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Indian Artifacts


Dee Dee Giffen

Senior High Division


Somewhere back in the good old days of Minnesota and NorthDakota, Indians pretty much ruled the territory by themselves. But soonthe white men showed up and brought along his customs and rituals and triedto change the Indian. The Indians continued with their own ideas, weapons,and methods. Some were very primitive, but also very effective and veryuseful for their purpose.

Generally, Indian artifacts come under three classifications:weapons, tools, and ceremonials. (1) Weapons being used for wars and battles;tools, for everyday things like cooking, drilling holes, etc.; while ceremonialsare symbolic, beautiful objects used only for special occasions and usuallynot having any real purpose except for ceremonies.

Weapons were a very important part in the Indian's life.The most common weapon is the arrowhead. This is a pointed piece of stonethat is usually notched at the bottom. Most of the ones that could be foundin the area of Minnesota and North Dakota would be made of flint or quartz.They can also be made of agate, petrified wood, obsidian, glass, jasper,or many other kinds of rock. An arrowhead is usually one to two inches insize, but spearheads, (which are a bigger version of the arrowhead) areabout five to seven inches long.

As with most things, the Indians made them, each arrowheador spearhead was original, no two were exactly alike.

To make arrowheads, an Indian would get a large stone andsplit pieces from it with another large rock or boulder as a hammer. Hethen sought out a piece of suitable size and thickness and grasping it tightlybetween his palm and the fingertips of one hand, he pressed the upper sideof the stone near one edge with an antler bone or some tool, and removeda chip from the underside of the arrow. By repeating this procedure withtime and skill, he got exactly what he wanted.

Different kinds of arrowheads were suited to differentneeds. Some were blunt, used to stun animals, and many were needle-sharp,to kill. If an Indian wanted to kill a small bird, he simply used a smallarrowhead. If he wanted to kill a bear or something bigger, he used a spearhead,and he might have pout some kind of poison on the tip of it. The Indiansof the past are famous for their bow and arrow techniques.

Tools were devices of work. Drills of flint, whether handpowered or bow powered, made holes wherever needed in almost any material.These were usually one to three inches long. Pestles were cylindrical shapedstones used to pound vegetables or dried meat into powder. (2) A medicineball was a round, stone ball about two inches in diameter. It was used togrind herbs and berries to a pulp. Medicine balls can be bigger and theyusually were used by the medicine men if the tribe had one, and they usuallyweren't without one. Other tools included knifes and scrapers. Their mainuse was between scraping down hides to paring arrow shafts. They come inall shapes and sizes.

Stone axes were made by sharpening a large rock with another.This was a must for all the trees that needed cutting. There were also hammerstones, grooved stones and round stones. These served many purposes forfishing and hunting.

Flint fishhooks were one of the first of their kind. Theywere made in much the same way as arrowheads. Many people did not know thatthe Indians were the first to invent fishhooks.

Pottery is another on the list for old Indian tools. Thepottery was made out of clay that was baked in the sun. Most pottery cannot be found in one piece because of modern farming methods.

Ceremonials is a specialized collector's field and thepieces have a great range. Anything that serves no known purpose and looksto be very well and carefully made can be classified as a ceremonial.

Pipes can be different though. An herb mixture was usuallysmoked in them. Some of the carved stone pipes, if very old and well preserved,can be worth a lot of money. This depends on what they are made of and howwell preserved they are. One animal headed pipe brought $1,600 at an auctionin Bainbridge, Ohio. Most people would probably think that pipes were madeout of clay too, but the truth is that they were made out of pipestone andsoapstone. Pipestone is a very red, soft kind of stone and soapstone isa dark black stone which is soft too.

Indian artifacts are an important part of America's heritageand within them they hold the essence of the past.

(1) Hothem, Larry, "Indian Artifacts About in NorthDakota," The Dakota Farmer, June 31, 1973, pp 1

(2) Don Giffen, St. Vincent, Minnesota, Interview, January21, 1975



Arrowhead, World Book, Encyclopedia, Volume One, 1972,lpp 708

Clarke, Rainbird, Grimes Graves, Norfolk, 1963

Giffen, Don, St. Vincent, Minnesota, Interview, January21, 1975

Hothem, Larry, "Indian Artifacts Abound in North Dakota"The Dakota Farmer, June 31, 1973, pp 1

rry, "Indian Artifacts Abound in North Dakota"The Dakota Farmer, June 31, 1973, pp 1