Omaha Sioux Indian Weapons
Sioux Indian History
HISTORY OF THE OMAHA INDIAN WEAPONS.
The jan-wétin, "striking-wood," is a four-sided club. It is made of ash, and is as long as from the elbow to the tips of the fingers. The ja^n-dáona, "wood with a smooth head," is a club made of ironwood, which is very hard. According to the late Joseph La Flèche, the Omaha form of this weapon had a steel point projecting from the ball.
Figures 320 and 321 are forms of the jan-[p]áɔna which may be seen in the National Museum (nos. 2649 and 22419). The weaqȼade, another kind of war club, is made of some kind of hard wood. There are two varieties, one of which is shown in figure 322 (National Museum no. 23729). The other has a ball carved at the end of a straight handle, with a wooden point (of one piece with the ball and handle) projecting from the ball, making an angle of about 130° with one side of the handle. There is a steel point inserted in the ball, forming an angle of about 110° with the other side of the handle. The in′-wate-jiñ′ga is something like a slung shot. A round stone is wrapped in a piece of hide which is fastened to a wooden handle about 2 feet long.
The heads of tomahawks as well as of battle-axes were at first made of stone; but within the last century and a half they have been fashioned of iron.
Lances, darts, or spears are designated by the general term man′dĕhi. The jan′-man'dĕhi are made of ash, and are from 6 to 8 feet long. There [are two kinds, of one of which the handle is round, and about an inch in diameter, and the point is flat and about the width of three fingers at its juncture with the handle.
Besides these there are the lances, called waqȼexe-ȼáze, of which there are two varieties. One consists of a straight pole, which has been thrust through a piece of buffalo hide that has its long end sewed together, forming a sort of covering. To this hide are fastened feathers of the crow and min′xa-san, or swan, in alternate rows or bunches. Between the feathers are fastened square pieces of blanket. About the middle of the pole a space of nearly 6 inches is left without feathers, and this is the place where the spear is grasped. When the pole was not set into a metal point the lower end was cut very sharp.1 The other variety, or mandĕhi ȼiguje, "bent spear," is the weapon which the Dakota call "wahukeza." It is ornamented with eagle feathers placed at intevals, one being at the end of the curved part; and it generally terminates at the bottom in an iron point. It is possible for one of these waqȼexeȼaze to reach a man about 6 feet distant; and even mounted men have been killed by them. Spears are used also in some of the dances. Around the shaft is wrapped the skin of a swan or brant. The end feather at the top is white; the other feathers are white or spotted. The bent spear is no longer employed by the Omaha, though the Osage, Pawnee, and other tribes still use it to a greater or lesser extent.
1See First Annual Report of Bureau of Ethnology, 1879-'80; 1881, Pl. X, "Tolkotin cremation."
Bows (man-dĕ) are of two kinds. One is the man-dĕ or zanzi-mandĕ (bow-wood bow), having an unbroken curve past the grip to within an inch or two of each nock. The other kind is the ʇaʞan-mandĕ, so called because it has deer sinew glued on its back. Bows were made of hickory, ash, ironwood, or zanzi, the last being greatly preferred. It is a wood resembling that of the Osage orange, with which some persons confound it; but it is black and much harder than the former, the Osage orange wood being yellow, soft, and easily cut. The zanzi is probably that which Dougherty called "bow-wood (Maclura aurantiaca of Nuttall)."
Bowstrings were made of the twisted sinew of the elk and buffalo, as among other tribes.
The arrows (man) used in former days were of several kinds. The hunting arrow, used for killing the buffalo, was generally about 2 feet long, of the usual cylindric form, and armed with an elongate triangular point, made at first of flint, afterward of sheet iron. The shoulders of the arrow were rounded instead of angular, as in the ordinary barbed form. The point, or head, was firmly secured to the shaft by deer sinew wrapped around the neck of the point, and over that was spread some cement, made in a manner to be afterward explained. The flight of the arrow was equalized by three half-webs of feathers, neatly fastened near its base in the usual manner.
