Shoshone Indian Tools & Weapons

Written by anastasia leon
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Shoshone Indian Tools & Weapons
(Hemera Technologies/ Images)

Bound by their language, the Shoshone people occupied a vast territory stretching from southern Idaho to Death Valley (in eastern California) and east to Wyoming. As nomadic hunters and gatherers, Shoshone families moved throughout their home territory year-round, only coming together as a tribe to perform group hunts, seasonal ceremonies and to organise war efforts. The tools and weapons of the Shoshone people reflect their nomadic lifestyle, being compact, lightweight and durable, as well as richly decorated with culturally significant symbols and colours.

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Bows acted as weapons and hunting tools for the Shoshone. Several specialised varieties exist within their culture, including long bows for shooting on foot and short bows for use on horseback. Standard bows most frequently were hewn from green wood, which is highly flexible and easily shaped during the curing process, although the Shoshone sometimes employed sheep horn in the production of short bows because of its strength, beauty and flexibility. Reinforced with sinew backing, sheep horn bows offered increased recoil and shooting power, allowing more effective kill-shots from Shoshone hunters and warriors, according to Steve Allely, author of "Encyclopedia of Native American Bows, Arrows and Quivers."

War Clubs and Tomahawks

In hand-to-hand combat, Shoshone warriors employed a variety of striking tools such as clubs and tomahawks. One weapon in particular was a favourite of the Shoshone: the pukamoggran. The pukamoggran consists of a 3-foot-long pine handle with a 2-pound stone lashed to the end. Although it features no sharp edges, the pukamoggran is classified as a tomahawk because it was thrown at a target instead of being held while striking blows, like a war club. Shoshone war clubs feature a very basic design, with a 3- to 4-foot-long length of wood carved to include a blunt, rounded end for striking. Although basic, war clubs display a variety of carved or painted symbolic motifs, beadwork and eagle feathers, indicating the importance or fighting prowess of the warrior who held it, according to Rob Staeger, author of "Native American Tools and Weapons."


Among the Shoshone nation, the tribes of the Panamint Range and Death Valley excelled at basket weaving, producing a variety of functional and ceremonial vessels that exist today. From small, lidded canisters to large, open-mouthed trays, each work of basketry was created using readily available materials such as willow lathes, yucca root, grasses, pine needles and bulrush. Although most Shoshone baskets feature ornamentation, the most elaborate baskets were created as funerary offerings or to hold the ashes of loved ones following cremation, according to Jack S. Williams, author of "The Shoshone of California."

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