McCarter shares blowgun dart-making knowledge
PARK HILL, Okla. – Cherokee artist Danny McCarter, of Tahlequah, possesses skills handed down by Cherokee people for hundreds of years. He makes blowguns from river cane and the darts shot from it.
Along with knowing these skills, he uses a blowgun at his job as a villager in the Cherokee Heritage Center’s Diligwa Village. He interprets for the village’s visitors the Cherokee lifeways of the mid-1700s.
To make darts, he uses a thistle plant and a wooden shaft, which is usually difficult for a person when first trying.
“I can teach people to make a blowgun in one day...but the dart is really the art part because it takes a lot of dexterity to roll the dart and catch the thistle on there,” he said. “It looks simple when you see somebody do it that’s done it a thousand times, but it’s really difficult.”
His late uncle, J.C. McCarter, who worked in the CHC’s Ancient Village, introduced him to the blowgun. Danny’s brother, Rob, and another villager named Scott Rackliff also had a hand in teaching Danny about the blowgun and dart making when they worked in the village in the 1980s.
Danny said from what he’s studied it is not known where the river cane blowgun originated or who invented it, but it has always been used for hunting. Some cultures in South America used it in warfare because they could deliver tranquilizers with darts. However, he said, Cherokee people used the blowgun to hunt squirrels, rabbits and birds and relied on accuracy to kill those animals. Cherokee youths also used it to keep animals out of gardens.
He said Cherokees were people small in stature, so most tools they used didn’t require great strength but technique instead. He said some people try to use a large puff of air to blow a dart from a blowgun when all that’s required is a “quick, hard” burst of breath.
He said he’s won the Cherokee National Holiday blowgun contest with just a 4-1/2-foot long blowgun when competitors used longer blowguns to shoot at a target 45 feet away. He conceded that darts coming out his shorter blowgun are somewhat thicker or heavier so they can travel that distance.
Danny begins gathering the Scottish Thistle that he uses to fletch his darts after it blooms about mid-August in northeastern Oklahoma. Its purple blooms will first appear in the northern part of the Cherokee Nation and later in the southern part. He said thistle in Sequoyah County might not bloom until mid-September.
“You don’t want to pick it while it’s purple. You want to pick it while it’s brown. If you gather it while it’s purple and try to put it up (save it for later), it will mold,” he said.
He said for accuracy and distance, thistle is the best material for fletching. He said most Oklahoma Cherokees only use their blowguns to compete in contests in which a circular target is 45 feet away and that most blowguns are 8- to 10-feet-long. As with a rifle, the longer the blowgun the farther a dart can travel and maintain its velocity.
For fletching, he takes a dried thistle bulb and removes the brown, seedy part from the pod, avoiding pulling out the bulb’s white, fluffy downy that will form the fletching.
“That’s all you want, just the downy part on the inside,” he said.
He then finds a straight, wooden skewer and notches it on top. He said a person could carve the dart out of woods such as river cane and bois d’arc, which he said both make pretty and sturdy darts. Other woods used for dart shafts are oak, ash, maple, hickory and walnut. However, to save time, he purchases a 100-pack of wooden skewers, usually used to skewer food, for his dart shafts.
After notching the top of a skewer, he takes quilting thread and knots on one end and places in the notch. He then places the downy part of the thistle pod against the stick and wraps the thread around the downy to attach it to the stick. It takes an intricate use of his hands and his teeth to attach the thistle downy to the stick with the thread.
He ties the end of the thread where the downy ends on the stick and then rolls the stick in his hands to get rid of any remaining seeds or loose downy.
“We’ve used all kinds of materials for that fletching. We’ve used the downy feathers of birds, squirrel tail, and rabbit fur. The Choctaws of Mississippi use raw cotton because that’s what they have in their area, but really thistle is the greatest material,” he said. “It’s keeps your dart in the middle of your gun. It also gives you something to blow against, and it also gives you a guide like feathers on an arrow.”
