Cherokee Indians: Weapons and Warfare

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Cherokee weapons were designed, created, and engaged for "close-range combat," so the Cherokees, consequently, were masters of guerrilla warfare and had perfected it generations prior to the Europeans' arrival in the Americas. Hunting game had required both experience and skill. The Cherokee, through hundreds of years of practice, had adapted and transitioned its hunting prowess from "the game to the enemy." 

During war, Cherokee Indians typically bivouacked at the "foot of a steep ridge," and this allowed them to: conduct hit-and-run tactics, limited the enemy in its attack formation, and it allowed them an expeditious escape route through familiar terrain.

Though the Cherokee were by nature a peaceful people, they were nevertheless trained and prepared for protecting themselves from surrounding tribes and, later, from the white man.

They became expert weapon-makers. Arrows crafted from flint and eagle feathers were secured to cane shafts and shot by bows made of sycamore and hickory. These bows were carefully shaped with bear oil and seasoned by fire. Buffalo hide breast-plates, shields, helmets and quivers adorned the Cherokee warriors while they wielded their stone tomahawks and flint-tipped spears.

Cherokee Indians developed the throwing hatchet style of the Tomahawk. (That method of fighting was lost after the Trail of Tears.) Basically, Cherokee could hunt with a special balanced hatchet. Up to a range of 30 feet, a Cherokee welding a Tomahawk could split a coconut. In a melee, Cherokee welding the hatchet were able to "open up the chests of those they attacked with a single blow."

For small game hunting, the Cherokee have earned a reputation for making superior blowguns, characterized by their outstanding workmanship and accuracy. Through these rivercane tubes, the hunters would blow darts made of locust and feathered with thistle down to kill small game and birds, even at great distances.

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Recommended Reading: Native American Weapons. Review From Library Journal: In this taut and generously illustrated overview, Taylor (Buckskin and Buffalo: The Artistry of the Plains Indians) zeroes in on North American Indian arms and armor from prehistoric times to the late 19th century, dividing his subject into five efficient categories. The chapter on striking weapons covers war clubs and tomahawks, cutting weapons include knives from Folsom stone to Bowie, piercing weapons comprise spears and bows and arrows, and defensive weapons feature the seldom-emphasized armor both men and horses wore in battle. Most interesting, however, is the chapter on symbolic weapons, which describes how powerful icons on dress or ornament were used to ward off blows. The illustrations mostly color photos of objects help the reader see distinctions between, for example, a regular tomahawk and a spontoon or French one. Continued below...

Old paintings and photographs show the weapons held by their owners, giving both a time frame and a sense of their importance. The text is packed and yet very readable, and the amount of history, tribal distinction, and construction detail given in such a short book is astounding. This excellent introduction is a bargain for any library. Featuring 155 color photographs and illustrations, Native American Weapons surveys weapons made and used by American Indians north of present-day Mexico from prehistoric times to the late nineteenth century, when European weapons were in common use. Colin F. Taylor skillfully describes the weapons and their roles in tribal culture, economy, and political systems. He categorizes the weapons according to their function--from striking, cutting, and piercing weapons to those with defensive and even symbolic properties, and he documents the ingenuity of the people who crafted them. Taylor explains the history and use of weapons such as the atlatl, a lethal throwing stick whose basic design was enhanced by carving, painting, or other ornamentation. The atlatl surprised De Soto's expedition and contributed to the Spaniards' defeat. Another highlight is Taylor's description of the evolution of body armor, first fashioned to defend against arrows, then against bullets from early firearms. Over thousands of years the weapons were developed and creatively matched to their environment--highly functional and often decorative, carried proudly in tribal gatherings and in war.


Recommended Reading: North American Bows, Arrows, and Quivers: An Illustrated History. Description: Otis Tufton Mason, the founder of the Anthropologist Society of Washington, details the history of the archery tools used by the native peoples throughout the North American continent. Hundreds of precise line drawings showcase the many varieties of bows, arrows, and quivers they crafted, and beautifully rendered images display tools and materials. Continued below...

Sketched diagrams demonstrate exactly how the arrow points were mounted and the bows assembled. Nearly all the illustrations are accompanied by an explanatory page of authoritative information, and Mason’s writing reveals his deep appreciation and admiration of the work he’s presenting and the people who created it.

Recommended Reading: Bows & Arrows of the Native Americans: A Step-by-Step Guide to Wooden Bows, Sinew-backed Bows, Composite Bows, Strings, Arrows & Quivers. Description: A comprehensive account of the history and construction of these unique hunting tools. Bows & Arrows of the Native Americans is a step-by-step guide that includes information on how to build and care for wooden bows, sinew-backed bows, composite bows, strings, arrows, and quivers. Continued below...

Enlightening and entertaining, this book has easy-to-follow instructions for readers who plan to make and shoot their own bows and arrows. It's a must-have text for outdoorsmen, Boy Scouts of all ages, traditional craftsmen, and historians.

Recommended Reading: Making Indian Bows and Arrows, The Old Way. Description: Considered the standard, this exciting Eagle's View edition includes all you need to know to make powerful and attractive Native American bows with an easy-to-follow text together with numerous illustrations and photos. The reader is shown how to use both primitive and modern techniques of bow and arrow making. Continued below...

The book explores in detail acquiring tools and woods; designing the bow to fit your purposes; how to cut the wood and shape it to your design; how to bring the bow to a perfect arc; methods for recurving and/or reflexing the bow for added speed; backing the bow with wood, rawhide, intestine or sinew; dozens of ideas and photos for finishing the bow; photos and instructions for applying a snakeskin back; making quivers and cases with hides, beads and more; arrowsmithing from natural or modern materials; making bow strings with techniques that are understandable to even the beginning bowyer; and shooting the way that Native Americans did years ago. Written for the beginning craftsman with over 200 illustrations, photos, charts and diagrams, this book will be invaluable to anyone interested in traditional weapons of the American Indian, their material culture and/or early Americana. 119 illustrations; 116 photographs; 5 charts.

Recommended Reading: Making Native American Hunting, Fighting, and Survival Tools: The Complete Guide to Making and Using Traditional Tools (Hardcover). Description: Making Native American Hunting, Fighting, And Survival Tools is the definitive instructional guide to making Native American tools and weapons. Author Monte Burch takes the reader through all the steps of the basic flint knapping of arrowheads and scrapers to the most complex decorating and finishing techniques of painting and fletching. Of special interest are the chapters dedicated to materials, tools, and the workplace. Readers will learn how to make digging tools, axes, knives, spear points, arrowheads, baskets, harpoons, fish traps, blow guns, tomahawks, traps, lances, shields, and so much more. Continued below...

Enhanced throughout with photographs and line illustrations, Making Native American Hunting, Fighting, And Survival Tools will make an enduring and popular addition to any personal, academic or community library's Native American Studies Collections and is especially recommended reading for survivalists, authors of western novels seeking authenticity in their history backgrounds, and students of Native American history and artifacts.

Tomahawk Photo How to Make Native American Indian Weapons Cherokee Tomahawk Bow Arrow Bows Arrows Cherokees Tomahawks Hatchet Shield List of Original Genuine Native American Indians Weapons of Warfare Photos

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