Bow and Arrow, and Arrow Games

From Games of the North American Indians
Painting by W Richard West

Children's Arrows

We at Faire Tyme have been shown a children's arrow. The one we were shown had it's shaft end fit into a broken bone so that the end was very blunt. Also, there were small feathers put ninety degrees to normal arrow feathers. This was so slow the speed of the arrow so children would not get hurt using it. See Photo of Toy Bow and Arrow below. (Reference, Dakota Indian, South Dakota)

Target Games

*****Many of the games below could be of great fun in an atmosphere where bows and arrows were used as long as safety concerns are followed.

There is indication in many places of "Target Practice" type games being played by the native tribes. In A Journal of Transactions and Events during a Residence of Nearly Sixteen Years on the Coast of Labrador" Volume 1, page 238, Newark, 1792, by George Cartwright, (Reference, Montagnais. Labrador) he mentions a target 4 feet square and 8 feet high at 50 yards distance.

In "Second General Report on the Indians of British Columbia" - Report of the Sixtieth meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. Page 641, London, 1891. Dr Franz Boas says (Reference Shuswap, British Columbia.):
"Shooting matches are frequently arranged. An arrow is shot, and then the archers try to hit the arrow which has been shot first. Or a bundle of hay or a piece of bark is thrown as far as possible and the men shoot at it." The game of shooting at the first arrow seems to be very common in native cultures. There is also mention of natives of (Reference)Sioun Stock playing a similar game by throwing a first arrow out, and then throwing other arrows at it.

Crow Indian playing
Grass Target Game,

In "Omaha Sociology, Third Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology", Page 339, 1884, Rev J Owen Dorsey describes the following (Reference Omaha, Nebraska):
"Shooting arrows at a mark is called mankide. The mark may be placed at any distance from the contestants. There must be an even number of persons on each side. Men play with men, and boys with boys." He goes on to describe how an arrow hitting the mark gets 8 or ten arrows back. If no arrow touches it the closest arrow wins.
In the same documentation as above, the writer writes:
"Shooting at a moccasin. A boy's game. An arrow is stuck in the ground and a moccasin is fastened to it. Each boy rides swiftly by and shoots at the moccasin."

In "Traditional Games of the Lakotas by Raymond A Bucko SJ, Reference, Lakota
It mentions that boys liked to make targets of plaited grass and mark the "heart" on it. Then they would throw the target in the air and shoot at it. The boy coming closest would throw the target in the air next time.

Spear or Arrow Game
There seems to be reference to this game being played with both spears and arrows. In Games of the North American Indian, a Dr J W Hudson is quoted describing the following game:
"An arrow is stuck in the ground slanting toward the marksman, who, 60 feet away, casts at it a 3 foot blunt arrow. One or more opponents take their turn, standing in the first caster's tracks. The object is to strike the leaning arrow, or knock away an opponent's arrow. Either counts 1. To dislodge the target counts 5, or a coup. Several can play, each using any number of darts agreed upon."

Arrows Stuck Up
In "Contributions to the Ethnology of the Haida, Memoirs of the American Museum of Natural History", Whole Series, Volume 8, Part 1, Page 61, New York, 1905, Dr J R Swanton describes the following game (Reference Haida, British Columbia):
"Someone shot an arrow up into the branches of a tree near the town until it stuck there. Then all would try to shoot it down, and generally succeeded in getting more up. He who knocked an arrow down owned it"

Guessing and Accuracy Game
In Zuni Games. American Anthropologist, n. s., volume 5, page 488, 1903, a Mrs Matilda Coxe Stevenson describes the following game (Reference Zuni, New Mexico): Any number may play this game. A roll of husks is placed upon the ground and arrows are shot at it from a distance of 40 or 50 feet. The first player to strike the roll covers it with a mound of earth, very much larger than the roll itself, while others turn their backs. The one who places the husk is almost sure to mark the exact location of it, hence he resorts to various devices to mislead the players. A favorite deception is to leave the mound low where the roll is actually buried, having it more elevated at some other point. The players aim to shoot their arrows into the husk and the one who strikes it wins the game. The winner draws the husk from beneath the earth with the arrow. When the arrow strikes the mound, but does not touch the husk, it is removed by the one who (hides) the object and a second player shoots his arrow. Each player takes his turn until the husk is struck, the one having the arrangement of it being the last one to shoot, and he is naturally the most frequent winner. This game affords great amusement to the younger men. ,

