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Gifts from the Thunder Beings

Indigenous Archery and European Firearms in the Northern Plains and Central Subarctic, 1670-1870

Roland Bohr

Publication Year: 2014

Gifts from the Thunder Beings examines North American Aboriginal peoples’ use of Indigenous and European distance weapons in big-game hunting and combat. Beyond the capabilities of European weapons, Aboriginal peoples’ ways of adapting and using this technology in combination with Indigenous weaponry contributed greatly to the impact these weapons had on Aboriginal cultures. This gradual transition took place from the beginning of the fur trade in the Hudson’s Bay Company trading territory to the treaty and reserve period that began in Canada in the 1870s.

Technological change and the effects of European contact were not uniform throughout North America, as Roland Bohr illustrates by comparing the northern Great Plains and the Central Subarctic—two adjacent but environmentally different regions of North America—and their respective Indigenous cultures. Beginning with a brief survey of the subarctic and Northern Plains environments and the most common subsistence strategies in these regions around the time of contact, Bohr provides the context for a detailed examination of social, spiritual, and cultural aspects of bows, arrows, quivers, and firearms. His detailed analysis of the shifting usage of bows and arrows and firearms in the northern Great Plains and the Central Subarctic makes Gifts from the Thunder Beings an important addition to the canon of North American ethnology.

 

Published by: University of Nebraska Press

Title Page, Copyright

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List of Illustrations

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Preface

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pp. xi-xviii

This study examines North American Aboriginal peoples’ use of Indigenous and European distance weapons in big game hunting and combat from the beginning of the fur trade in the Hudson’s Bay Company trading territory in the late seventeenth century to the treaty and...

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1. Bows, Guns, and Diverging Views on Indigenousand European Technology

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pp. 1-13

In 1908 Indian agent James McLaughlin held a novel ceremony at Timber Lake on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation in South Dakota. His aim was to impress upon the Lakota men who had signed up to receive allotment lands the importance of U.S. citizenship and to mark...

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2. Indigenous Subsistence Patterns of the HudsonBay Lowlands and Northern Plains

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pp. 14-41

In order to analyze continuity and change in Aboriginal peoples’ use of big game hunting and military technology, their subsistence patterns, modes of conflict, and social organization at the time of contact need to be understood. Various sources contribute information on...

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3. Bows of the Northern Plains and Subarctic

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pp. 42-79

This study is concerned with a comparison of Aboriginal peoples’ use of Indigenous distance weapons and European firearms. Because firearms were mostly used in big game hunting and combat, this examination of Aboriginal archery also primarily focuses on these activities...

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4. Arrows and Arrow Makers

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pp. 80-126

Aboriginal Plains and Subarctic arrows show a wide range of types adapted to a variety of purposes. Uses of European- introduced materials such as metal for arrowheads exemplify the complex ways Aboriginal people combined European materials with their own...

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5. Aboriginal Peoples and Firearms

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pp. 127-153

Europeans’ introduction of firearms to Aboriginal peoples has often been considered a major catalyst for momentous changes in political, economic, and military relations between different Aboriginal groups and also between Aboriginal people and Europeans.1 In 1940 David...

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6. Injuries Caused by Arrows and Firearms

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pp. 154-171

The seemingly “primitive” bow and arrow could cause remarkably severe injuries. There are numerous reports of Plains Indian arrows passing entirely through an adult bison or through a person.1 For example, on a bison hunt in the late nineteenth century the Blackfoot Stiimiksato’si...

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7. Archery and Firearms in Aboriginal Beliefs

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pp. 172-203

Fur trader Alexander Henry the Younger observed about Blackfoot people in the early 1800s: “A Gun which they [Pikani warriors] carry in their Arms with a Powder horn and Shot pouch slung on their Backs are always considered a necessary appendage to the Full Dress of a...

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8. Archery and Firearms in Hunting

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pp. 204-233

Through practical experience and observation, Aboriginal people of the Central Subarctic and Northern Plains acquired a vast body of knowledge about their environment and the interaction and interdependence of its plants, animals, climate, and weather patterns. Based...

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9. Archery and Firearms in Combat in the Central Subarctic

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pp. 234-251

As the fur trade shifted westward during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, non- Aboriginal traders and travelers produced more journals and ethnographic accounts of Aboriginal peoples living within the reach of the Saskatchewan and Missouri River systems than of those...

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10. Archery and Firearms in Combat in theNorthern Plains

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pp. 252-296

Archaeological evidence and Aboriginal rock art indicate that violent conflict in the Northern Plains dates far back into precontact times.1 In the 1700s the unequal introduction and distribution of horses, metal weapons, and firearms caused significant changes in North American...

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11. Survival and Adaptation of Aboriginal Archeryand European Firearms

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pp. 297-318

A wide range of factors influenced Aboriginal peoples’ perceptions and decisions about the uses of their own technology in comparison with the new tools and weapons introduced from Europe. With growing experience, they recognized the capabilities and advantages that edged...

Appendix: Extended Image Credits

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pp. 319-324

Glossary of Archery Terms

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pp. 325-330

Notes

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pp. 331-416

Bibliography

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pp. 417-446

Index

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pp. 447-468


E-ISBN-13: 9780803254374
E-ISBN-10: 0803254377
Print-ISBN-13: 9780803248380

Page Count: 504
Illustrations:
Publication Year: 2014

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • Indian weapons -- Great Plains -- History.
  • Indian weapons -- Canada, Northern -- History.
  • Bow and arrow -- Great Plains -- History.
  • Bow and arrow -- Canada, Northern -- History.
  • Firearms -- Great Plains -- History.
  • Firearms -- Canada, Northern -- History.
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