The Origin of the Bow and Arrow

During the long winter nights, children listened as elders told them the traditions of their people. The following Abenaki tradition, tells of the origin of the bow and arrow.


One day, a hunter was out looking for game. Suddenly out of a bush came a great black bear. The hunter had only his spear and his knife to protect himself.

- "Awassos", said the hunter, "I have not come here to harm you so I will leave you in peace".

But the bear, Awassos, had another plan and started to walk toward the hunter. The hunter, fearing for his life, decided to turn and walk away. The bear knew he was stronger than the man and soon started to pursue him.

To protect himself while running, the hunter turned his spearhead behind him. Seeing a thick bush he ran through it hoping that the branches would slow the bear.

As the hunter ran, he realized that his spear was caught on a vine along one of the bushes. In a desperate attempt to free the spear, he pulled on it with all his strength.

Suddenly, just as the bear caught him, the hunter lost his grip and the spear flew towards the bear. The vine became a natural sling.

To the hunter’s surprise, his spear struck the bear in the chest, inflicting a mortal wound to the animal.

- "Iahi!" cheered the hunter.
- "Wliwni, Kchi Niwaskw!"
- "Thank you, Great Spirit, for saving my life, and providing food and clothing for me and my family."

Giving homage to the Great Spirit, he realized that a new weapon could be made.

- "Enni!" said the hunter, as his wonder became greater.

Instead of using a tree, he could take a branch from a tree and instead of using a vine; he could make a string from milkweed to make the new weapon.

The hunter gave homage to the Great Spirit for giving him this new aid to his hunting.

And this is one story explaining how the bow and arrow were created!

Collected thanks to Joseph Bruchac, Abenaki storyteller.
Joseph Bruchac, Abenaki storyteller
Canadian Heritage Information Network, The Canadian Canoe Museum; The Elliott Avedon Museum and Archive of Games; Musée des Abénakis; Museum of Anthropology; St. Boniface Museum; Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian; Woodland Cultural Centre; Sport Canada; 2002 North American Indigenous Games Host Society; North American Indigenous Games Council; Aboriginal Sport Circle

© 2009, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

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