Bow - Navajo Uses

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The bow, always carried in war, was made of oak, tselkhani (a very hard wood), cedar, or sumac, and is now also made of black greasewood. The lower or inner side of the bow is flattened, while the other side is made smooth and slightly rounded at the edges. The stick is then heated over a fire, after which the foot is firmly planted on the center, and both ends of the stick are turned inwardly. Both ends of the stick are in turn pressed against the knee, so that when finished the stick has a slightly serpentine appearance. The extreme ends and the center, where the foot has been planted, are now wound with sinew of bighorn or deer (now also of goat, cow or other sinew) to the length of about three or four inches, to strengthen these points. Finally the whole is covered with pitch. The bowstring of twisted bighorn or deer (goat, cow or other) sinew is securely wrapped about the end of the bow, while the loop at the opposite end of the bowstring may be easily slipped over the notch provided on the bow. When not in use the string is unslipped to release the tension. The bow is not decorated. The shaft of the arrow is made of one or other sepcies of hard wood like wild currant, black greasewood, Findlera rupicola, etc. Sticks of these are well cleaned of their bark, smoothly poliched and straightened, which was done by pressing them between the teeth, or running them through narrowly grooved stones, or a punctured horn of the bighorn. A small notch ot fit the bowstring is then made at one end of the shaft and a double zigzag line, with two intervening straight ones, representing zigzag and sheet lightning, are marked across its entire length. A triple fletching of eagle, hawk, crow or turkey feathers is then added and secured with sinew. A narrow colored line of red and blue at the tip of the fletching completes the decoration of the shaft. The arrow point of chipped white flint (besh ilgai) or flint (bes'est'ugi), and at present a piece of iron rubbed down to a triangular flat point, is set into the spliced end of the shaft and secured there with sinew. Pgs. 318, 319


An Ethnologic Dictionary of the Navaho Language; 1910, The Franciscan Fathers.

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