Native American Bow Making
By: Jason Danner
There are many types or styles of Native American bows. Along with the many types comes multiple different ways of making them. The history of the Native American Bow is fascinating in that it became a necessity to the Indians. Without the bow, everyday hunting would have been less successful. The bow and arrow changed the way Native Americans hunted for the better. More successful hunts mean more food to bring home.
The main two types of bows that the Native Americans made and used were the flatbow, and the longbow. Both played major roles in shaping Native American culture. There are many different designs for both bows, but the shape and strength of the bow in the end determine whether it is a flatbow or longbow. Styles of bows are designed for purposes. Small bows are often great for ambush hunting in woods, or heavy brush, but normally give up strength in the end. Big bows are by nature more powerful but are more cumbersome as well. Each bow has its purpose. Native Americans knew this many years ago. The bow has been around for many centuries, and its designs are still used today. Different woods were selected depending on availability of wood in the habitat.
The Longbow as its name implies is a long bow from tip to tip. It doesn’t have a designated with however. It can be a wide bow or a narrow bow depending on the width you prefer. The picture on the right shows the differences in the wide verses the narrow bow styles. The long bow can be anywhere from three and one half feet long to over six feet long. As you can see, its up to the builders preference. Native Americans did not use templates or tapemeasures, so every bow was unique in its shape. Size and strength would depend on the feel of the wood and how the bow felt in the hands of the hunter. Most would prefer hardwood to softwood when making the bow. Other designs can be done to the longbow as well like making a recurve longbow. This would be done by putting the bow in boiling water and curving the tips of the bow. A recurve bow has more strength than a regular long bow because more tension can be put on the wood when the bow is drawn back. Sanding becomes your friend as well as time. Native Americans finished the bows by rubbing them in deer or bear fat and deer brains. Then they would set them by a fire Americans also would wrap string or fibers from plants around the bows to add strength and longevity to the bow. This process is known as sinew backing. Strings were made from the same things as the backing on the bow. They could be plant fibers or animal intestines.
The other popular bow I mentioned earlier was the flatbow. The flatbow is more rectangular in shape as compared to the long bow. It is wider, and deeper in the handle. The longbow has more of a D-shaped look. The flatbow is made essentially the same way as the longbow is, but the flatbow is a non-recurved bow. A bow cannot be recurved and called a flatbow. The picture on the right displays a standard American Flatbow.
Native American bow making is a fascinating art. It takes time and skills to complete. Another thing to take away is that the design is really up to the builder. The bow is designed for the tasks at hand whether it is on the plains or woodlands in North America.

Annotated Bibliography:
This website has good information with regards to types of wood that is best for making a bow by hand. It also shows different styles of bows one can make.
American Indian Archery talks about the history behind the making of bows and arrows. It also talks about benefits regarding the use of a bow by the Indians. Materials for bow making are also talked about in this article.
This website is a bow making tutorial. It has information on making a Native American replica bow. It is very easy to follow and also has useful background information.
This website suggests that “whitewood” is the best wood for making a bow. It shows information on building a standard D-bow. 1,2,3… step instructions are fairly easy to follow, however not many pictures to demonstrate.
Wikipedia offers simple info on building a flatbow, another style of bow that the Native Americans used. It talks about the differences between the flatbow and the D-bow in general. Wikipedia also makes statements regarding advantages of the flatbow.,or.r_gc.r_pw.&fp=15552c02145427b5
This link offers viewers a chance to look up videos on youtube for making bows. Visual aids can really help someone interested in making their own bow.
Wikihow offers a step by step process for making a simple Native American bow. Not the simplest instructions to follow with few pictures, but talks about wood types and what is used for the string.
Author gives his perspective on webpage. He also talks about the history of bows. The cordage bow is mad a little different than other Native American bows.
Ehow tells readers how Native Americans made bows. It talks about the history of bow making and the general timeframe of the bow.
Native American website offering techniques to building bows. Contemporary pictures and other links are available.
History and the making of the bow offer exactly what it says. It talks about history and making bows. It also compares and talks about other culture’s bows.
This website has pictures as well as good links to making a bow out of an Osage tree. You can see how labor intensive making a bow like the Native Americans was.
This website talks about the age of Native American bows. Another bow is introduced as the ancient California bow.
A blog spot comparing other bows to Native American Bows. This blog page also has many pictures of different types of bows.
This website talks about the Native American Flatbow. It goes into details about the specific design of the flatbow and how the mechanics of the bow are utilized.
This website goes into detail about how essential the bow was to Native Americans. A little is talked about the age and the history.
This is a website that gives directions to books and encyclopedias about Native American Bow making. This is a great source of accurate information.
This website offers simple ways of making Native American Bows. It gives a materials list and basic methods.
This website talks about making a Native American willow bow. It has plenty of pictures and has step-by-step instructions.
This is a blog spot talking about another type of bow. It’s a good place to go to ask questions about making bows.