Native American Weapons

Native Americans used weapons for hunting, fighting against other indigenous tribes, and later the Europeans.
Native Americans used weapons for hunting, fighting against other indigenous tribes, and later the Europeans.

Native Americans once used weapons for hunting and for war. These weapons were created and used for one of five reasons: striking, piercing, cutting, defense, and symbolism. This article takes a look at some of the most common weapons used by Native American tribes.

10. Bows And Arrows -

Bows and arrows have existed for at least 8,000 years and offer long range reach. The arrow has a small, sharp tip attached to a wooden shaft with a slit at the end. The bow is an arced piece of material, like wood or bone, with a cord attaching the two ends. The split in the arrow is fitted over the cord, pulled back, and released in order to shoot the arrow toward its target.

9. Atlatl -

The atlatl, another piercing weapon, is a tool used to throw spears with accuracy. It is a hollowed out tube with a container at one end. This cup holds the spear. The length of the shaft gives the thrower more speed.

8. Lancets -

Lances are very similar to spears, however, are much longer. The tip of the lance is also bigger than that found on the spear. The size allowed Native Americans to use them while riding horses.

7. Spears -

Spears are fashioned from a long shaft or pole-shaped material, usually wood. One end was either sharpened into a point or attached to a sharp, stone tip. Native Americans could throw the spears to reach long distances or thrust them into animals or enemies.

6. Knives -

Knives were an important cutting tool for Native Americans. The oldest of these were made of a wooden handle and a stone or bone blade. The blades were always short. After the arrival of Europeans, the blades were made of steel or iron. Knives could be used for killing animals or preparing food.

5. Pipe Tomahawk -

The pipe tomahawk was both a hatchet type weapon as well as a pipe for smoking. They were made of a hollow handle with an axe-like blade and tobacco holding chamber on one end. Indigenous peoples could use these for hand-to-hand combat or as throwing weapons. Over time, the pipe tomahawk became a ceremonial instrument used principally for smoking.

4. War Hatchet -

A war hatchet is a small axe-like weapon. In fact, its design was based on European axes. A short wooden handle held a sharpened iron or stone blade.

3. Gunstock War Club -

The gunstock war club was created after the arrival of European settlers. It was designed after the shape of an 18th century musket. Researchers suggest that Native Americans imitated the weapon after watching Europeans use their guns for striking enemies. Once the tribes learned how powerful guns were, the gunstock war club became popular due to its similar appearance. Enemies often believed these weapons were actually firearms. They consisted of a wooden club with a metal blade attached to the end.

2. Wooden Clubs -

Wooden clubs were also used as striking weapons. These were either made from a solid piece of carved, hardwood. Typically, they were carved into a handle shape with a rounded, blunt end. Later, they were carved to include a sharpened end. Forest dwelling tribes often used these tools.

1. Stone Clubs -

Stone clubs were often carved from a solid piece of rock. Other times, they were created by attached a round stone to a wooden handle. These were used for striking enemies, although some evidence suggests they were used for ceremonial purposes rather than fighting.


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