The ancient stone-headed hatchet axe was further developed in the 1600's using European technology when the stone head was replaced by iron, steel, copper or brass metals. This new style hatchet axe was basically a lightweight axe that had a metal edge on a solid wooden handle. The hatchet axe was used in deadly hand-to-hand combat, or as a throwing weapon. The hatchet axe was developed into a variety of different shapes and designs, some of which are illustrated in the opposite picture of various Native American weapons.
Making a Hatchet Axe
The Hatchet Axe was a dual purpose weapon used as a close contact weapon or as a throwing weapon. It was used for cutting an enemy using a swinging action. The hatchet axe was generally used as a favored weapon by the Iroquoian and Algonquian tribes of eastern North America. The materials required to make a Hatchet Axe included the following:
Dry, hard wood was selected for the handle of the hatchet axe about 12-15 inches in length
The tough wood used to make the handle of the hatchet axe included hickory, juniper, oak, cedar, maple, ash, walnut and birch
The Hatchet Axe head was initially made from stone, antler or bone and was hafted to the handle with from sinew or plant fibers
Later from metals such as iron, steel, copper or brass were used to make the cutting blade
The blade was extremely thin and from 7-9 inches long
The 'poll' of the Hatchet axe (the side opposite the blade) might consist of a hammer, a spike or even a pipe.
The handles of the hatchet axe were often embellished with carvings, feathers and painting
The Hatchet axes usually weighed between 2 - 3 pounds
The Hatchet Axe was most commonly used as a close contact weapon but on occasions throwing the hatchet was a necessary action. The Native American was skilled in the art of hatchet throwing but the decision to do this in battle was never taken lightly as it would mean that they had lost their most important weapon. Hatchet throwing was more often used as a sport by the Native Americans who take part in various hatchet throwing contests when large groups gathered for special events or for trading.
Bury the Hatchet
We have all heard the phrase "Bury the Hatchet" in relation to forgetting differences and settling disputes. But how many people realize that this phrase directly relates to the traditions of the Native American Indians? The Battle Axe was the Native American emblem of warfare. And as a symbol of warfare it represents two sides of the coin: war and peace. To bury the hatchet meant peace - to dig the hatchet up, meant to declare the most deadly warfare.
Bury the Hatchet - the Iroquois Confederacy
The significance of the phrase to "Bury the Hatchet" dates back to at least 1200AD. It was about this time that the Iroquois Confederacy was established by Deganawida (the Great Peacemaker) and Hiawatha. The Great Peacemaker used a white pine, called the Tree of Peace, to symbolize the peace established by the Iroquois Confederacy. The branches of the tree represented protection, a far seeing eagle on the top of the tree symbolized a warning system and beneath the roots of the Tree of Peace a hatchet was buried which symbolized that there would be no fighting between the Iroquois tribes.
The Hatchet Axe - Symbol of War and Peace
The hatchet axe were used by Native Americans for important ceremonies, such as signing a peace treaty. Ceremonial hatchets were elaborately decorated with paint and feathers, and often had a hollow stem fixed at the end with a pipe bowl for smoking the 'peace pipe'. The Pipe tomahawk, or 'smoak tomahawk' was adopted by the Cherokee tribe as early as the 1750's and combined both the hatchet axe and the pipe in one single item - symbols of both war and peace.
Use of the Hatchet Axe
The hatchet axe was a multi-purpose implement and used for a variety of reasons:
A symbol of warfare
A close combat weapon
A throwing weapon
A sporting device
A ceremonial device
A cutting tool