Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Origin Of Stone Arrowheads

An artist's representation of early North American Indians knapping flint, others work to quarry the stone from the earth. 
The Origin Of Stone Arrowheads
Trickster, Little People Crafted Stone Utensils
By Dakota Wind
GREAT PLAINS, N.D. & S.D. – Educators in North Dakota cover North Dakota history in the fourth and eighth grades. In the fourth grade it’s called North Dakota Studies, and in the eighth grade it’s called North Dakota History. Whether it’s called studies or history, students, at least In Fort Yates where I went to school, usually take in a field trip to the North Dakota Heritage Center.

On my field trip, I remember seeing at the ol’ Heritage Center a big collection of arrowheads, and it was explained that the Paleo Indians made the early clovis points and other cultures which have come and gone in the ten millennia occupation of the Great Plains have made various style of arrowheads. I was supposed to accept this, because someone, probably a Ph.D. or a think-tank of experts somewhere, came to this conclusion, and that conclusion was fact.

In a related story, my Lalá (Grandfather) took my uncle Kenny, my younger brother, and me to the Klein Museum in Mobridge, S.D., for no other purpose than to see some old stuff. There we beheld a motley collection of various two-headed preserved animals like snakes and calves, but what captured my attention while there was a huge collection of arrow heads.

Meanwhile, in Carrington, N.D., there’s the Chieftain Inn. The Chieftain is known for a comically large two-story red Indian caricature outside the inn with its right hand jutted out, palm up and out in the frequently parodied Plains Indian sign for greetings made popular in old black and white westerns. Inside the carpeted halls of the convention center, the walls are decorated with custom cases filled with arrowheads, granite grinding stones, manos, and metates. It really is a wonderful display.

At any museum across the Great Plains, city, county, or state, someone has donated collection of arrowheads. 

So, the arrowheads come from some where, and there are stories about that. 

Colonel Alfred Burton Welch was determined to find an answer to the origin of the stone arrow heads. On September 23, 1923, Welch met with Chasing Fly, then about seventy years old. Chasing Fly had this to say to Welch’s question, “We did not make them. We picked them up when we wanted them. No one made the stone points. The Pȟadáni [Arikara] picked them up like we did. Iŋktómi Nation made them. Or some animal made them. No Dakȟóta ever made good ones. Some Dakȟóta prayed at it. There were many of them then. The wild plums grow on trees. The stone arrows lay on the ground. We picked the plums. We picked the points. Iŋktómi is wakȟáŋ. The stone points are wakȟáŋ. The plums were placed there for us to eat. We ate them. The stone points were put there for us to use. We used them in arrows. I cannot talk much about that thing. [Chasing Fly’s medicine was an animal, and he didn’t feel comfortable or obligated to answer further questions about stones especially stones that he felt were wakȟáŋ.] I cannot talk of stones much. Some other man can. The stone arrow point is wakȟáŋ. It is not my medicine. So I could pick them up when I found them. But I cannot talk much about them.”

On Oct. 6, 1926, Welch sat down with tribal elder Mrs. Grey Bull and asked her about the origin of arrowheads. This was her response, “Iŋktómi made the stone arrow points.  We had iron for a long time and made them.  The Dakȟóta never made them.  We say many of these stone rings and pictures on the ground on the high hills.  Someone made them.  I do not know who these people were.  They were not our people.  They were wakȟáŋ.”

In an undated conversation Welch had with Bull Bear, Welch approached Bull Bear with a flint-knapped turtle effigy. Bull Bear was moved to say, “This is a turtle. Sometimes in the past good boys and girls wore such things in a bag which was tied to their hair for good luck. Iŋktómi made it like he made all the arrow heads. Some people have heard him at work, but could never see him. I have, myself, heard him at work, chipping stones. It was a small hole south of Fort Yates where I heard him working. He went slow [chip chip]. We got within a few feet of the hole, when he would stop and we could not find him then. When we went away he worked again.”

On May 11, 1933, Welch interviewed Mrs. Crow Ghost about some artifacts exhumed from Crying Hill in Mandan, ND. Welch showed her bone and metal tools, and she told Welch that the tools were made by a woman’s hand, but the stone tools, Mrs. Crow Ghost said, were not made by human hands. “these stone knives and scrapers and arrow heads,” said Mrs. Crow Ghost, “Iŋktómi made them and put them where that woman could find them to use.”

A few years later, an unidentified Dakȟóta man had picked a flint arrow head and approached Welch with the offer to part with it for a nickel. Welch took the opportunity to ask if the arrowhead was made by Iŋktómi. The man’s answer, “I do not think so. Most of us say that he made them, but I think the Little People [Wanáği] made them.”

This is the cultural origin of the old stone arrowheads, made by Iŋktómi, the Wanáği, or perhaps even some early people, and scatted across the land.