Bows and Arrows

The bow,  "Iti Tanampo", has been deeply associated with Choctaw warriors and hunters for at least the last 1,300 years.

The traditional Choctaw bow is a "D" shaped, or recurved longbow made from harwoood.  Traditional arrows are made from river cane or hardwood saplings.

The ancient bow-making tradition has never died among Oklahoma Choctaws, and today many work to ensure the survival of the artform by making their own bows and using them to participate in traditional archery contests against other Tribes.

Grayson Bow

Item's Choctaw Name:  Tanamp Shibata

Item's English Name:  Bow

Age:  late1800s?

Material: Osage Orange Wood

            Length = 142.8 cm
                        Width = 3.65cm
                        Thickness = 2.22cm
            Mid Limb:
                        Width = 4.13cm
                        Thickness = 1.91 cm
                        Width = 2.54cm
                        Thickness = 1.43cm

Origin: Choctaw (probably Oklahoma)

Current Owner: University of Missouri, Museum of Anthropology (Grayson Collection #1995-0679)

Notes: This implement is probably a hunting bow, made with metal tools. The cross section of the bow limbs is an oval, flatter on the belly than the back. The growth rings in the wood are closely spaced.  The back of the bow violates the growth rings length-wise. It appears that in some places the bow may have been cut from twisted wood, with attention being paid to the shape of the bow rather than keeping with a single growth ring on its back.

The handle is wrapped with a 2-ply string that has been attached with a thin layer of clear glue.  The two plies are composed of rolled fibers that look like strands of yarn.  The ends are put under about 15 wraps. The handle is 10.98cm long. The upper part of the bow has a pin nock, with depression to receive the string carved across the back and onto the belly.  Burnish in this area suggests the bow was repeatedly strung and unstrung.  The lower limb has double nocks.  String follow on the bow is 11cm.  The string is currently missing.

Locke Bow

Item's Choctaw Name:  Tanamp Shibata

Item's English Name:  Fishing Bow

Age:  pre-1898

Material: Hickory Wood

            Length = 129 cm
                        Width = 3.05cm
                        Thickness = 1.29cm
            Mid Limb:                                            
                        Width = 2.71cm                                             
                        Thickness = 1.08 cm                                      
            Tip (1):                                                Tip (2):
                        Width = 1.98cm                                 Width = 2.14cm
                        Thickness = 0.73cm                           Thickness = 0.98cm

Origin: Choctaw County, Oklahoma.  The bow belonged to Edwin Snow-Lock, also known as "Alex".  Edwin's older brother was Victor Lock Jr., Chief of the Choctaw Nation.

Notes: The bow is made from a light-colored wood, probably hickory. The bow has an arrow nock in one side. The nock is 59cm from the closer bow tip.  The area between the nock and the farther bow tip is the widest, thickest section of the bow.  The positioning of the nock relative to the widest section of the bow suggests that it make have been made to lie on the right side of the bow when held vertically in the shooting hand.  This may suggest that the archer was left-handed.  One bow tip is significantly wider than the other.

The bow was made from a large-diameter tree, giving it a flat back. The edges are fairly flat, as is the belly, making for a flat, rectangular cross-section The back has been carefully worked to one growth ring, even over a number of small knots.  Tool marks in the nocks are fairly prominent, and were left by a sharp edged-tool.  The bow has no obvious evidence of having been shaped by a toothed implement. A dark stain (4.93mm wide) around the bow nock closest to the arrow nock was left by a string.

Gallihar Bow

Item's Choctaw Name:  Tanamp Shibata

Item's English Name: Bow

Age:  pre-1865

Material: Osage Orange Wood

            Length = 159 cm
                        Width = 3.25cm
                        Thickness = 1.99cm
            Mid Limb:
                        Width = 3.12cm
                        Thickness = 1.45 cm
                        Width = 2.58cm
                        Thickness = 0.82cm

Origin: Latimer County, OK.  This bow made by Sam Gallihar (former slave in the Choctaw Nation) when he was a boy. "Oh yeah", the old man said.  "I made it when I was a boy and used it to get me a mess of meat any time I wanted it." It is said to have been used to shoot birds, fish, and squirrels.

Current Owner: Choctaw Nation Councilhouse Museum

Location: Tuskahoma, OK

Notes: Although it was said to have been used on small game, this bow appears to have been a powerful weapon.  It is rectangular in cross section.  The bow was rough shaped by scraping.  One growth ring has been carefully followed on the back, even around the knots.  After rough-shaping, the bow was filed with a toothed implement both on the back and belly. Double nocks are found at both ends.  They appear to have been made with a saw and then possibly evened up with a sharp knife.  The surfaces of the implement are highly reflective and appear to have been burnished or polished.  The bow does have a propeller twist to it.  It has fairly strong string follow at the handle and especially the mid limbs.  The tips are straighter.

