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Old 8th March 2020, 03:48 AM   #7
Jim McDougall
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Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Route 66
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Originally Posted by ParikiMark
Dear all!

I could use some help identifying the sword in the attached pictures. One is of Crooked Hand, a Pawnee, and the other of an unidentified Otoe man. I've been told that it is a Model 1832 Foot Artillery Sword. I am curious to learn how and when these swords made their way to Nebraska and how they came into the possession of the Pawnees, Otoes, and possibly other tribes. I've only seen photographs of these two Native Americans with these swords and I wonder if there are more.

Most Native American swords were cavalry sabers, which make the foot artillery sword somewhat unique. Most texts I found state that Native Americans used these swords mainly for decorative and ceremonial purposes and treat them merely as signs of status. I am not sure that is always the case. I suspect that Indians may have used these weapons in battle. See the attached Arikara ledger drawing depicting battle lines that show an array of weapons (neatly organized) that includes a saber. Any thoughts on the use of swords/sabers by Native American in battles (the US Cavalry did use sabers in battles on occasion) are much appreciated.


This is an excellent post and query! and very much addresses a seldom investigated aspect of American Indian weaponry. I am curious about
the Otoe warrior pictured and if there is a date or period (Crooked Hand was c.1870s) also more detail on the Arikara artwork.

I am not sure of the occurrence of a single warrior among battle lines holding what appears to be a saber represents it being used as a combat weapon. These were symbols of power, status and imbued with these as well as deep spiritual protective values, much as the case with warrior's shields.

As noted, the ceremonial use of swords by various tribes is well established, and as noted by Colin Taylor ("Native American Weapons" , 2001, p.54, p.121) swords were traded to Eastern Woodlands tribes as early as 17th c. but 'fell into disuse as weapons'.

It is further noted that after the Napoleonic wars, the British were disposing of huge stockpiles of arms as surplus, which brought many M1796 cavalry sabers into America, many of which ended up at the Bordeaux Trading Post near Chadron, Nebraska. Naturally this is but one of probably many locations, but this one notably recorded.
In these references it is described how one Crow chief had a red painted saber and displayed it symbolically representing his power.

see: "Crow Lance Cases or Sword Scabbards", G. Galante
'American Indian Art'
Vol. 6, #1, p 64-73, 1980
"Crow Indian Beadwork" W.Wildschut; J. Ewers. 1959

In the so called 'Indian Wars' which extended from during the Civil War through the 1870s (I had a grandfather in the cavalry in Minnesota during the Sioux Uprising 1862)....the US cavalry did of course use swords in varying degree, but by the time of the Custer event (1876) they were typically left behind (as in the Little Big Horn battle).

Getting to these images of Pawnee and Otoe holding what are apparently US M1832 'Foot Artillery' swords (produced 1832-1862 by Ames):

Absolutely outstanding entry by BAW! I know little of these events in the Kansas-Nebraska 'war' of the 1850s, and I am most curious about the detail of these M1832 swords being used by John Brown abolitionist group in the killing of these 5 men. May I ask where that detail is obtained? I have always been curious about the employing of these interesting swords, which are virtually always described as 'unfit for combat use'.

Here I would suggest that these photos of these warriors are likely CdV images (carte de visite) which were popularly produced from 1860s onward and where the photographers often carried a stockpile of props, usually including weapons.
The images of Civil War soldiers who seem almost invariably holding a Colt Navy pistol and Bowie knife are great examples of this license.

These M1832 swords seem to have been curiously, almost carelessly, disposed of or traded, sold off in their time, and turned up in many curious circumstances. I once saw one found in an archaeological site in New York, and the immediate, bizarre thought was that they had found a 'Roman' sword!!!

For further research on the disposition of these type swords into Nebraska I would recommend contacting Mr. Jim Hanson of the Museum of the Fur Trade in Chadron, Nebraska (site listed online).
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