In this article, you will get to see everything about Cherokee bows and arrows. What the Cherokee bow and arrow were made of and why they were predominantly used for.
So, strap yourself in, and let us proceed with a short definition of a Cherokee bow and what it was made of.
Key facts about the Cherokee bow:
- They are up to 63″ in length
- Made from hickory or osage orange
- The bowstring was made from plant fibers or animal skin
Or to put it in paragraph form.
Cherokee bows are selfbows used and produced by the Cherokee Native Americans. They are up to 63″ in length and made from wood such as osage orange or bodark wood, or hickory. For the bowstring, the Cherokee bows use plant fibers or animal skin. This is just one of the ways the Cherokee bow differs from other Native American bows as you will see in a moment.
This was a short introduction to the Cherokee bow. Now let’s go into detail. The following segments discuss in more detail what the Cherokee bow and arrow were made of and how they were used.
The Breakdown Of The Cherokee Bow
As you can see the above picture shows you in an easy format what the Cherokee bow was made of. So, now let’s go through each part.
Cherokee bows were larger than most Native American bows. Far longer than Comanche bows for example. They were up to 63 inches in length. This length was needed because these were selfbows that were rarely reinforced with any kind of sinew.
Meaning, to produce the force required to shoot an arrow at respectable distances you needed a slightly longer bow. So, a slightly larger size is something that makes the Cherokee bow unique among the Native tribes.
What else is unique?
The Cherokee Bowstring
The bowstring on a Cherokee bow was made predominantly using plant fiber or in some cases skin of animals such as squirrels or groundhogs. This stands in contrast to the vast majority of other Native American bows we’ve discussed.
While the use of plant fibers for bowstrings was common in some tribes, animal sinew was a clear favorite. With the Cherokee on the other hand, the plant fiber was far more common, and using the skin of animals was definitely not common for other Native American bows.
So, the Cherokee were unique in this regard.
As you can see in the picture. The bow tips had a diamond nock carving, this held the bowstring loops at each end of the bowstring.
Wood Used For Cherokee Bows
Cherokee bows were made using Bodark or Osage Orange. This type of wood was extremely common for bow-making among other Native Americans.
Breakdown Of The Cherokee Arrow
The Cherokee arrow had several main components. Starting from left to right of the picture above.
The fletching on the Cherokee arrow was made from turkey feathers. Three turkey feathers were glued to the arrow shaft using tree sap, then wrapped to the arrow shaft using animal sinew. The process of wrapping the feathers to the arrow shaft using sinew was very common among the Native American arrows.
The Cherokee arrow shaft was made using the most common light available they had around. So the Cherokee used rivercane and dogwood for arrow shafts. While dogwood was in use among many other Native tribes for arrow shafts.
The Cherokee Arrowhead was made using rocks such as flint. By using the process of flintknapping the Cherokee bowyer managed to chip away small flicks of flint rock and shape them into perfectly sized arrowheads.
These were glued to the arrow shaft using pine sap and then wrapped with deer sinew. This was the standard with the Cherokee arrows.
How Did The Cherokee Use Their Bow?
In this particular segment, we will take a look at two things. How the Cherokee drew their bow. And secondly what they used the bow for.
What Kind Of Draw Did The Cherokee Use?
The Cherokee used a three-finger draw very similar to the modern-day Mediterranian draw. The index, middle, and ring fingers were placed under the arrow on the bowstring. While the thumb pinched the arrow.
It looked like this.
This is very different from some of the other Native American tribes that used a variant of the thumb draw.
Why The Cherokee Used Bow And Arrow
The main purpose of using the bow and arrow was to hunt. Providing food for their families and their tribe was the main purpose of using the bow and arrow. Secondarily, was warfare.
Occasionally the tribes waged war amongst themselves and against the settlers using all sorts of weapons. Which of course involved extensive use of the bow and arrow. But what other weapons did the Cherokee Indians use?
The weapons the Cherokee Natives used were:
- the bow and arrow
- war clubs
Thank you for taking the time to read this article on the Cherokee bow and arrow. There is a wealth of information on the Cherokee people and their customs on the Cherokee Nation youtube channel. Press/click on the link in the last sentence to learn more.
After you check that out feel free to continue learning about Native American Archery by reading an article on the Apache Bow and Arrow by clicking here. You will also see why there are several different versions of the Apache bow.
And if you wish feel free to check this article where I discuss the bow-making of the Shawnee tribe of North America.
Again, thank you for reading, and see you at the next one.