Finding local arrowheads
Weyauwega Historical Area Society displays artifacts at city hall
By James Card
If you see Lana Hudson walking around the streets of Weyauwega with her head down, she is not having a bad day. It’s just an old habit she picked up as a child while hunting for arrowheads with her father, Hub Quade.
“It’s something I still do to this day,” she said.
Her childhood was one of walking endless miles of plowed-up cornfields after a fresh rain. She said it was her way to skip school. The plow turns up the arrowheads, the rain reveals them.
In the end, it paid off. The collection she helped assemble with her father is impressive and is showcased in multiple glass cases.
One case holds all copper artifacts. These were on display at the community room in city hall last Friday during an event titled, “Explore Weyauwega Area Hunting Heritage.”
The Weyauwega Area Historical Society sponsored the event.
Paul Schanen, author of “Native American Artifacts of Wisconsin” and “Patina: Native American Copper Artifacts of the Western Great Lakes Region,” spoke at the presentation.
He discussed Native American history and the tools they developed over time. Later, he examined arrowheads and artifacts that people brought and explained what they were. Some of the arrowheads were thousands of years old.
Hunting for history
The No. 1 question he is asked is where a person could go look for artifacts.
“Anywhere you have disturbed ground close to a natural body of water. A lot of people think all that stuff should be picked up by now,” said Schanen. “No, last weekend I went out and had the day off and went out with my nephew and I found 12 arrowheads in one day. So there is a lot of stuff out there.”
“Any plowed farm field close to water is good, but the more resources you have in an area, the better it is,” said Schanen. He gave an example of a dry hill near a river that also has a feeder stream running into it and nearby is a bluff that has some chert nodules in it.
“Well then you have all kinds of resources and I’ll guarantee you that hill has artifacts on it,” he said.
The one troublesome factor of looking for arrowheads and artifacts is that much of the best spots are paved over and developed.
“The only bad thing is, like every city and town across the country – most of the places that we like to live today are also places people liked to live then,” said Schanen.
He pointed out that one of the biggest unexcavated copper culture sites discovered in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is now under a Wal-Mart.
Schanen demonstrated how to throw an atlatl, an arrow-like javelin that uses a hand-held lever to propel it downrange. He said the weapon was powerful enough to penetrate the drywall across the room.
Most of the smaller-sized arrowheads people find are actually points used on atlatls. True arrowheads are rare as the development of archery was a recent technology on the Native American timeline.
The vast majority of the arrowheads and other artifacts are items that were discarded.
Schanen described how spearheads, knives and arrowheads would be worn down to nubs and tossed – much like a farmer might junk an old pocketknife with a chipped blade.
He emphasized that if an artifact is found it is essential to take notes and record all of the pertinent data about its discovery. The best way he learned to do this is with index cards. If the artifact is given away or traded, the index card goes with the item that explains its provenance.
Center of No Man’s Land
Schanen was asked by a member of the historical society about the draw-down on Lake Weyauwega. If he were to scout the dry land while the water level was down, what would he find?
He did not think he would find much due to the silt that built up over the years. It would be better to search on the higher areas near the river.
Hudson agreed and said her family found many arrowheads on the high ground near the Waupaca River below the dam.
Schanen weighed in on the presence of Native American artifacts in the Waupaca region.
“This is actually a pretty rich area. You are in a good location here,” Schanen said. “You’re not too far north, you’re far eastern enough for copper – there’s a lot of copper that comes out from around here. There are artifacts here that stretch the full timeline from the Paleo [era] all the way up to Mississippian [era].”
“There were people passing though this area and there is a wide range of materials. You’d find rhyolite around here; Hixton and Prairie du Chien chert—stuff that came from every direction on the map, it is found right here,” he said.
Schanen pointed to Hudson’s locally found collection: “This collection here is classic of it. There’s stuff from over by Door County. Their slate is Hixton. This area is unique because if you go any farther north you can’t grow anything; father south there is much heavier populations, to the east you have the Lake Michigan watershed where you get travel from that corridor, to the west you have the Mississippi watershed. We’re located as a center point for a lot of it, from here down to Portage was this no-man’s land and this stuff reflects it. You find stuff from everywhere,” said Schanen.
A display of Native American artifacts organized by the Weyauwega Area Historical Society is on display in the glass case near the main entrance of city hall. It includes arrowheads from the collections of Lana Hudson and Wilbur Pufahl.