A couple of months ago, myself and four other educators from our community, were trained both in 4-H and National Archery in the Schools Program, NASP, to teach archery to youth. Since then, we have been busy getting kids ready for a tournament in Ellensburg, WA which is a month away. It is amazing, in such a small amount of time, how Native American students can be prepared for competition. There are also a handful of non-natives, and they too are incredibly accurate archers.
Strong eye for aiming.
It’s in their blood.
Their ancestors lived by the bow and arrow. They sculpted their bows with the strongest materials made of western yew, juniper and oceanspray (ironwood) using horsetail stems like sandpaper to smooth the bows. Oceanspray and juniper were also used to carve arrows. Resin from cottonwood and ponderosa pine provided cement for gluing arrowheads and feathers into shafts.
Here is what the archers have learned so far:
- Determine eye dominance. Most of the time if a person is right handed they shoot the same. But not always so it is important to determine this before shooting.
- Making and using a string bow. This tool is made of a non-elastic cord, like parachute cord, to practice proper technique without the interference from a target.
- Eleven Steps of NASP: stance, nock arrow, draw hand set, bow hand set, pre-draw, draw, anchor, aim, shot set-up, release, follow-through. These are the steps than will allow our students to be competitive and accurate.
- Practice makes perfect. Even though archery runs through the veins of Native youth, they still have to practice the eleven modern steps to succeed.
- Anchor is everything. It is imperative for beginners to place the tip of their pulling hand to the corner of their mouth. Once they move into an intermediate or higher level, the anchor position may shift slightly, but will then remain the same for every release of the arrow.
- Proper set-up will take the arrow from the outskirts of the target to the ten point mark. This is when the archer has drawn the bow, and shifts the draw strength from the arms and shoulders to the back by pressing their chest forward and shoulder blades toward each other.
- Whistle blast. Most communication on the rage is done with a whistle. Once youth are lined up on a designated waiting line, which is nine yards from the targets, they will here two sharp blasts which means “get bow;” one sharp blast means “shoot;” and three sharp blasts mean “retrieve your arrow.” If the archers hear five or more blasts, they best put the arrow in the quiver and set the end of their bow on their foot because there is someone or something on the range that shouldn’t be there. Basically it means someone/animal is in danger.
Here is what the archers are saying:
“It’s fun and cool.” Shanelle Grade 5
“I love archery because I have really never shot a bow so many times and it’s a great experience for everyone.” Jaylene Grade 8
“I’m getting better.” Laila Grade 5
“It’s fun because my uncle does it.” Alexis Grade 3 (Her uncle happens to one of us instructors, and my son.
“I pretend I’m in the Hunger Games.” Daven Grade 5 and Tierra Grade 5
Those competing in Ellensburg: What is your strength and what do you need to work on?
“I’m good at coming to practice and I need to work on reflecting.” Skyler Grade 8
“I’m good at being ready and practicing and I need to work on follow-through and refection.” Deosa Grade 9
“I need to working on aiming.” Randi, Grade 8 and Millea Grade 8
I’m good at showing up to practice and bench pressing 30 pounds. I need to work on stance and follow through.” Kobe Grade 8
“I need a tighter grouping (of arrows on the target).” Telah Grade 8
“I would like extra time shooting at home. I am pretty accurate and consistent.” Mataeo
Don’t you love how these archers are honest on what they need to work on? They are dedicated to honing their craft.
Every archer stated that they shoot because it’s fun. They love shooting at cards and balloons to mix things up. And I know for all of us instructors, we feel blessed to be in a position to instruct such outstanding youth.
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