Another kind of hunting arrow was the hidé nazíȼĕ, which was altogether of wood. About 6 inches from the point the shaft was triangular or quadrangular; and the point was made by holding the shaft close to a fire and turning it round and round till the heat had reduced it to the proper shape and had hardened it. This was used for killing fish, deer, and small game.
The war arrow (b) differed from that used in hunting in having a barbed point, which was very slightly attached to the shaft, so that if it penetrated the body of an enemy it could not be withdrawn without leaving the point in the wound.
Children used the hidé-ʇece, or target arrow, when they began to learn the use of the bow. With this a boy could kill small birds and animals.
The Ponka used to make arrowshafts (mansa) of jan-′qude-hí, "gray wood," juneberry wood, which grew in their country, but is not found among the Omaha. Most of the Omaha made their shafts of the manʹsaqtihí, or "real arrow-wood," (Viburnum) as that was the wood best suited for the purpose. Sometimes they were made of chokecherry wood; and Joseph LaFlèche informs me that he has made them of ash and hickory.
Arrowshafts were held lengthwise directly in a line with the eyes of the workman, who sighted along them to see if they were straight. If one was bent, he held one end of it between his teeth, while he pressed against the rest of it with his hands. They were polished by means of the polishers, or man′-ȼiqȼáde, two pieces of sandstone, each of which had [a groove in the middle of one side. These grooves were brought together, and the arrow was drawn between them.
War arrows had crooked lines drawn along the shafts from the points to the other ends, down which, so I was informed by the Indians, it was intended that the blood of a wounded foe should trickle.
Arrowheads (máhin-sí), when made of flint, as at the first, were called "in′ߵĕ mahinsí," stone arrowheads. In more recent times, they were manufactured of pieces of sheet iron; as, for example, hoops of pails and barrels.
Arrow cement (hin′pa), for attaching the heads to the shafts, was usually made from the skin taken off a buffalo or elk head. This was boiled a long time, till ready to fall to pieces. When the gelatinous matter forming the cement rose to the top of the water, a stick (called hinpá-janjiñ′ga) was thrust in and turned round and round, causing the material to be wrapped around it. When cooled it was smoothed with the hand. Then the act was repeated till a large quantity was collected on the stick. When needed for use, it was warmed by placing either in the mouth or in hot water. The skin of the big turtle was also used for making cement.
A set of arrows were called, collectively, "manwin′dan." A set generally consisted of ten arrows, but the number varied; sometimes there were two, four, or even twenty. When a man had arrows left in his quiver, he compared them with that which was in the slain animal. When he had none left, he appealed to some one who knew his style of arrow.
There were no clan or gentile marks on arrows. One set was distinguished from another by the order of the paint stripes on them, by the kind of feathers used, by the mode in which the arrowheads were made, etc. The Oto made bad arrows; those of the Pawnee were better, but they were inferior to those made by the Dakota, Ponka, and Omaha.
The feathers, half-webs generally, put on arrows were those of the eagle, buzzard, wild turkey, great owl, and goose. Sometimes hawk or crow feathers were employed.
Quivers (man′jiha) for men were made of buffalo hide; but boys' quivers were made either of otter skins or of the skins of cougars, with the tail of the animal hanging down from the upper extremity. A skin case was attached to the quiver for carrying the bow when not in use. The wrist was defended from the percussion of the bowstring by the leather wristguard or áqande-[p]a.
Shields and Armor.
Shields (ʇaháwagȼe) were made of the hides of buffalo bulls. They were round and very thick, reaching to the waist of the bearer. Arrows did not penetrate them. Joseph La Flèche never heard of the use of defensive armor, such as helmet and mail, among the Omaha and Ponka.
heard of a Pawnee who made a coat from four elk skins, two forming the front and two the back. Between each pair of skins was placed sand. A helmet was made in like manner. It covered the back of the head and extended over the forehead, coming down as far as the eyes. When the Pawnee noticed an arrow coming toward him, he bowed his head forward.