Arrow Maker’s Bundle

This rare arrow maker's bundle came from Medicine Eagle, a Lower Brule Sioux.  He was active making bows and arrows during the Buffalo Days.  When the reservation began, he continued to craft bow and arrows for his grandchildren to hunt rabbits.  Medicine Eagle earned the right to make arrows and bows through an apprenticeship.  Usually a bundle for the craft was purchased from a known arrow maker who then taught the trade to the buyer.  This bundle had previous owners as seen with pre-1800 tools such as a buffalo rib knife and stone arrowheads.  Later owners added a metal trade knife and iron arrowheads obtained from a fort's blacksmith.

The bundle for containing the arrow making tools is made from a winter horse hide, with beaded edges and a flap made from a recycled piece.  Bundles usually do not have ties to close the bag, but rely on buckskin thongs wrapped around the bag.  The bag has Sioux characteristics with the top corners of the bag sewn shut.  It was specifically made from a horse, an animal associated with Thunder Beings (Wakinyan) and their power, so tin cone dangles at the corners are with red horse hair.

Bundles tend to have each item wrapped and/or in a container.  The contents of this bag are varied showing it was added to by its several owners.  Pictured below are all the items from inside the arrow maker's bundle.

Shown on the next page is a sinew bow string with traces of red, indicating it was taken from a bow colored with ochre.  The yellow beaded bag holds powder and nodules of greenish-blue earth color for coloring an ownership crest near an arrow's nock.  The reverse of this bag has a different design.  A buffalo semi-tanned cylinder with a cross-hatch design holds a cluster of reddish feathers as arrow medicine, along with a section of a buffalo bone used to polish arrow shafts.  A cow buffalo horn stores a steel to strike a chipped flint knife for sparks to start fire.  Fragments of inner cottonwood bark would serve as tinder. The horn has a carrying loop and blue-colored beads as "medicine" for Thunder Beings, who can bring fires through lightning.  Buffalo wool holds everything in place and permits air to enter when embers are inside.  An arrow maker needed fire to heat arrow shafts for straightening or to cook hide scrapings to make glue.

Also in the bag is a strip of deer sinew for lashing an arrowhead and trimmed turkey feathers for an arrow shaft.  There is a fully-beaded case with a horn-handle knife which lacks tie thongs, indicating it was made for this bundle and not to carry.  Such a knife served the same purpose as the adjacent rib knife:  scraping arrow shafts and splitting feathers.  Wrapped in a buckskin remnant is a buffalo rib slotted with a metal blade.  This early knife has an indentation for the thumb and a thong to carry it.  Nearby is shown a cluster of fletched feathers, mostly turkey, removed from an arrow that broke, evidenced by traces of glue and its blue-green color.

The final group of items include four unsharpened metal arrowheads, neatly bound with sinew.  Nearby are two parts to a sandstone shaft sander and a drilled bone carved as a bear claw.  The fringed, oval bag holds a buffalo rib wrench with holes for straightening arrows (or from earlier-days) or atlatl foreshafts.  There is mound of dried hide glue on the end of a stick to adhere arrow points and feather fletching.  The deer bone awl was used to press against shafts to indent three "blood grooves" on arrows, symbols of lightning, as "medicine" to strike its target.  Three triangular stone points, pre-dating 1800, are remnants from an early owner of the bundle.

This is the only arrow making bundle known to exist.  Although every Lakota warrior knew how to make weapons, many trusted Medicine Eagle to craft their bows and arrows for hunting and warfare. 

Shown left is an early Lakota bow/quiver set collected by Princess Theresa of Bavaria during one of three trips to collect for her castle museum in Munich, Germany.  The bow is sinew-backed with an assortment of arrows.  The case is made from a recycled porcupine-quilled robe in the mid-sections and added beaded panels above and below.  The back side of the set has no beading or quillwork to avoid have the wearer's back from being scratched while riding.  There is a thong for carrying the case, rather than a strap.