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The Native American Tomahawk: History and Many Uses
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The Native American Tomahawk: History and Many Uses

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Many of us are familiar with the widely renowned beauty of Native American jewelry, from turquoise rings for women to beautiful pendants and even bolo ties. However, when it comes to historical and significant Native American artifacts, far fewer are aware of the fascinating history and significance behind the Native American tomahawk. Read on to learn more about the history of tomahawks and their importance to different communities of indigenous people in both spiritual practice and everyday life.

Tomahawk Origins

The name tomahawk is believed to have come from the Algonquin People, a community of Native Americans who occupied the region surrounding the Great Lakes and the northern Atlantic Coast. The Algonquin word “tamahakan” was used to indicate a cutting tool, and it is believed that the term tomahawk is the anglicized version of this term. Tomahawks were traditionally created with a triangle-shaped stone affixed to a wooden handle using rawhide strips. This practice shifted with the introduction of silversmithing practices by the Spaniards in the 1600s, after which the Algonquin people became familiar with the crafting of metal blades.

The Uses of Tomahawks

The tomahawk bears a resemblance to your standard hand ax, with the distinctions being that the size is on the smaller side, typically less than 18 inches, and the handle of the piece is also straight rather than curved. This made the tool relatively light and easy to transport, allowing it to become highly useful for both cutting and hunting. The tool was also commonly used as a weapon for many centuries due to its adaptability. Its light weight made it a weapon that could both be easily thrown or used in one-on-one fighting.

Decorative Elements

The tomahawks of different people were often adorned with unique decorative elements by the bearer. Personal decorations often included things like eagle feathers to signify bravery or stonework like turquoise inlay to offer strength and protection. Medicine bundles were also commonly attached to tomahawks to imbue the weapon with supernatural properties that were thought to assist the owner during battles and hunting.

Ceremonial Significance

Tomahawks weren’t only used for utilitarian purposes and often played a significant role during ceremonies and treaties. For example, when working towards a peace treaty with other indigenous tribes, a tomahawk was often buried to symbolize an end to the fighting and discord. This is actually where the term “bury the hatchet” originates from.

If you’re interested in learning more about the unique historical artifacts that make up the beautiful arts and cultural traditions of Native Americans, come pay us a visit at Palms Trading Company. We showcase Native American jewelry and art that is deeply rooted in the history and practices of Native American artisans. Contact us today to learn more and find your very own beautiful piece of Native American earrings.