Dating back to 1825-1850, this Missouri War axe represents those used by Indigenous tribes in the Missouri River region, such as the Sioux, Shoshones, Mandan, and Osage. Axes like this often possessed inscriptions left by the blacksmith who forged them or designs like the bleeding heart shown on this blade. A common folkloric symbol, the missing steel used to create the bleeding heart was believed to grant its user a steely or stronger heart instead.
War axes became common exchange items within the complex fur trade network that existed throughout the Missouri River and its watershed during the 18th and 19th centuries. European merchants traded manufactured goods, such as Italian beads, guns, whiskey, and metal axes with Indigenous peoples to obtain animal skins that fueled a growing fashion industry in their home countries. The fur trade became one of the first catalysts for westward expansion in the United States. While shaping the continental United States as it exists today, it also depleted natural resources and set in motion the European and American infiltration that increasingly stole native land over the coming centuries.
Subject: Fur trade; Indians of North America; Trade routes
Contributing Institution: Missouri History Society
Accession Number: 2018-087-0001
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