Skip to main content

How to Make Authentic ‘Primitive’ Ishi Arrows [VIDEO]

Here is a fascinating and historically accurate demonstration on how to make authentic Ishi arrows, just as they were made by the famous man himself.

Shawn Woods does a fantastic job in showing exactly how primitive weapons and tools were fashioned. Here, he studiously recreates the kind of arrows that Ishi himself – the “Last Yahi Indian” – created for hunting.

Woods references Saxton Pope’s books, “Yahi Archery” and “Hunting with the Bow and Arrow,” and “Ishi in Two Worlds” by Theodora Koeber, to accurately follow Ishi’s method as closely as possible.

Woods even uses the kind of self-made hand tools Ishi would have used. That the resulting arrows are so beautifully crafted and effective is a testament to both Ishi’s and Woods’ skill as craftsmen. Especially interesting is Woods’ discussion of the pigments Ishi used to paint his arrows, including the black pigment found in the eye of trout.

This is a two-part video demonstration. Part One focuses on the materials Ishi used to make his arrows.

From gathering hazel arrow shafts and finding natural pigments to the innovative two-part shaft construction and fletching choices Ishi made, Woods presents a thorough understanding of the materials and design of Ishi’s arrows.

In Part Two, Woods gets into the actual construction techniques Ishi used to make his arrows. No part of the process is taken for granted by Woods. He presents every step in exacting detail, such as Ishi’s unique method of drilling a recess in the arrow shaft in order to accomodate the foreshaft.

Interspercing tidbits of Ishi’s preferences and personality, as recorded by Pope, in with the Yahi’s skillful arrow making technique, Woods presents a fascinating look at both the man himself and a historical primitive weapon.

The story of Ishi is a story of survival, tragedy and triumph. I believe every outdoorsman, and certainly every archer, would benefit from and enjoy reading any of the various books written about this brave and resilient man.

The knowledge of so-called primitive archery craftsmanship and skill that was acquired from Ishi offers an invaluable archive of early bow and arrow technology.

As much as many of us love modern archery equipment, there is something extra special and alluring about being able to create a weapon that is effective and beautiful using all natural materials and the skill of one’s own hands.

NEXT: Make a 1900s Authentic Saxton Pope Arrowhead

you might also like

How to Make Authentic ‘Primitive’ Ishi Arrows [VIDEO]