Published on March 8, 2013 by Amy
A knife or dagger was always carried by Native Americans. Most tribes also used some form of Hatchet Axe. The first weapons made by the Native Americans were made of stone. Stone Weapons came in many different guises and required considerable skill by the weapon maker and a considerable amount of time to make. It is commonly assumed that the use of metal blades in weapons was introduced by the early European explorers and settlers, however, there were some Indian tribes who were already using copper in the manufacture of their weapons.
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The metal blades used in the manufacture of Native American weapons therefore started for some tribes with copper blades, predominantly in the southern Mississippi Valley region, the northern area around the Great Lakes and the Northwest Pacific coast Indians. The Europeans who first arrived in North America in the 1500 and 1600′s introduced other types of metal blades including iron, steel and brass metals. The use of these deadly metal blades were adopted by the Native Americans who quickly appreciated the great value of metal blades over the stone blades. The Stone Age technology would be replaced by an era of metal.
The first type of metal blades used in weapons by the Native Americans was copper. The use of copper was restricted to the tribes who lived in the areas in which copper was a natural resource. Large deposits of copper were found in the Mississippi Valley region and around the Great Lakes and the Northwest coastal Indians, however, there is evidence that copper was also used for metal blades in weapons in many other areas extending from Alaska in the far north and Florida in the far south. It is believed that the copper from these deposits were transported across North America. The glacial period of the Ice Age in the Great Lakes Region resulted in the scouring of the rock that held copper deposits exposing veins of native copper. Extensive amounts of copper pieces of all shapes and sizes were also freely deposited in the area due to the melting of the glaciers. This type of copper that is found in glacial gravel deposits, is known as “float copper”. Copper nuggets from the ” float copper” were hammered and shaped into metal blades used for weapons such as Spears, celts and knives. The copper metal blades were generally used for long weapons and were typically narrow and double-edged, imitating the styles and designs of the stone weapons.
The copper metal blades had distinct disadvantages because the points and the edges of the copper metal blades became quickly blunted. The value of copper as metal blades was therefore limited but the copper metal itself was regarded as having magical powers and was viewed by some tribes as sacred and weapons with copper metal blades were considered a symbol of status and power owned by high ranking warriors. The number of copper metal blades for weapons increased when refined copper was introduced by the European traders. The Europeans also brought other metals to the Native Indians including iron, steel and brass.
The limited number of iron metal blades used in the early manufacture of Native American weapons were made from iron meteorites. An iron meteorite consists of about 95% metal containing iron with some nickel and traces of cobalt. This type of iron was easy malleable and suited to cold hammering. Normally a high degree of temperature is required to melt iron making the process of making iron metal blades far more difficult. The iron metal blade was, however, highly desirable because it had a longer life and was easier to maintain than the traditional stone weapon. The number of weapons with iron metal blades did increase – the European traders started to trade weapons with metal blades for fur.
The Europeans arrived in North America and set up trading posts. The New World provided highly lucrative trading opportunities and the Native Indians were able to supply the desired goods – especially the beaver skins for the highly lucrative Fur Trade. The Native Americans, like the Europeans, wanted the goods that that they were unable to obtain themselves. And the most important item of trade for the Native Americans were the metal blades and metals used in the manufacture of European weapons. Metal blades of iron, brass and steel were traded with the Indians. The level of trade increased even further when they later they realized the value of guns…