails and turkey feathers. While the arrowheads were in fact made from iron and in some cases steel.
Hold on! I know what you must be thinking “steel and iron arrowheads”? Yes. It would seem so. This is not unprecedented. What happened in the territories of the modern-day U.S. was that the Natives did a lot of trade with the colonies.
They were exposed to iron and steel. The colonizers, seeing that they were into steel and iron arrowheads were happy to supply them.
But before any of that happened the Sioux likely used the same arrowhead material as the other Native tribes. Flint and/or Obsidian rocks. By the process of flintknapping, they were able to chisel away some nice-looking arrowheads.
As it is stated in the Encyclopedia of Native American Archery Vol. 2 the Sioux used animal sinew for attaching the arrowheads and feathers to the arrow shaft. This was a common practice among the Natives.
The Colors Of The Sioux Arrows
The Sioux arrows were in fact colored to a great extent. They were painted in a combination of red and green. In some cases, even the feathers themselves were of alternate colors.
So why did they do that?
This actually served a clear purpose. By marking your arrows you could see if it were your arrows that hit the animal or someone else’s from your tribe. Or in the grassy plains of North America, having arrows that were brightly colored meant it was much harder to lose them. Not impossible, just less likely.
Now, let us take a look at the next piece of their archery equipment.
Sioux bows were made from buckskin. Like with most Native American quivers. The quiver itself was usually 27″ in length. Attached to it they had a bow case. This was a pouch in which they stored their bows while traveling on foot.
The bow case was usually between 36 and 41 inches. Less than the actual bow, but that didn’t matter. The purpose of the case wasn’t to cover the bow completely. Just to make it easier for the archer to transport their bow.
Now, that we broke down the Sioux bow and arrow, and even their quivers. Let’s take a look at what purpose they used the bow for.
What Did The Sioux Use Their Bows For?
Much like with the other Native American tribes, the Sioux used their bows primarily for hunting. That was the main purpose of the bow. And when it came to occasional warfare against the colonies or amongst themselves they sadly used the bow for that as well.
The Weirdest Sioux Bow You Have Ever Seen
I have seen no records of it being used in action. But, apparently, it was found in December of 1866 in Peno Creek, Johnson County, Wyoming. Apparently, that was after a battle in which the Natives participated.
It is a weird-looking bow, not just because of the material but also because it’s just shy of 40″ in length with 38 and a half inches.
No records of it being used in an actual battle. But if it was cool enough to end up in an Encyclopedia about bows its cool enough to end up in my article.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. Hopefully, you learned something new regarding the Sioux bow and arrows. If you wish to learn more I highly recommend ordering Encyclopedia of Native American Archery from Amazon. It’s a great book.
And if you wish to continue reading for free about native American bows then I recommend reading an article on the Shawne bow and arrow by clicking here.
Or feel free to check out an article on the often misunderstood “Iroquois”, you get to see all the different types of bows and arrows they had and what they were made of. Simply click here to learn more.