Arrow Toss Games

Toy Bow and Arrow, length 30 inches
Dakota Indian, South Dakota
Free Museum of Science and Art
University of Pennsylvania

In "Games of the Plains Cree" by Pat Atimoyoo

Game of Striking the bow
A bow is stuck in the ground so that it stands upright with the bowstring facing the players. One player bounces an arrow off the bowstring. If is left where it falls to act as a marker.
Each man in turn throws his arrows and tries to bounce them off the bowstring so they will fall across the feathers or the head of the marker. Four tosses make one turn for each player.
If a player is successful, both he and his partner receive an arrow for the opposing side. The winning team also receives four more attempts before the opposing side tries. Play continues until one team has all the arrows.

In "Games of the North American Indian", a Mr E W Davis talks of a game by Geronimo's band at St Augustine Florida in 1889 (Reference Apache, Arizona)
"The game which interested me most, and one which required considerable skill, consisted in tossing arrows, point first, at a mark about 10 feet away. As I recollect, the first man to throw his arrow was required to land on the mark. If he did so, he got his arrow back. His first throw was his misfortune, and the best he could do was to lose. He had no chance to win. Once an arrow in the field, however, the object of the next player was to toss his arrow so that it should cross the first thrown, and so on through the crowd. I have seen as many as six play, and often all would toss around without any one winning. In this case the arrows on the ground remained in the post, so to speak. The play went on, each player winning as many arrows as he could succeed in crossing with his own, until the whole number were removed."

*****We at Faire Tyme have played this game. It is simpler to simply place an arrow about ten feet from the players. Then have them throw two arrows one at a time each to see if they can touch the first. The one who touches it most or gets closest is the winner. With older kids you could have them attempt to actually cross it to score.

Another writer notes a similar (Reference)Pawnee game where the arrows are shot a distance of some 40 to 60 paces.

Game of Arrow
In "The manners, customs, and condition of the North American Indians", Volume 1, Page 141, London 1841, Catlin describes a game by the Mandan Indians as follows (Reference North Dakota):
They "step forward in turn, shooting their arrows into the air, endeavoring to see who can get the greatest number flying in the air at one time, thrown from the same bow. For this, the number of eight or ten arrows are clenched in the left hand with the bow and the first one which is thrown is elevated to such a degree as will enable it to remain the longest time possible in the air, and while it is flying the others are discharged as rapidly as possible, and he who succeeds in getting the greatest number up at once, is best and takes the goods staked.

Arrow Throw

In Book of American Indian Games by Allan and Paulette Macfarlan
Indian boys would throw arrows for distance and accuracy, generally for the best of three throws. A throwing arrow might be about 4 feet long made of cherry wood, or if unavailable, birch or maple instead. At the front end it would be about 1 inch thick. At the feather (throwing) end it would be about 3/8. A piece of flexible lead tied to the end of the arrow would make it fly further. Two big split turkey or goose feathers would be used to make the feathered end. At the point of balance of the arrow, a twine was wrapped around the arrow for about three inches and tied.

The first Arrow Toss Game can be ordered from Faire Tyme Toys. Please see "Our Catalogue".

hitunk nahabunyaupi ktelo

In "Traditional Games of the Lakotas by Raymond A Bucko SJ, He describes a game where native boys go out into tall grass looking for mouseholes. There they stay, doing a sort of dance by stepping heavily on the ground and hissing, thus scaring the mouse out of the hole. As soon as the mouse appears the boy tries to shoot it with his bow and arrow.

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