How Did the Iroquois People Use the Bow and Arrow?

The Iroquois people relied on the bow and arrow as both a weapon in times of war and as a means of providing food through hunting. As with nearly every Native American tribe, the bow and arrow were a critical part of both their livelihood and their culture.

Like Europeans, Native American bows evolved from short bows to long bows and even composite bows constructed from sinew, animal horn and wood. Bows were often made from whatever wood was commonly available, though strength and flexibility were obviously key concerns. This made birch, cedar and hickory particularly common, though hardwoods like cherry and oak were used as well.

Bow strings were normally made from animal tendon, though fibrous plant materials woven into strong cordage were used in some areas, too. Arrows were often constructed from light, solid wood, though particularly strong reed grass could be used in a pinch. Arrowheads were often made from stone, such as flint or volcanic obsidian, though bone and metal points have been found as well, especially in areas where copper and iron were common. Later, after Europeans re-introduced the horse into the continent, short bows once again found favor as they could be easily fired from horseback, where longbows became unwieldy.