Old Arrow Maker

Edmonia Lewis’s Old Arrow Maker illustrates an excerpt from the Song of Hiawatha by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, in which the character Minnehaha plaits mats of flags and rushes” while her father makes arrow-heads of jasper.” They both look up to greet Hiawatha, whose presence is implied by the deer he brought as a token of marriage. Lewis often created sculptures of Native Americans, and possibly chose the character of Hiawatha because he was from the Ojibwa tribe, like her mother. The coming together of the Ojibwa and Dakota tribes may refer to Lewis’s hopes for reconciliation between the North and South after the Civil War. In the story, Hiawatha later marries Minnehaha with the wish that “… old feuds might be forgotten/​And old wounds be healed forever.”

At the doorway of his wigwam

Sat the ancient Arrow-maker

At his side, in all her beauty,

Sat the lovely Minnehaha”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Song of Hiawatha, first published 1855 
Old Arrow Maker
modeled 1866, carved 1872
Not on view
21 1213 5813 38 in. (54.534.534.0 cm.)
Credit Line

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Gift of Joseph S. Sinclair

Mediums Description
carved marble
  • Ethnic – Indian
  • Figure group
  • Occupation – craft – arrow maker
  • Dress – ethnic – Indian dress
Object Number
Linked Open Data
Linked Open Data URI

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