- When the Indian got over his first fear of the gun, which he thought
was a kind of thunderbolt hurled by the white man, he was anxious to acquire
it. But even after he got the gun he attached a certain mystery to
it and termed it a "medicine iron."
At first, the Indian was never without
his bow and arrows, even after he had the gun. During the days of
the old muzzle loader he could shoot from six to ten arrows before the
enemy could reload his gun. Then, too, bow and arrows were good to
have when his powder became wet, or when he ran out of ammunition, or when
his gun was in need of repair. Few Indians ever learned how to repair
a gun, and they could not make powder, either, and were forced to depend
on the white man for ammunition.
As soon as the Indians acquired guns they
sought new enemies and new hunting grounds. In 1670 the Sauk and
Fox obtained guns from the French and two years later joined the Huron
in the war against the Sioux. Early history states that the Fox Indians,
armed with the famous Kentucky rifle, disputed possession of certain buffalo
hunting grounds with the Cheyenne and Comanche and inflicted great slaughter
In many cases the guns of the Indians were
superior to those of the white soldiers against whom they fought in the
early Colonial Wars, the Revolutionary War, and the War of 1812.
The army was always slow to adopt newer arms, and even after the Civil
War while soldiers were using the single shot Springfield riffle, the indians
already were familiar with the new Winchester repeating rifle.
The French and English both gave the Indians
firearms so they could provide more furs for them. But the Indians
were more anxious to use these weapons on their enemies. Indians
obtained ammunition from the Department of Indian Affairs under certain
treaties, which said they could use it only for hunting.
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