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  • Mandans’ Arrows Feat January 13, 2018

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern , trackback


    Here is an extraordinary description of George Catlin (obit 1872), American painter and ethnologist (before his time) among the Mandans, with the matching image above. The game is basically this: how many arrows can you shoot into the air before your first arrow hits the ground. What Beach finds extraordinary are the number of arrows involved…

    The meeting represented here is something like that of an Archery Club in the civilized world, but for a different mode of shooting. Having but little necessity for correct shooting at a long distance… [the Mandans’] hunting and warring being chiefly done from the backs of their running horses, the great merit in archery with them consists in the rapidity and force with which they can discharge their arrows from their bows: and the strife in this game… was to decide who could discharge from his bow the greatest number of arrows before his first one should fall to the ground; each arrow to pass over a certain line sufficiently distant to characterize it as a clean and efficient shot.

    How many would you estimate? Beach got this badly wrong

    For this purpose a bow, a shield, a quiver or other valuable is staked as an entrance fee, and each one, grasping in his hand with the bow, a handful of arrows drawn from his quiver, as he does when rushing into battle, gives a judicious elevation to his first, and follows it with others in the most rapid succession that he can: a red flag is raised at the end of the ground at the instant the first arrow falls, and he who can count the greatest number of arrows in the air at one time, is victor, and claims the highest prize. I never beheld a more classic and beautiful group, nor a more graceful and gentlemanly rivalry than in the instance when I made the subjoined sketch; and on this occasion the young man represented in the attitude of shooting, succeeded in getting eight of his arrows on the wing at once, which I distinctly counted. Nor did it appear to be owing to any extraordinary distance to which the first was thrown, but to the exact elevation given to it, and the incredibly quickness of fixing the rest of them upon the string and getting them off.

    We are used to ideas from film, particularly of the Robin Hood variety, of arrows being shot with extraordinary accuracy. In most battles in history the trick was probably to get as many arrows in the air as possible. After all your chances of hitting the enemy were, over say a hundred yards, slight. But if you could get eight arrows off in a minute, then your chances shot up considerably…

    Any other archery achievements? Drbeachcombing AT gmail DOT com

    PS serious demerit for anyone suggesting that this was learnt from the medieval Welsh