Lakota Sioux bows were typically self bows. This means that they were made from a single piece of wood. The bow is a double curved design where the grip is set back and the limbs curve out slightly at an angle. The bow curves back again at the tips. This design gives the bow strength and power. The Lakota bows are also shorter than most North American Indian bows as are the arrows which were usually graced with wild turkey feathers. The design of the bow and arrows was meant for hunting to sustain the tribe and not seen so much as a weapon.
Use an Ash stick about four feet in length and approximately one inch in diameter from one end to the other. Any white wood will do. A green stick is the best since it bends more easily without breaking. To obtain the double curved shape of the bow, tie the stick around either a small tree or a pole.
Pound two, 3 foot stakes in the ground on each side of the tree trunk. Stand facing the tree, hold the middle of the ash stick against the tree trunk about two feet up from the ground, and bend the stick slightly against the tree so the ends are facing away from you. Have someone tie the middle of the stick to the tree. Gently bend back each end of the stick so they are facing back towards you and tie one end to each of the stakes. This should create a gently curve in the stick.
Leave the stick tied to the tree and stakes for about 2 to 3 months. This works best if done during a dry season so the wood can dry out and form the shape. Optionally, tie the stick around a pole and leave near a furnace or fireplace in your home so it can dry out quicker.
Remove the stick from around the tree after curing for 2 to 3 months. There should be a gentle double curve in the stick. Use a pocket knife to whittle each end of the bow from the tip down about three inches to form a tapered end.
Whittle on the outside edges of the bow, never on the front or back as this will weaken the bow. The wood should taper the last three inches up to the tip, but do not make a pointed end. Cut a notch around the circumference of the bow about three inches down from each tip. These notches will hold the bowstring in place.
Cut out a piece of the nylon string approximately 40 inches. Tie one end of the string to one end of the bow, fitting it into the groove. Make a slipknot in the other end of the string. Place the end of the bow with the tied string on the ground. Bend the bow gently just until the slipknot can fit over the other end. Slip the string into the groove. Tighten the slipknot around the bow until it is snug.
Make the handle on the bow by wrapping leather material around the middle section. Continue wrapping until there is enough padding for the handle. You can use waterproof leather glue to hold in place or sew the edge closed by using heavy duty thread and using a blanket stitch.
Choose about six to eight straight willow branches or other flexible wood. They should be about two feet in length and a half inch in diameter.
Carve the tip of the stick into a point to create the arrow tip. If desired, you can tie on an arrowhead to the end of the stick instead of carving a point. Make a notch in one end of the stick, insert the arrowhead into the notch and tie on using the leather cording.
Cut a notch in the other end of the arrow about one-fourth of an inch. This notch will rest on the bowstring. Slit a turkey feather in two.
Glue each half onto the arrow at the notched end. The two halves of the feather should be facing opposite each other.
Wrap a piece of leather cording around the bottom edge of the feathers to hold in place. Repeat Steps 2 to 4 to finish all the arrows.
Supervise children when using a knife. Supervise children younger than 8 if shooting the arrows. Do not use pine wood as it is too brittle.
Tips and warnings
- Supervise children when using a knife.
- Supervise children younger than 8 if shooting the arrows.
- Do not use pine wood as it is too brittle.