From Warpath to Work of Art: The Native American Tomahawk

The Native American tomahawk is an iconic weapon that holds deep cultural and historical significance. It was a versatile tool utilized in warfare, hunting, and ceremonial purposes by various Native American tribes, including the Northern Plains tribes. Traditionally made with a stone or metal head attached to a wooden handle, the tomahawk exemplifies the ingenuity and craftsmanship of Native American cultures.

If you’re interested in Native American culture, you might have come across a wide range of tomahawks, such as the pipe tomahawk, decorative tomahawks, and American tomahawks. These tomahawks are not only functional weapons but also works of art, showcasing the skill and creativity of Native American artists in crafting these weapons.

The History of Native American Tomahawks

Tomahawks were first used by Native Americans in the Eastern Woodlands region of North America. The original tomahawks were made from stone, and later from copper, and were used primarily as tools for chopping and carving. These early tomahawks were not designed for use as weapons.

It wasn’t until the arrival of European colonizers that the tomahawk began to be used as a weapon. The colonizers introduced iron, which allowed the Native Americans to create tomahawks that were much more effective in battle. The tomahawk became a popular weapon among Native American tribes and was used in both war and hunting.

Understanding the history of Native American tomahawks provides insights into their evolution and uses over the centuries. The tomahawk’s history dates back to the earliest Native American tribes, who initially crafted them from stone, such as blade chips or solid stone clubs. With the arrival of European colonizers, iron-blade tomahawks became more prevalent, allowing for more effective weapons in battle and hunting. The adoption of metal, including cast iron blades and bronze heads, revolutionized tomahawk construction.

The pipe tomahawk is a classic design that combines the features of a tomahawk and a smoking pipe. It features a solid brass head, often adorned with decorative carvings and genuine feathers, and a wooden handle carefully crafted with extraordinary care. These tomahawks, also known as American tomahawk pipes, are highly valued and sought after by collectors for their historical and cultural significance.

Uses of Native American Tomahawks

Tomahawks come in various designs, including the classic tomahawk design, limited edition tomahawks, and handmade reproductions. Modern tomahawks, often made from durable materials like Damascus steel, have gained popularity among enthusiasts and collectors. Spirit deer bone tomahawks, stone tomahawks, and tactical tomahawks are also part of the diverse range available.

The tomahawk was a versatile tool that had a variety of uses. It could be used for chopping wood, hunting, and as a weapon. In battle, tomahawks were used for close combat, and they were particularly effective in hand-to-hand combat due to their small size and lightweight.

Tomahawks were also used in Native American religious ceremonies. For example, some tribes used them in a ritual called the “Tomahawk Dance,” which was performed to honor warriors who had achieved great feats in battle.

The Symbolism of Native American Tomahawks

Tomahawks were more than just weapons; they held cultural significance within Native American tribes. For example, the Cherokee tribe had unique tomahawk designs, often handmade by skilled Indian artists. Decorated shafts, beaded stems, and designs on the stem were common features, symbolizing tribal identity and offering a chance for peace among different tribes during ceremonial pipe ceremonies.

Tomahawks were also essential for self-defense and served as symbols of strength and power within Native American cultures. They were cataloged as common weapons among Native American warriors and used by tribes like the Navajo Indians and Inuit Native Americans. The collection of tomahawks and artifacts has provided valuable insights into Native American history and their diverse tribal cultures.

Today, there is a vast selection of tomahawks available for collectors and enthusiasts. Antique tomahawks, including those with authentic Sioux Plains yellow paint, are highly sought after. Custom-made tomahawks, including those crafted with genuine steer shoulder blades and blade decorations, are painstakingly made by skilled artists. Collectors can also find tomahawks with functional designs, average display weapons, and rustic pieces, catering to different preferences.


The Native American tomahawk is a symbol of tradition, strength, and power. It played a significant role in the history and culture of Native Americans, and its versatility, symbolism, and historical significance continue to captivate enthusiasts and collectors today. The craftsmanship and artistry behind these weapons, combined with their cultural significance, make tomahawks an essential artifact in Native American culture. By exploring and appreciating tomahawks, we gain a deeper understanding of the rich heritage and contributions of Native American tribes throughout history.


Were tomahawks only used by Native Americans?

No, tomahawks were also used by European settlers and soldiers during the colonial era.

Are tomahawks still used by Native Americans today?

Yes, some Native American tribes still use tomahawks in religious ceremonies.

Can tomahawks be purchased today?

Yes, tomahawks can be purchased as decorative items or functional tools.

Were tomahawks used in any famous battles?

Yes, tomahawks were used in the Battle of Little Bighorn, where the Lakota Sioux and Northern Cheyenne tribes defeated the US army.

Are there any Native American tribes that are particularly associated with tomahawks?

The Iroquois and Algonquin tribes are known for their use of tomahawks.