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bird arrow

Catalogue number: III-B-111

Name (English): bird arrow

Name (French): fl├Ęche

Name (Innu): akashku

Culture: Barren Ground Innu

Institution: The Rooms, Provincial Museum Division

Place made: unknown

Maker: displayed as example of Naskapi hunting equipment

Collector: unknown

Date Collected: unknown

Description: ooden arrow with notched top which has three white feathers attached to end by cotton, twine, tape and tree gum. At other end narrow shaft broadens into blunt, club-like head.

Innu narrative: Akushk, an arrow. They used arrows. They made arrowheads, and that's what was used to hunt the caribou before rifles. Nobody would have had a gun...when the old hunters ran out of bullets, they used arrows - Pinashue Benuen.

Akushk (arrow). This is used with the bow. I heard that women used to hunt with those and killed partridges with them. I heard they were good at hunting with the bow and arrow in the past...The partridge feathers were used. They help to shoot straight. I heard that it shot straight when the feathers are put there. When the hunters left the camp, the women would use bows and arrows for hunting partridges [and rabbits]. This is before we had .22 rifles...The bow and arrows are used for children to shoot with. It is similar to the one women used for hunting - Matinen (Rich) Katshinak.

This is an akusk (arrow). I heard that before people had rifles, they would use arrows. And I heard that women used them for hunting partridges - the white partridges, and I heard they were good at targeting [shooting] with the arrows when they hunted - Pinamen (Rich) Katshinak.

atshapi - bow and arrow used to kill rabbits and partridge. Before they had guns, they used this to kill caribou as well. When they were children, they saw bow and arrows being used to kill partridge and rabbits only. The wood was made out of uatshinakan (tamarack). The string could be made out of braided caribou hide. akashku - arrow. The ones with round heads were used for killing partridge or rabbits - Shimun Michel.

Bow and arrows are really good for shooting them [partridges], almost as sharp as guns. There would be [many] of them killed. The elders were especially skilled with bow and arrows. I know how to use the bow and arrow and I killed many partridges with it...It works better with a feather. The feather directs the arrow to the target. This is the kind used to kill partridges, but not caribou...I have watched other elders make them. I never used it to shoot the caribou nor have I seen others use it. This would have to be shaped really well to be effective - Tshishennish Pasteen.

Yes, that's the same thing used to kill caribou. The caribou didn't fall to the opposite side to where it was shot. It fell on the arrow side you know, unlike when being shot by a gun. It falls over - Tshishennish Pasteen.

Yes, you started shooting it [caribou in a corral] then with the bow and arrows. After the caribou was killed, you dragged it out without destroying the corral. You made a small exit to one side of the fence where you could take the caribou out. There was an entrance, then it gradually expanded into a circle -Tshishennish Pasteen.

We would use antlers or bones. The same materials could be used to make arrowheads - Tshishennish Pasteen.

It would be very good if we could have the things back from a long time ago, so we could show them to the kids today. You know, things like shooting the spruce partridges, rabbits and porcupine. I followed a porcupine once for a long time. I finally found him up in a small tree. His eyes were closed so he must have been sleeping. I shot him with a bow and arrow and he fell off the tree. He was shaking very hard. I killed him. This arrow had a wooden spike at the end. But you had to put something slightly heavier at the end, like a nail or rock so it could travel further - Tshishennish Pasteen

Akusk (arrow). I heard this is why it helps to target with this on (referring to the feather at the end of the arrow) - Uniam Katshinak.

Other info: "In former times these Indians used the bow and arrow exclusively, but they have now nearly discarded these weapons for the guns which they procure from the traders...The arrows are usually 2 feet or 30 inches long, and feathered with three ptarmigan feathers...The head is usually an egg-shaped knob, terminating in a slender point which soon breaks off. This weapon is used for small game, as the cost of ammunition is too great to spend it upon game as readily procured by this cheaper method. The Indian is very expert in the use of the bow and arrow, and is able to knock over a ptarmigan or crouching hare every time at 25 yards. The force with which the arrow is projected is astonishing. I have seen a ptarmigan rolled for many yards amid a perfect cloud of feathers when struck by the arrow. It often tears the entire side out of the bird" - Turner (1979[1894]:148-149).

"In former years the arrow did great execution among the deer in the water or deep snow banks among which they floundered when driven into them by the Indian who, on snowshoes, was able to travel where the deer sank nearly out of sight. Among the Indian boys it is yet a favorite amusement to shoot small birds with the bow and arrow" - Turner (1979[1894]:149).

"In September 1905, Wallace...encountered Davis Inlet Indians on the George River who, in spite of having adopted firearms, still used the bow and arrow occasionally for caribou and small game. Strong...noted that a hunter after spruce grouse often carried a gun in case big game were encountered but would always shoot small game with a bow" - VanStone (1985:11).

"Strong's informants told him that arrow points were often loosely hafted so that the shaft would become detached and could be recovered by the hunter if the caribou escaped. This was especially important in the barrens where wood could not be easily obtained for additional shafts" - VanStone (1985:12). The arrows have either metal or bone points, while the shafts are made of either juniper (tamarack) or spruce wood (ibid.:12).

"The collection contains 18 blunt arrows for birds and small game...Five blunt arrows are fletched with ptarmigan or grouse feathers. According to Strong's notes...at least some of these arrows were used in a competitive game played by four men on a side. The men stood opposite each other, shooting at arrows placed upright between the sides, the object being to break the arrows" - (VanStone, 1985:12).

References: Lucien M. Turner. 1979[1894]. Indians and Eskimos in the Quebec-Labrador Peninsula. Quebec: Presses COMEDITEX. James W. VanStone. 1985. Material Culture of the Davis Inlet and Barren Ground Naskapi: the William Duncan Strong Collection. Chicago: Field Museum of Natural History. Fieldiana, Anthropology New Series No.7.