Historical Chickasaw Tools & Weapons

The Chickasaw excelled in catching deer, eventually trading deer hides with European explorers.
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The Chickasaws inhabited sections of modern Mississippi, Tennessee and Alabama for centuries prior to their forcible removal by the U.S. government in 1830. Closely related to their rivals the Choctaws, the Chickasaws were a matrilineal people that prided themselves on the strength of their warriors. Boys would learn to tolerate pain and deprivation from an early age, while women would take active roles in war strategy. Depending on the political state of their society, the Chickasaws were ruled by either a war chief or a peace chief. However, regardless of their relationship with surrounding tribes, their artisans and weapons-makers refined their skills in crafting highly effective tools and weaponry.

1 Fire and Ceramics

Archaeologists have carbon-dated both live-shell- and fossil-shell-tempered Chickasaw ceramics to the 1500s, using such relics to determine the path of Chickasaw migration and settlement. Chickasaw artists would mold characteristically dark Mississippi clay into pots featuring notched fillets beneath the rim, a design wholly unique to Chickasaw artisans. They would then fire the ceramic vessels in kilns, creating distinctive pottery for use in food storage and preparation. They would also utilize clay in the construction of the mound shelters that typified their villages.

2 Bow and Arrows

Like other contemporaneous Native Americans, Chickasaw warriors and hunters armed themselves with bows and arrows. Weapons specialists would collect and season the ligaments of large animals like deer to create the long, elastic sinew ideal for bowstrings. They constructed bows and arrow shafts alike out of local woods, often tailoring arrows to the intended prey. They would typically make arrow fletchings out of bird feathers, guaranteeing that arrows would fly as the archer intended.

3 Scrapers and Tanning Supplies

During the 1700s, the Chickasaw engaged in extensive trade with European explorers, providing both slaves and deer pelts in exchange for guns and ammunition. Yet Chickasaws had perfected the art of tanning centuries prior to contact. Flintknappers would create scrapers, knives and other tanning implements to skin, clean and shape the hides. Likewise, tanners would use these tools to create clothing and useful leather artifacts for Chickasaw citizens and to trade with neighboring tribes.

4 Axes and Agriculture

Chickasaw villages consisted of "mound" buildings, constructed out of trees, clay and grass roofs. They used axes to fell and shape trees to build homes, then use smaller pieces of wood to construct arrows, storage containers and other useful implements. A Chickasaw settlement typically included gardens as well. While hunters reliably provided their people with protein, farmers contributed maize, squash and other crops, utilizing stone and wood gardening implements to eliminate weeds and aerate soil.

Since 2003, Momi Awana's writing has been featured in "The Hawaii Independent," "Tradewinds" and "Eternal Portraits." She served as a communications specialist at the Hawaii State Legislature and currently teaches writing classes at her library. Awana holds a Master of Arts in English from University of Hawaii, Mānoa.