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September 3, 2013

Chickasaw craftsman upholds ancient hunting tradition

Ada —

 

What do white-tailed deer and bois d’arc trees have in common?

Wayne Walker hunts both.

His ability to locate one is inextricable with harvesting the other.

This autumn, he will test himself physically and mentally to harvest a deer with a bow he fashions from bois d’arc. Flint arrowheads, intertwined with artificial sinew, will be affixed to seasoned river cane to form the projectile.

His craft reflects a time almost 500 years before European traders swapped flintlock muskets for fur, hides and other goods possessed by the Chickasaw Nation.

The drama has been staged for centuries by Chickasaws. Mr. Walker’s quest is the same as his ancestors – making bows and arrows to feed a family in the winter, making them with pride and patience to equip the hunter with the necessary tools for survival.

“When we (Chickasaws) began trading for guns, the bow and arrow became obsolete and the art of using them skillfully was almost lost,” the 53-year-old Mr. Walker said. “Chickasaws were feared for their archery skills. Their bows were prized by tribes throughout the ancestral lands. Back then, capturing a Chickasaw bow would be like winning the lottery today.”

Since 1995, he’s been manufacturing traditional Chickasaw bows and arrows in addition to flint knives, stickball mallets, and blunted arrows for harvesting squirrel and rabbit. He even fashions arrowheads from metal to illustrate how contact with traders influenced the ancient Chickasaws.

Deer season in Oklahoma begins October 1. Mr. Walker will attempt to gain access to the Chickasaw Kullihoma Reserve for one hunt.

But he is planning another trip - a special hunt with an old friend.

That friend is in possession of a Walker-made bow and will try his hand at felling a deer with it this season. Mr. Walker made the bow for him a few years ago as a gesture of friendship. He does not make bows to sell.

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