Plateau Indian Tools and Weapons
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 Plateau Indian Tools and Weapons

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Plateau Indian Tools and Weapons



While hunting, the men were armed with double-curved or a flat type bow and arrows; they also used spears, harpoons, clubs, bolts, and slings. The bow and arrow constituted the primary weapon for hunting and war, until Europeans introduced guns.

To trap the animals the men used nets, deadfalls, snares, lassos, pits,and game corals. Indians also drove game over cliffs, stampeded them with fire, or drove them into water to be speared from a canoe.

Arrowheads, knives, and scrapers were made from obsidian, bone, and antlers. The Plateau Indians had a variety of useful knives. One knife was the utility knife. These people also had stone knives that were used for many different purposes.

The obsidian knife was extremely sharp. Delicate scapels made from obsidian could make delicate cuts so fine that nothing compared to them until modern surgery lasers were invented.

Knives could be used for cutting nettles, or used for cutting fine hemp to make nets. The tool also could split cedar bark because of it's sharp edge. Another knife was a lengthy dagger. This was used more for ceremony and dramatic use. Sometimes it was carved with designs and inlaid with abalone shell.

One of the tools the Plateau Indians used was the Pebble Tool. It was a smooth and water-worn tool. There are ten general types of pebble tools. Large ones are used for heavy-duty work such as cutting, chopping, crushing, cracking, shredding, pulping, scraping, and smoothing.

Another well-used tool was the ulna tool. It was made from the bone of a deer, the Wapiti and small mammals. The ulna tool was made in a variety of shapes and sizes. The knife was used for splitting open herring and cedar bark for bisecting and other uses. They were pointed to serve as an awl.

Sharpened scapula bones from large animals were used as scrapers to scrape and prepare hides for tanning.

Another kind of tool were bone points. These were tools that ranged in size from 3 cm to more than 20 cm. Some points were even shaped from splinters of bone. These bone points were mostly used for hunting and fishing gear, and were attached to hooks, lines and shafts.

Of all the baskets the Plateau tribes made probably the coiled basket was the most popular. These consisted of tightly sewn cylinder coils. They wrapped flexible split cedar or spruce roots around a foundation of the same material.

The foundations were bound/sewn together by thread from the inner bark fibers from the antelope brush, sage brush, or hemp. Dried fibers were scraped and rubbed between palms. Finally they were rolled and twisted to make cords. This material was kept moist to maintain flexibility while they worked.

The construction began at the center bottom of the basket. A continuous coil was wound around to create a base. At the same time the piece used to wrap one bundle of roots also passed through the adjoining coil firmly sewing them together. The sides of the basket were then gradually built up. They were shaped into about seven different shapes, depending on what they were to be used for.

To obtain desired colors of tan, brown or black the people frequently buried the baskets. The color green was obtained from boiled snowberry leaves, yellow from boiled alder bark or Oregon grape root. Black was made from horse tail roots. White came from the inner leaves of bear grass and blue was obtained with blueberry juice.

Red was made from huckleberry, blackberry,or choke cherry juices and the inner bark of wild cherry. Common patterns were rows of triangles, rectangles, diamonds, and other geometric shapes.

They also made tule baskets (pronounced too-lee)that were waterproof and used for storage and cooking.

Dugout log canoes were used by most groups, but usually just for transportation and not for fishing. Dugout canoes were made from red cedar or cottonwood, or bark canoes from white pine or birch.

Salmon were speared, hooked, netted, or more often caught in special traps called weirs.

Snowshoes were commonly used - their designs were specially suited to the varying conditions of snow and terrain.

In early times dogs were used as pack animals as well as in hunting deer. By the 1730s the horse was introduced and became the primary transportation and beast of burden.

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What's New:
Nespelem Oral History
The town of Nespelem, situated on the Colville Indian Reservation derived its name from an Indian word meaning "large meadow beside a stream."



Sinixt Lake indians
Most Sinixt or Lake indians are now part of the Colville tribe in Washington state, but once roamed both Washington and British Columbia.

Chelan Indians
The Chelan Indians were historically located at the outlet of Lake Chelan in Washington State.

Marriage and Wedding Customs
Men of the Plateau Tribes usually had at least two wives at the same time, more if they were wealthy.

Burial Customs of the Colville
Burial / Funeral Traditions of the Plateau Indians

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