ᎠᏭᏂᏴᏍᏗ, ᎣᎦᎵᎰᎹ. – ᏣᎳᎩ ᎪᏢᏅᏍᎩ Danny McCarter, ᏓᎵᏆ ᎡᎯ ᎠᎦᏔᎭ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏍᎪᎯᏧᏈ ᎾᏕᏘᏯ ᏂᏓᏃᏢᏍᎪᎢ ᎠᏂᏣᎳᎩ ᎠᏂᏴᏫ ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᎠᎦᏘᎯ. ᏕᎪᏢᏍᎪ ᏚᏇᏍᏗ ᎾᎿ ᎢᎯᏯ ᏕᎪᏢᏗᏍᎪᎢ ᎠᎴ ᎾᏍᏊ ᏥᏥ ᏗᏍᏓᏲᏍᏙᏗ.
ᎾᏍᎩ ᎤᏅᏙ ᎯᎠ, ᎬᏗᏍᎪ ᏚᏇᏍᏗ ᏚᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᎲ ᎤᏍᏗ ᎦᏚᎲ ᎾᎿ ᏣᎳᎩ ᏧᎾᏓᎴᏅ ᎠᏰᏟ ᏗᎵᏆ ᎤᏍᏗ ᎦᏚᎲᎢ. ᏕᎧᏃᎯᏎᎰ ᎤᏍᏗ ᎦᏚᎲ ᎠᏁᏙᎯ ᎠᏂᏣᎳᎩ ᎠᏁᎲᎢ ᎾᎿ ᎦᎵᏆᏚ ᎢᏍᎪᎯᏧᏈ ᎤᏕᏘᏴᏌᏗᏒᎢ.
ᏥᏥ ᏗᎪᏢᏗᎢ, ᎬᏗᏍᎪ ᏥᏥ ᎠᎴ ᎬᎾᏍᏗ, ᎢᎬᏱ ᎠᏓᎴᏂᏍᎬ ᎡᎵ ᎠᏍᏓᏲᎢ ᎢᎪᏢᏗᎢ.
“ᎡᎵᏊ ᏱᏥᏰᏲᎲᎦ ᎨᎶ ᎾᎿ ᏚᏇᏍᏗ ᎪᏢᏗ ᏌᏊ ᎢᎦ…….ᎠᏎᏍᎩᏂ ᏥᏥ ᏓᏃᏎᎰ ᏚᏇᏍᏗ ᏗᏍᏓᏲᏍᏙᏗ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏙᎯᏳ ᏍᏓᏯ ᎪᏢᏗ ᎪᎯᏓ ᎾᏟᎢᎵᏙ ᏥᏥ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎢᎬᏅᏙᏗ ᎾᎿ ᎦᎾᏍᏗᎢ ᎪᎯᏗ ᎠᎵᏏᎾᎲᏍᏙᏗ ᎩᎳ Ꮩ ᎣᏍᏓ ᏴᏕᎶᏆ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ. ᏛᎧᏂᏍᎬᏊ ᎠᎴ ᎩᎶ ᏱᎪᏢᏍᎦ ᎠᎯᏓ ᏄᏫᏍᏙ ᎠᏎᏃ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎢᏳᏩᎪᏛ ᎨᏒ ᎢᏩᏛᏁᎸ ᎨᏐᎢ, ᎠᏎᏃ ᎢᎦ ᏍᏓᏱᎢ.”
ᎤᏚᏥ ᏚᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᎮ ᎾᎿ ᎤᏍᏗ ᎦᏚᎲ ᏧᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᎯ ᎨᏎ ᎦᏙᎥ J.C. McCarter ᏚᏙᎡᎢ. ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᎤᏪᏲᏁ ᏌᏊ ᎨᏒ ᏗᎾᏓᏅᏟ Rob ᏧᏙᎩᏓ, ᏐᎢᏃ ᏚᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᎮ Scott Rackliff ᏚᏙᎡ ᎾᏍᎩᏍᏊ ᎤᏕᎶᏆᎡᎴᎢ ᎠᎴ ᏗᏍᏓᏲᏍᏙᏗ ᏥᏥ ᏗᎪᏢᏔᏅ ᎤᏕᎶᏆᎥᏁ ᎾᎿ ᏐᏁᎳᏚ ᎢᏍᎪᎯᏧᏈ ᏁᎵᏍᎪ ᎤᏕᏘᏴᏌᏗᏒᎢ ᎨᏎᎢ.
