Edward Palmer - Bow and Arrows
Bow and Arrows
Accession Number: 015724
Date Acquired: 1885
Narrative: Bows and Arrow(weeds)
The Cocopa created bows and arrows primarily from two plants: Arrow-weed (Pluchea sericea), a woody shrub that grows up to three meters used for the arrow shafts, and Carrizo (Phragmites communis), a large grass native to the New World.
Tale of Two Plants
In 1922 a young Aldo Leopold recorded that Arrow-weed "grew in dense impenetrable groves throughout the [Colorado River] delta" (Meine 1988:207 in Felger 2000:28). Arrow-weed branches are willow-like, long, leafy and upright. The densely silvery leaves are approximately 1.5-4.5 cm long and the flowers pink (Felger 2000). It grows on soils that are sandy, silty-clayish, often alkaline, mostly in wet places or where water accumulates, and occasionally on low dunes (Felger 2000). It was especially abundant along the lower Rio Colorado (Felger 2000). It now commonly grows along the river bank and adjacent sandy mesas, at the Cienaga de Santa Clara, and as a weed in agricultural areas (Felger 2000). It flowers March through June (Felger 2000).
The Cocopa esteemed the long, straight stems of Carrizo (Phragmites communis) for house construction, roofing, and arrow shafts.
Another Lac for a Different Purpose
Arrow-weed often hosts a lac-producing insect, Tachardiella sp. (previously known as Carteria sp.). The lac, yellow to dark red-brown in color, was collected from the stems and used as an all-purpose plastic adhesive and sealant (Euler & Jones 1956). The Cocopa of Arizona used lac for waxing bows and arrows and for mending pots.
The Cocopa language and culture is endangered. The population the entire community, which includes residents of both Mexico and the United States, hovers around 500 people and is decreasing. The language is passed on to some children in certain communities and at one local college in the southwestern United States (Lewis, 2009).