Research: Apache Medicine Shields

Please note that some articles have been transferred over from the Old Word Museum site. You may occasionally encounter broken links or outdated information in these articles.

Written by: Lori Soard
Date: 1998

THE TRAPPINGS OF BATTLE: Apache Medicine Shields

The Apache were renowned for their cunning defense strategies. When going into battle, they always dressed for the occasion. Warriors traveled light, wearing buckskin moccasins, muslin pants, a rifle or bow and arrows (the arrows were reputed to be poisonous), a water4ight wicker jug to serve as a canteen, a blanket thrown over the shoulders, and a headdress of buckskin with hawk and eagle feathers. They carried lances, war-clubs and knives, oflen blackened for camouflage.

The choice of garments and decoration was made not as much from a need for physical protection as a necessity for spiritual protection. The warrior brought to battle all the supernatural help he could muster. To this end, the warrior and the garments were decorated carefully.

The Apache often fought with medicine shields, called nas-ta-zhih. The shields were made from hardened cowhide, sometimes with buckskin around the sides, and painted with sacred designs in order to protect their carrier in battle, and often had an ample amount of eagle feathers suspended from them.

The shields were traditionally made by di-yins, war shamans. However, sometimes a warrior constructed his own, then took it to the di-yin to be painted with power symbols. Since the shields could only be safely made by those with the medicine to control this great power, they were purchased only by wealthy warriors. Use of a shield indicated hand-to-hand combat, therefore they were carried only by the bravest warriors.

Research: Cherokee History

Please note that some articles have been transferred over from the Old Word Museum site. You may occasionally encounter broken links or outdated information in these articles.

Written by: Julie Farrow
Date: 1998


No one, not even the Cherokee, know of their true origin. But, as in their ancient myths, we know they didn’t fall from the clouds nor spring from the earth.

The Cherokee relies on tradition, archaeology and linguistic data in tracing their roots. Unlike the white man, who pictured their history on sticks, wove it into wampum or imbedded it deeply into the memories of descendants, the Cherokee did not. Modern day, college-educated Cherokees believe their roots to go back to prehistoric man. A migration period has been referred to and supported by myths passed down through the centuries throughout various tribes.

In their petition to the Supreme Court of the United States in January, 1830, the Cherokee Nation asserted: That the Cherokees were the occupants and owners of the territory in which they now reside before the first approach of the white men of Europe to the western continent; deriving their title from the Great Spirit [Asga-ya-Galun-lati] who is the father of the human family, and to whom the whole earth belongs. composing the Cherokee Nation, they and their ancestors have been and are the sole and exclusive masters of this territory, governed by their own laws, usage, and customs.

The land they referred to was approximately forty thousand square miles of the vast Alleghenies in what today is southwest Virginia, western North and South Carolina, eastern Tennessee, northern Georgia and the northeastern tip of Alabama.

Delaware tradition mentions a prehistoric migration of Cherokees. In their history is mentioned fights between the Delaware and the Tallegwis or Cherokees when they occupied the Eastern seaboard. The Tallegwis were defeated and driven south beyond the Ohio River. This tradition is reinforced by archaeological and linguistic data. Burial mounds have been discovered in Ohio, Illinois, Virginia and Tennessee that contain ancient artifacts similar to those used by the southern Allegheny Cherokee — these include pipes and crematory posts.

Many theories exist to explain the name Cherokee. Among the theories is Tsalagi or Tsaragi, Tsalagi a mnemonic meaning “Ancient Tobacco People” — tsalu being the Cherokee name for tobacco and agaawli, “old or ancient.” By some it is thought that the name Tsalagi is a derivative of A-tsila-gi-ga-i meaning “People of a Different Speech.” Early day Cherokees referred to themselves as Ani Kitu Hwagi or “People of Kituhwa” which was their mother city and located near Bryson City, North Carolina. Another Cherokee name was Ani-yun-Wiya, “Real or Principal People.”

Recorded history dates to 1540 and the arrival of Hernando DeSoto in the Cherokee country on the Tennessee River.

Suspected by Benjamin S. Barton over a century ago is that, at least linguistically, the Cherokee belong to Iroquoian stock. This was definitely established by J.N.B. Dewitt in 1887., Since there is a marked difference both lexically and grammatically it indicates that the separation came at an early period.

By region, the dialect of the Cherokee differs. The Lower Cherokee dialect or Eastern dialect has a rolling r, which takes the place of the l in other dialects. In this dialect, the tribal name is Tsaragi, which was corrupted by English settlers to Cherokee. The Eastern dialect was spoken in the towns along the Keowee and Tugaloo, the head streams of the Savannah River in North Carolina and the adjacent portion of Georgia.

