Quebec History Marianopolis College

Date Published:

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


Batons of 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, 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 American 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.]



As emblems of authority or rank, batons were in common use among the more advanced northern tribes, and probably the most conspicuous modern representatives are the carved wooden batons of the Haida and other north-western tribes. Here they are carried in the hands of chiefs, shamans, and song leaders on state occasions, and are per­mitted only to such personages. Weapons of various kinds were similarly used and probably had kindred significance. In prehistoric times long knives of stone, masterpieces of the chip­ping art, seem to have been a favourite form of ceremonial weapon, and their use still continues among some of the Pacific Slope tribes, especi­ally in California . Batons used in marking time are probably without particular signi­ficance as emblems. Among the Kwakiutl and other tribes the club-shaped batons, carved to represent various animals, are used by the leaders in ceremonial dances and serve for beating time.


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., p. 58.

© 2004 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College