Quebec History Marianopolis College

Date Published:
August 2004

L’Encyclopédie de l’histoire du Québec / The Quebec History Encyclopedia


Arrowheads Used By Indians



[This text was originally published in 1907 by the Bureau of American Ethnology as part of its Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico. It was later reproduced, in 1913, by the Geographic Board of Canada. The work done by the American Bureau was monumental, generally well informed and incorporated the most advanced scholarship available at the time. In many respects, the information is still useful today, although prudence should be exercised and the reader should consult some of the contemporary texts on the history and the anthropology of the North-West Indians suggested in the bibliographic introduction to this section. The articles were not completely devoid of the paternalism and the prejudices prevalent at the time. While some of the terminology used would not pass the test of our "politically correct" era, most terms have been left unchanged by the editor. If a change in the original text has been effected it will be found between brackets [.] The original work contained long bibliographies that have not been reproduced for this web edition. For the full citation, see the end of the text.]


[For further information on arrowheads, consult the Encyclopedia of North American Indians]



The separate tips or points of arrow-shafts. Among the Indian tribes many, were made of flint and other varieties of stone, as well as bone, horn, antler, shell, wood, and copper. Copper was much used by such tribes as were able to obtain a supply from the L. Superior region and to some extent by those of British Columbia and Alaska . Iron has largely taken the place of these materials since the coming of the whites. In stone imple­ments of this class the only line of distinction between arrowheads and spearheads is that of size. Very few flint arrowheads are as much as 2 inches long, and these are quite slender; thick or strong ones are much shorter. Solid flesh, being almost as resistant as soft rubber, could not be penetrated by a large projectile unless it were propelled by greater power than can be obtained from a bow without artificial aid which is not at the command of [Indians]. The shape of the stone arrowhead among the Indian tribes is usually triangular or pointed­-oval, though some have very slender blades with expanding base. Many of them are notched. These were set in a slot in the end of the shaft and tied with sinew, rawhide, or cord, which passed through the notches. Those without notches were secured by the cord passing over and under the angle at the base in a figure 8 fashion. It is said that war arrows often had the head loosely attached, so that it would remain in the wound when the shaft was withdrawn, while the hunting point was firmly secured in order that the arrow might be recovered entire. Glue, gum, and cement were used in some sections for fixing the point or for rendering the fastening more secure. A specimen which has the end rounded or squared instead of flattened is known as a "bunt." As a rule both faces are worked off equally so as to bring the edge opposite the middle plane of the blade, though it is sometimes a little on one side. For the greater part these seem to be redressed ordinary spearheads, knives, or arrowheads whose points have been broken off, though some appear to have been originally made in this form. A few are smooth or polished at the ends, as if used for knives or scrapers; but most of them have no marks of use except occasionally such as would result from being shot or struck against a hard sub­stance. It is probable that their purpose was to stun birds or small game, in order to secure the pelt or plumage free from cuts or blood stain. They are relatively few in number, though widely distributed in area. The Eski­mo employ arrowheads of stone of usual forms.

Return to the Index page of Indians of Canada and Quebec


Source: James WHITE, ed., Handbook of Indians of Canada, Published as an Appendix to the Tenth Report of the Geographic Board of Canada, Ottawa, 1913, 632p., pp. 38-39.

© 2004 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College