The Middle dialect or Kituhwa dialect resembles the Eastern dialect except it has the l sound. It was spoken along the Tuckasegee and the headwaters of the Little Tennessee in the very heart of Cherokee country. it is still spoken on the Qualla reservation.

The Western dialect, the softest and most musical language, has a liquid l. It is spoken in most of the towns of east Tennessee and upper Georgia and along the Hiwassee and Cheowa rivers in North Carolina.

There is, too, among other Cherokees, indication of a fourth and fifth dialogue,

Many traditions exist as to the origin of the Cherokee. The most ancient is the one held by the Delaware expulsion of the Talligewi {Cherokee} from the north. As the Delawares moved from the west, their progress was impeded by the powerful Alligewi or Talligewi who occupied the country on what is thought to be the upper Ohio. These people built and occupied earthen fortifications so strong and secure that the Delaware were forced to seek assistance from the Iroquois or Mengwe. The ensuing warfare lasted many years until the Allegewi were defeated. The surviving Allegewi fled down the river. This river, still called by the Delaware the Alligewi Sipu or river of the Alligewi supports that this is the true river of the tradition. The Alligewi were said to have been of giant stature and far exceeded their conquerors in size.

In the Walam Olum, a metrical translation of an ancient hieroglyphic bark record discovered in 1820, the main tradition is given in much the same way as the Delaware tradition.

The Wyandot also confirm the story and fix the identification of the expelled tribe. Their tradition, narrated in 1802, states that “ancient fortifications in the Ohio valley had been erected in the course of a long war between themselves and the Cherokee which finally resulted in defeat of the latter.”

The Cherokees final settlement was upon the headwaters of the Tennessee in the rich valleys of the Alleghenies.

Research: 1887 Colt

Please note that some articles have been transferred over from the Old Word Museum site. You may occasionally encounter broken links or outdated information in these articles.

Written By: Betty Wilson
Date: 2002


The Colt and Parker companies mass produced high-quality double-barrel, breech-loading shotguns in the nineteenth century. While price was secondary in these guns after quality, the companies did keep the shotguns at competitive prices.

Colt advertised the 1878 Hammer Model as being made of the best materials and constructed with the best workmanship. And, not long after being introduced, the Model 1878 was winning medals.

Colt produced 22,683 Model 1878 shotguns, with serial numbers logically running from 1 to 22,683. The model 1878 was discontinued in 1889 due to stiff competition from domestic and foreign companies. Shooters had been choosing cheap prices and poor quality over the quality of he Colt Shotgun.

The standard Model 1878 was manufactured in 10 gauge and 12 gauge with 28, 30, and 32 inch barrels. A 12 gauge with 28 inch barrels weighed about 7.5 pounds.

The breech-loading shotgun with outside hammers had rolled Colt markings on the lockplates and barrel rib, hard rubber butt plates and checkering on the stock. Barrels were blued or browned with a Damascus twist.

Army officers sometimes ordered weapons on their own, and the Colt Co. gave them an incentive to buy the Model 1878 hammer shotgun or the 1883 hammerless shotgun by offering the two side-by-side double-barreled shotguns at a 25 percent discount.

I have a 10 gauge Model 1878 Colt Shotgun with outside hammers, blue Damascus barrels with the rolled Colt markings, engraving, and checkered stock. The shotgun has a letter of authenticity states it was sold to a hardware store in San Francisco in 1878.

Sources: Colt: The American Legend by R.L.Wilson, The Peacemakers by R.L. Wilson, Guns of the Wild West: Firearms of the American Frontier from 1849-1917 by George Markham, Bluebook of Gun Values by S.P. Fjestad, and a Colt Letter by the Colt Historical Society owned by Betty Wilson.

Originally Printed for the Western Writers Newsletter. Permission to reprint by Betty Wilson. For information on subscribing to the WHR Newsletter, contact

Bio of Betty Wilson:

Arizona Territorial Newspaper

Apache Junction, Arizona

Wrote over a hundred feature articles for them.

Theme: Arizona Western History

Wrote for the newspaper under another Editor: Weekly Column: Guns of the West

Pinal Observer Newspaper

Apache Junction, Arizona

Weekly column: Guns & Lace

Column was partial history, information, and political

Self-Published a book called The Best of Guns & Lace, which is no longer available. I published the book mainly to compile the column and accommodate my customers at the gunshop who wanted to keep copies.


Arizona Arms Association

State of Arizona

As Secretary of the Organization, I was editor and writer of the monthly newsletter for the organization.


Wilson’s Gunshop

Apache Junction, Az.

My husband and I owned the shop until July,1997. We closed due to my husband’s disability which occurred this past summer.


Psychiatric Outpatient Clinic Nurse Registered Nurse Arizona