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Tomahawk Kit


Continued from product description on Native American's Page Two...

Historical Background: The tomahawk has a long history in North America. American Indians used these light axes as both a tool and a weapon. Later, English sailors adopted the tomahawk name for the boarding ax used to disable and seize enemy ships. This boarding ax was also used in the earliest days of the United States Navy. On August 3, 1804, Captain Steven Decatur reported the seizure of a Tripolitan gunboat and stated: "Pistol, saber and tomahawk were made good use of by our brave Tars."

Native American tomahawks were originally a wooden stick with a stone head. The stone head could have one or two sharpened edges. Sometimes a piece of deer antler or large animal jaw bone was used. The head was fastened to the wooden handle by either: sticking the head through a hole in the wood; splitting one end of the handle and lashing the head into the crevasse; or, tying leather thongs around the head and handle.

Early American settlers found this light, hatchet-like implement to be a versatile and superior tool when made with a steel head. European-made tomahawks soon became a highly prized trade item by Native Americans and continued to be until the late 1800s. The tomahawk also became a piece of standard equipment used by European frontiersmen who traded, trapped, and explored in North America.

While Native Americans typically used tomahawks as a hatchet-like tool or in hand-to-hand combat, tomahawks could also be used as missiles. A well-balanced tomahawk could be thrown with amazing accuracy as well as deadly force. Many Indian tribes held tomahawk-throwing contests because it was considered an important skill to have. This was certainly the case when it came to saving one's own scalp. Speaking of which, knives were generally used to take an enemy's scalp. Contrary to popular belief, tomahawks were only used for scalping when a warrior had to do a "rushed job."

Many people think of the tomahawk as only a weapon -- either a lightweight hatchet used by Indians long ago or a cruise missile used by today's U.S. Navy. The tomahawk was, however, also a tool, a ceremonial object, a decorative item, and a symbol of friendship.

One type of tomahawk was used to seal peace treaties or make tribal alliances. This tomahawk had a pipe bowl at the other end of the haft. A hollow stem was affixed to the end with the pipe bowl. Pipe tomahawks were often smoked at tribal pow wows and council meetings, presented as gifts to important chiefs, given to seal a friendship, and used to commemorate treaties. Ceremonial tomahawks were decorated in as an elaborate manner as possible. They could have painted designs, engraved markings, metal heads, and wooden handles with inlaid silver or pewter -- and even have eagle feathers tied to them.

In fact, the majority of Indian tomahawks were personalized in some way by their owners. The methods of adornment varied greatly. How they were decorated depended primarily on what materials were available as well as the styles of the time and customs of the region. According to Native-American-Art.com: "Hafts were polished smooth, carved, scalloped, inlaid, branded with hot files, tacked, wrapped with copper or brass wire, covered with rawhide, leather or cloth, stained, painted and hung with every type of ornament imaginable."

The tomahawk perseveres today as an ubiquitous symbol and reminder of Native Americans, along with the war bonnet, totem pole, and teepee. And young American boys continue to "whoop it up" playing with their toy tomahawks just as they did many, many moons ago.

Fun Fact: The name "tomahawk" is derived from either the Algonquian word "tamahak" or "tamahakan."

Fun Fact: American Indian tribes made peace with their enemies using the tomahawk. The ceremony included burying a tomahawk in the ground to symbolize there was no longer a need for it as a weapon. Many believe this is why we say "bury the hatchet."

Fun Fact: A tomahawk-throwing target was a slice of tree trunk approximately 12-18 inches in diameter and at least 6 inches thick. It was supported by some means at least a handle length off the ground so it wouldn't hurt the blade in case of a missed throw.

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Tomahawk Kit
Tomahawk Kit
Item Number 6006

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