Danny ᎠᏗᏍᎬ ᎤᎦᏎᏍᏔᏂᏙᎸ Ꮭ ᏙᎢ ᏱᎦᏅᏗ ᎾᎿ ᏙᎯᏳ ᎤᏓᎴᏅᎲ ᎦᏇᏍᏗ ᏓᏃᏢᏍᎬ ᎠᎴ ᎤᏓᎴᏅᎲᎢ, ᎠᏎᏃ ᏓᏅᏗᏍᎬ ᎠᏂᏃᎰᎵᏙᎲᎢ. ᎢᎦᏓᏃ ᎤᏛᎾ ᎤᎦᎾᏮ ᎠᎹᎵᎧ ᎠᏁᎯ ᎢᎦᏓ ᏓᏅᏗᏍᎪ ᏧᏠᏯ ᏚᏇᏍᏗ ᏚᏙᏢᏒ ᎠᏎᏃ ᏓᎾᏟᎲ ᏓᏅᏗᏍᎪ ᎠᎴ ᎠᏓᏟᏓᏗᏍᎩ ᎠᏂᏅᎵᏰᏍᎪ ᎦᎾᏍᏗᎢ. ᎾᏍᎩᏍᎩᏂ, ᎠᏗᏍᎬ ᎠᏂᏣᎳᎩ ᎠᏂᏴᏫ ᏓᏅᏗᏍᎪ ᏚᏇᏍᏗ ᎾᎿ ᏌᎶᏂ, ᏥᏍᏚ, ᎠᎴ ᏥᏍᏆ ᏚᏂᏲᎲ ᏓᏂᎯᏍᏗᏍᎪ. ᎠᏂᏣᎳᎩ ᎨᎳ ᏗᎾᏛᏍᎩ ᏓᏅᏗᏍᎪ ᏓᏂᏲᏍᏗᏍᎪ ᎪᎱᏍᏗ ᏯᏕᏯᏙᏗ ᎤᏂᏫᏒᏅᎢ.
ᎠᏗᏍᎬ ᎠᏂᏣᎳᎩ ᏧᎾᏍᏗ ᎨᏒ ᎤᎾᏙᏢᏒ, ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᎤᎪᏛ ᎠᏅᏔᏅᏍᎬ Ꮭ ᎠᏎ ᏙᎯᏳ ᎤᏟᏂᎩᏓ ᏱᎨᏎ ᎾᏍᎩᏍᎩᏂ ᎠᏂᎦᏔᎾᎢ ᎨᏒᎢ. ᎠᏗᏍᎬᏃ ᎢᎦᏓ ᎠᏂᏴᏫ ᎢᎦ ᏍᏓᏯ ᎠᎾᏦᏔᏍᎪ ᎾᎿ ᏚᏇᏍᏗ ᏝᏃ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏱᎩ ᎤᏟᏍᏗ ᏩᏦᏔᏍᏗ.
ᎠᏗᏍᎬ ᎤᏓᏠᏒ ᎾᎿ ᎠᎾᏓᎪᎾᏗᏍᎬ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎠᏂᏣᎳᎩ ᎤᎾᏕᏘᏱᏍᎬ ᎠᏍᏆᎵᏍᎬᎢ ᎬᏗᏍᎬᏃ ᏚᏇᏍᏗ ᏅᎩ ᎠᏰᏟ ᎢᎳᏏᏗ ᎢᎦᏅᎯᏓ ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᎠᏂᏐᎢ ᎨᏴ ᏕᎦᏅᎯᏒ ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᏫᏚᏂᏲᏍᏗ ᎨᏒ ᎾᎿ ᏅᎩᏍᎪ ᎯᏍᎩ ᏯᎳᏏᏗ ᎨᏐᎢ. ᎠᏗᏍᎬᏃ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎤᏤᎵ ᏚᏇᏍᏗ ᏱᏚᏍᏓᏲᏟ ᎤᎪᏙ ᎤᏟᏂᎩᏓ ᎠᏝᏫᏗᏍᎪᎢ ᎾᎿ ᎦᏅᎯᏓ ᎨᏒᎢ ᏅᎩᏍᎪ ᎯᏍᎩ ᎢᏯᎳᏏᏗ ᎨᏐ ᏫᏓᏂᏲᎯᎲᎢ. ᎠᏗᏍᎬ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏱᏓᏍᏓᏲᏟ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏍᏆᎳᎯᎨ ᏴᎬᏗ ᎤᎪᏙ ᎤᏟᏂᎩᏓ ᎨᏐ ᎠᎴ ᎠᏅᎯᏲ ᎠᏟᏫᏗᏍᎪᎢ.