Oklahombi Bow

Item's Choctaw Name:  Tanamp Shibata

Item's English Name:  Fishing Bow

Age:  early 1900s

Material: Osage Orange Wood

            Length = 165 cm
                        Width = 3.3cm
                        Thickness = 1.81cm
            Mid Limb:
                        Width = 2.0cm
                        Thickness = 1.4 cm
                        Width = 1.7cm
                        Thickness = 1.3cm

Current Owner: Choctaw Nation Museum

Location: Tuskahoma, OK

Contact: (918) 569-4465

Notes:  This bow is unusual in having a nock cut out near the handle to receive the arrow.  This has been positioned at the largest knot in the bow.  The tips of the bow are recurved; it is elliptical in cross section.  On the upper end is a pin nock, with grooves made in the belly side for the string. In flat view, the limbs are somewhat "snaky", following the grain of the wood, but several growth rings are violated on the bow's back.  The implement has a number of rasp marks on it, but its overall morphology suggests that most of the shaping was done through scraping and planing.  Unfortunately, at some point over the last century, one of the limbs was partially broken as a result of someone bending the bow backwards.

Peabody Museum Arrows

Item's Choctaw Name:  Iti Naki

Item's English Name:  Wooden Arrows (5)

Age:  pre-1828

Material: Hardwood shoots (probably dogwood), antler points, turkey wing feathers

            Length- 74-77cm
            Max Shaft Diameter- 7.8-8.3mm
            Fletching Length- 16.3-18cm
            Point Length- 53.5-78.5mm

Origin: Museum records identify as "Choctaw? / Creek? From Georgia"

Current Owner: Peabody Museum, Harvard University (#52972, #52973, & #52974)

Location: Cambridge, MA.

Notes: This set of very well-made and matched arrows may be the earliest Choctaw examples still in existance.  These are heavy and meant for war.  All are designed for a 68 cm draw length.  The nocks are shallow and rounded.  The fletchings are radial (three feathers), and were once glued to the shaft along their entire lengths.  The ends of the quills are attached flat to the shaft with what were once smooth sinew wrappings.  The arrow points are made from shaped antler.  Their bases are conical to receive the pointed end of the arrow shaft.  They are attached with a dark-colored adhesive that has fiber mixed with it.

The shafts were shaped by scraping and sanding on a moderately coarse surface.  The same is true for the antler points. The quills of the feathers have been split and sanded, not stripped.  The paint colors, red and black, symbolized blood and death in traditional Choctaw thought, and are the colors that warriors wore into battle.

Lopez Arrow

Item's Choctaw Name:  Iti Naki

Item's English Name:  Arrow

Age:  early 1900s?

Material: Dogwood

            Length =  87.5 cm
            Diameter (max nock flair) = 95 mm
            Diameter (distal from nock) = 82 mm

Diameter (mid-point) = 96 mm
            Diameter (proximal to blunt) = 96 mm
            Blunt max diameter = 1.46 cm
            Nock depth = 41 mm

Origin: Choctaw (possibly Durant area).  Owned and possibly made by Aden Colbert and given to Jimmie Beal in the 1950s. 

Current Owner:  John Lopez,

Notes: Blunt-tipped arrows of this type were made for hunting small game.  They stun small animals through the force of impact with the big, heavy point.

This arrow was made by scraping down a thick piece of wood in all areas except the part that would become the blunt tip. Tools marks on the arrow include those made by a sharp scraping tool, and a file or fine-toothed rasp.  After rough-shaping, all surfaces were heavily burnished. 

The family is unsure if this arrow ever had fletchings.  There are no signs that it ever did.  The arrow does have marks near its center that appear to have been left by adhesive tape at some point in the past.

The nock area has been flared only on the sides perpendicular to the axis of the nock cut.  It appears to have been cut out with a saw.  The tip of the arrow shows what appears to be some impact roughening.  This tip was particularly highly burnished.

This arrow accompanies a bow.  However, it has the appearance of being older than the bow.

Red River Museum Arrow

Item's Choctaw Name:  Oski Naki

Item's English Name:  Cane Arrow

Age:  1930s ?

Material:  River Cane

     Length = 72 cm
     Point length = 5.3 cm
     Max shaft diameter = 0.9cm
     Min. Shaft Diameter = 0.7 cm
     Nock Depth = approximately 3 cm.

The arrow shaft shows wrasp marks at the nocks.  The metal head is thick and heavily pounded at the tip.  The nock appears to have been carved out with a pocket knife by beveling the cane at roughly 30 degrees.

Atoka Museum Arrow Point

Item's Choctaw Name:  Oski Naki Halupa

Item's English Name: Arrow Point

Age:  Early to Mid 1800s

Material: ferrous and non-ferrous metal

     Length = 57.2 mm
     Width of blade = 22.2 mm
     Width of Socket = 9.52 mm

Origin: Found at Boggy Depot, Atoka Co., OK

Current Owner: Atoka Confederate War Museum 

Location: Atoka, OK

Notes:  Based on the location in which it was found, this arrow point must have belonged to a Choctaw or Chickasaw person, and was probably lost not long after the Trail of Tears.  It was made by a blacksmith, and consists of three parts: 1) a metal socket, of non-rusting reddish metal, 2) the arrow point itself, made from ferrous metal, and 3) a pin that goes through each of them and has been hammered flat on both sides.  The tip of the arrow point is flattened, or possibly broken.  Metal points such as this would have been very durable, and probably used for hunting mid to large-sized game, and for war.