The name of the Gunstock club was so-called because this weapon resembled the shape of a a musket or rifle body and was carved in the shape of a European gunstock. Gunstock clubs were widely used across North America in the late 1700's and 1800's, both as weapons and status symbols. They were made with hard wood or whale bone and embellished with carvings on the handle and a pointed blade was also and important part of the Gunstock Club. Various embellishments such as engraving or carving of Native American Symbols and the addition of paint on the handle of Gunstock war clubs and sometimes the addition of brass studs. The Gunstock club is used for ceremonial purposes at powwows, diplomatic events such as signing peace treaties and other special occasions.
The Design of the Gunstock Club
The gunstock club was a dual purpose close contact weapon. It could be used for bludgeoning an enemy using a swinging action which became even more deadly when the enemy was hit with one of the pointed blades, situated on the upper end, near the elbow section of the war club. The blades of the gunstock war club were made of strong stone like Flint, that were made by Native Americans that were expert in the art of Flint Knapping, antler horns, bone, or metals including iron and steel. The body of the gunstock war club was flat and board-like and made from hardened woods such as maple, ash, hickory, juniper, oak, cedar, walnut and birch and measured about 30 inches, weighing from two to three pounds. We have sorted the designs and types of Native American war clubs into five main categories based on their style and design. The Gunstock club is one of the most distinctive styles of war clubs:
- Bludgeoning types of war clubs
- Hatchet Axe types of war clubs
- Pick Axe types of war clubs
- Ball Head types of war clubs
- Gun Shaped, or Gunstock, types of war clubs
History of the Gunstock Club
The Gunstock club was one of the later war weapons introduced by the Native Americans following the arrival of the white settlers, soldiers and traders. The similarity of the design and shape of the gunstock club to the firearms (muskets and rifles) of the Europeans was deliberate. The motives for using this type of design is not so clear, but could be due to a couple of reasons:
- Native Americans would have seen the gun used as a bludgeoning weapon by the whites
- American Indians would have seen, feared and envied the firepower of the guns - a new weapon, using the gun shape, might have proved an advantage over rival enemy tribes
Gunstock war clubs were most predominantly used by the Great Plains Indians and the Woodland Indians, notably the Sioux and the Fox tribes.