What Are Some Characteristics of Native American Knives?


Quick Answer

Some of the earliest Native American knives were fairly simple, sharp, chipped-stone items that functioned as weapons and cutting instruments. These knives were a smaller version of the ancient spear. Native American knives changed as a result of contact with European explorers, and different tribes developed different styles of knives.

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Full Answer

Native American knives served a variety of purposes, including fighting, cutting meat and wood and cooking. Some Native Americans carried knives around their necks or in a sheath.

Tribes of the far northern hemisphere, such as the Inuit and similar peoples, made knives from ivory, bone or copper. These knives, called ulu, aided these tribes in making clothes, food and igloos, and they occasionally became weapons. Copper was also a favorite material for tribes along the Northwest Coast. As the early Native Americans did not know how to create metal, their knives underwent an evolution upon the arrival of iron from European travelers. Tribes of the Northwest Coast used the new material to create more durable knives, and they also made the instruments more ornate.

Some businesses still create and sell Native American knives today. These are sometimes made using traditional material from the earth and animals, and often come with traditional sheaths.

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