Danny ᎠᎴᏂᏍᎪ ᎦᏟᏏᏍᎬ ᎠᎴ ᎤᏲᎰ ᏥᏥ ᎢᎾᎨᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏳᏥᎸᎾ ᎠᏰᏟᏴ ᎤᏂᎩᏓ ᎦᎶᏂ ᎠᎴ ᏚᎵᏍᏗ ᏕᎧᎸᎢ ᏱᎩ ᎤᏲᎰ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎠᎭᏂ ᎨᏒᎢ. ᎾᏍᎩ ᎠᏕᎭᎵᎩ ᎠᏥᎸᏍᎪ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎤᏴᏢ ᎢᏗᏢ ᏣᎳᎩᎯ ᎠᏰᎵ ᎠᎴ Ꮟ ᎣᏂᏴ ᎤᏣᏘᏂ ᎨᏒᎢ. ᎠᏗᏍᎬᏃ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏥᏥ ᏏᏉᏲ ᏍᎦᏚᎩ Ꮭ ᏯᏥᎸᏍᎪ ᎠᏰᏟ ᎤᏂᎩᏓ ᏚᎵᏍᏗ ᎧᎸ.
“ᏝᏃ ᎣᏍᏓ ᏱᎩ ᎢᎬᏅᏕᏍᏗ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏕᎭᎵᎨ ᏳᏥᎸᎭ. ᎢᎬᏅᏕᏍᏗ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎤᏬᏗᎨ ᏱᎩ. ᎢᏳᏃ ᏱᏂᎬᏂᏕᏏ ᎠᎴ ᏯᏍᏆᏂᎪᏔᏅ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏕᎭᎵᎨ ᏱᎩ ᏱᎧᎾᏬᏓᏛᎦ (ᎣᏂ ᎬᏙᏗ ᏱᎵᏏ), ᏱᎧᎾᏬᏓᏛᎦ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ.
ᎠᏗᏍᎬ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎦᏅᎯᏓ ᎤᏝᏫᏗᎢ ᏥᏥ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏬᏌᏂᏴᎢ ᎬᏙᏗᎢ ᎤᏟᏍᏗ ᎬᏙᏗᎢ, ᎠᏗᏍᎬ ᏂᎦᏓᏊ ᎢᏳᏍᏗ ᎣᎦᎵᎰᎹ ᎠᏁᎯ ᎠᏂᏣᎳᎩ ᏓᏅᏗᏍᎪ ᏚᏇᏍᏗ ᎠᎾᏓᎪᏅᏗᏍᎬᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏫᏚᏂᏲᏍᏗ ᏅᎩᏍᎪ ᎯᏍᎩ ᎢᎳᏏᏗ ᎢᏴᎢ ᎠᎴ ᏚᎪᏛ ᏚᏇᏍᏗ ᏧᏂᎳ ᎠᎴ ᏍᎪᎯ ᎢᎳᏏᏗ ᎢᏗᎦᏅᎯᏓ ᎨᏐᎢ. ᏯᏛᏂᏃ ᎦᎶᏇ ᏱᎩ, ᏚᏇᏍᏗ ᏱᎩ ᎦᏅᎯᏓ ᏱᎩ ᎢᎾ ᏫᎦᎷᎪ ᏥᏥ ᎦᏅᎯᏓ ᎠᏝᏫᏗᏍᎪᎢ.
ᏱᎰᏓᎪᏢᎾ ᏧᏍᏓᏲᏍᏙᏗ, ᎤᎧᏲᏓ ᎬᏗᏍᎪ ᎠᎴ ᏂᏕᎬᏅᏕᏍᎪ ᏂᎦᏓ ᎤᏬᏗᎨ ᎨᏒ ᎠᎴ ᎤᏂᎦᏘ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎤᏁᎦ ᎨᏒᎢ ᏂᎦᏓ ᎧᏃᎯᏯᏍᎪ ᎤᏬᏢᏙᏗ ᏥᏥ.
“ᎾᏍᎩᏊᏃ ᎢᎦ ᎨᏐ, ᎾᏍᎩ ᎭᏫᏂ ᏄᏍᏛᎢ ᏕᎪᏢᏗᏍᎪᎢ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ.
