Bow Making

Chickasaw Culture Keepers

Chickasaw bow maker Elihu Johnson credits the hands of Chickasaw warriors and their prowess with the bow and arrow as a deciding factor in the Nation's triumph over Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto. Johnson is keeping his ancestors' legacy alive when he hand-makes bows today. Any tree that produces a fruit or nut can make a bow, he says, but he personally prefers bodark or black locust wood because both are virtually rot-resistant and are strong and flexible. "I have the utmost respect [for the trees I cut down] because I'm harvesting a living thing," Johnson says. "When the bow is in my hands, it's alive again. It's almost a religious experience."