The TOMAHAWK or also referred to as an axe or hatchet can be described similar to an axe-like weapon usually has a wooden handle and metal edge. When first developed by Native Americans, the head of the tomahawk was made out of stone. This ancient stone tomahawk was upgraded with the arrival of the Europeans in the early 1600s. The natural stone head was soon replaced with iron, steel, copper, and brass.
The word Tomahawk is derived from the Algonquian words Tomahak or Tamahakan which means “used for cutting.” The tomahawk was used primarily in close quarter combat or as a throwing weapon for enemies at distance. The versatility of the tomahawk made it highly appreciated by the early European settlers and traders who adopted this tool as an essential item.
The Tomahawk was first used during the Revolutionary War, then issued to militiamen by the Continental Congress. The Tomahawk was used widely during WWII by both Native Americans and regular GI. It saw use during the Korean War and was renamed the fighting hatchet, and became heavily used during the Vietnam War were it was renamed again as the Vietnam Tomahawk. After September 11, 2001 military troops have carried an updated version of the Tactical Tomahawk to Afghanistan and Iraq.
History of the Tomahawk
The Tomahawk was an emblem of warfare for the Native American tribes. The tomahawk symbolized both war as well as peace. It is recorded that when a war council convened a red tomahawk was placed on the ground directly in front of the chief. If, after discussion the decision was made to gather a war party the chief would pick up the red tomahawk and begin to sing war songs and dances to build the warrior spirit. The phrase “to bury the hatchet” referred specifically to settling a conflict or dispute, however to to dig up the hatchet meant warfare.
The Tomahawk also had ceremonial duties during the signing of peace treaties and were often hollow stem fixed a pipe bowl for smoking. A ceremonial tomahawk can be recognized by the elaborate decoration of leather, paint and feathers.
Primary Use of the Tomahawk
- Cutting Tool
- Close Quarters Weapon
- Throwing Weapon
- Symbol of Warfare
a Sioux Indian Chief holding a Tomahawk taken sometime during the 1800’s (photo courtesy of http:bladeforums.com)