ᏃᏊᎴ ᎠᏴᏩᏘᏍᎪ ᎦᏥᏃᏍᏗ ᎠᏓ ᎠᎴ ᏓᏰᎶᎰ ᎦᎸᎳᏗ. ᎠᏗᏍᎬ ᎨᎶ ᎠᎵᏊ ᏱᏕᎪᏢᏗ ᎢᎯᏯ ᎠᎴ ᎧᎶᏇᏓ ᏓᎶᏂᎨ ᎾᏄ ᏍᏓᏯ ᎠᏓ ᎤᏬᏚᎯ ᎾᏍᏊ. ᏗᏐᎢ ᎠᏓ ᏗᎦᎬᏙᏗ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏧᏍᎦ, ash, maple, ᏩᏁᎢ, ᎠᎴ ᏎᏗ. ᎠᏎᏍᎩᏂ, ᎤᏟᏍᏛᎢ ᏗᎪᏢᏗ ᏱᏓᏩᏏᏊ ᏕᎦᎳᏗᏍᏛ ᎦᏅᏍᏗ ᎠᎾᏓᏍᏓᏴᎲᏍᎪ ᏓᏅᏗᏍᎪᎢ.
ᎦᎸᎳᏗ ᏱᏓᏰᎳᎵ, ᏴᎩ ᎦᏰᏫᏒᏙᏗ ᎬᏗᏍᎪ ᎠᎴ ᏓᎧᏁᎯᎰ ᎠᎴ ᏂᎬᏅᏗᏍᎪ ᎾᎿ ᎬᎾᏍᏗᎢ.
ᏃᎴ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎤᏁᎦ ᏩᏂᎨ ᎨᏒ ᎦᏅᏍᏗᎢ ᏃᏊ ᎠᏍᏘ ᎠᎴᏂᏍᎪ ᎦᎸᏪᏯᏍᏗᏍᎪ ᎪᏢᏍᎪ ᏚᏇᏍᏗ ᏗᏍᏓᏲᏍᏙᏗ. ᏙᎯᏳᏃ ᏕᎬᏗᏍᎪ ᏧᏬᏰᏂ ᎠᎴ ᎾᏍᏊ ᏗᎦᏅᏙᎬ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏕᎬᏗᏍᎪ ᏂᎬᏅᏗᏍᎬ ᏥᏥ ᎾᎿ ᎬᎾᏍᏗᎢ.
ᏓᎧᏁᎯᎰ ᎤᏍᎪᎵ ᎠᎴ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏩᏂᎨ ᎨᏒ ᎠᎴ ᎦᎸᏪᏯᏍᏗᏍᎪ ᎦᏅᏍᏗᎢ ᏂᎦᏓᏃ ᏳᎸᏪᏯᏍᏔᏂ ᏂᎬᏅᏕᏍᎪ ᏂᎦᏓ ᏃᏒ ᎨᏒᎢ.
“ᏧᏓᎴᏅᏓ ᎣᎬᏔᏅᎾ ᏙᏦᏢᏗᏍᎬ ᏗᏲᏍᏙᏗ ᏯᏛᎾ ᏥᏍᏆ, ᏌᎶᎵ ᎦᏙᎩ, ᎠᎴ ᏥᏍᏚ ᎤᏩᏂ. ᎠᏂᏣᏗ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎧᏍᎩᏲᎩ ᎠᏁᎯ ᎠᏅᏗᏍᎪ ᎤᏥᎸᎢ ᏅᏗᎦᎵᏍᏙᏗ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎤᏥᎸ ᎠᎾᏛᎯᏍᏗᏍᎩ, ᎠᏎᏃ ᏥᏥ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏬᏌᏂᏴ ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ. ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᎯᎠ ᎠᏍᏕᎵᏍᎪ ᏥᏥ ᎦᎶᏇᎯ ᎠᏰᏟ ᎢᏳᎵᏍᏙᏗ , ᎠᎴ ᎠᏍᏕᎵᏍᎪ ᎦᎶᏇᎯ ᏥᏳᎪᏓ ᎢᏳᎵᏍᏙᏗ ᏥᏥ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎤᏠᏯ ᎦᏟᏓ.