Tomahawk | The Canadian Encyclopedia



Tomahawk is a name commonly given to axes used by Indigenous peoples.


Soon after European contact, Indigenous stone axes were replaced by trade tomahawks with metal heads made of iron or steel, and sometimes of brass, bronze or copper.

While used as a woodworking tool, the tomahawk was also a weapon of war. The handles were decorated with carvings and sometimes with feathers, fur, beads and ribbons, and heads were often elaborate, often incorporating a pipe bowl.

Many tomahawks saw no use in either the woods or war, but served only as symbols of status. Highly ornate and decorated pieces were presented to noted warriors by the French and British.

Donate to The Canadian Encyclopedia this Giving Tuesday!

A donation to The Canadian Encyclopedia today will have an even greater impact due to a generous matching gift from an anonymous donor. Starting November 28 until December 5, 2023, all donations will be matched up to $10,000! All donations above $3 will receive a tax receipt. Thank you for your support of The Canadian Encyclopedia, a project of Historica Canada.