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Our Sacred History

Lipan Weapons

      To make a bow, a Lipan man chose a piece of cedar or mulberry wood which was naturally bow-shaped and which measured about 4 feet long. Then they wrapped the wood in cow sinew in order to strengthen it. Some of the bows were made stiff and straight in the middle, curving toward the points where the bowstrings were tied and also curving back slightly at the tie-off point. Other bows were made with a uniform curve and spring throughout. Cow sinew was also used to make the bowstring.

      Arrows were made of cimarron wood or any hard wood which was well-seasoned and dry. In the 1700’s, arrows were feathered up to the flint, but by the 1800’s, the Lipans had changed their feathering style to only three feathers for arrows used by adult men in hunting and in warfare. Children were given arrows of one or two feathers. The Lipans never used an arrow with four feathers. In the 1600’s, flint was used as a projectile point but by the early 1700’s, the Lipans began to adapt scrap metal, which they obtained through trade at the Pecos Pueblo, to make arrowheads. The metal was cut or pounded into the shape of an arrowhead and tied on the end of the arrow with sinew. Arrows needed to be straightened periodically, which was done by heating them over a fire and running the arrow through the teeth, biting them at intervals in order to straighten the wood. Arrows were also coated in clotted blood or poisonous plant substances in order to imbue the arrow with ritual significance and insure that the arrow wreaked maximum damage to the enemy.

      The bow and arrow were carried in a buckskin quiver which hung from the left shoulder. This meant that the arrows were drawn and fired with the right hand. Many Lipan men also cut their hair on the left side of their head at the top of their ear, wearing their long braid over their right shoulder. One reason for this was probably so that the braid and hair did not interfere with the quiver strap or with the left arm, which held the bow.

      A Lipan lance was made by attaching a piece of steel, usually a Spanish saber, to a long piece of wood with sinew. The steel tip was about 2˝ feet in length and the wooden shaft was about 8 or 9 feet long. The lance was adorned with feathers and metal ornaments.

      After 1750, the Lipans began to obtain French muskets through trade with east Texas tribes. The east Texas tribes had been given the muskets by French traders in Louisiana and along the Red River. By 1780, every Lipan man was armed with at least one gun and had become expert in their use. A Wooden stand was mounted on the pommel of their saddle so that a warrior could rest their gun on the stand in order to be able to take a better shot. There is also some evidence which indicates that the Lipans had learned how to make gunpowder by 1800, although they obtained most of their gunpowder and ammunition through trade or by force (such as the 1790 attack on Laredo, where an entire warehouse full of gunpowder was looted).

      All early references to Lipan weapons do not mention their use of a war club, but close Lipan allies such as the Natagés did use war clubs, so it is possible that the Lipans adapted the use of a war club from their allies. These war clubs were oval-shaped, smooth stones to which a wooden handle was attached by sinew; they looked somewhat like a hatchet.

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Lipan Apache Tribe of Texas
P.O. Box 5218
McAllen, Texas 78502