Lewis & Clark referred to these as “war axes” or “battle axes” but the term Missouri War Axe was used by authors to indicate their only area of use in the West. They were used by a number of different tribes in the Missouri river watershed region including the Sioux, Shoshones, Mandan & Osage, often on horseback. They were already in abundance among the local tribes by 1804 when Lewis & Clark had started their journey.

On this day in Lewis & Clark history…

Clark, Gass, and others are away on a long hunting trip. Lewis writes that the Missouri war axes that they are making for the Indians are not an effective weapon. He writes that the French style is even worse.

5th February Tuesday 1805.

…visited by many of the natives who brought a considerable quanty of corn in payment for the work which the blacksmith had done for them— they are pecuarly attatched to a battle ax formed in a very inconvenient manner in my opinion.

Meriwether Lewis

Tuesday 5th Feby. 1805.

…the Coal being ready for the blacksmith to work the Savages bring corn to have their war axes made & to get Scrapers to dress their buffaloe Robes with &.C.—

John Ordway


South Dakota Cultural Heritage Center for the Missouri River War Axe photo – https://www.facebook.com/SDMuseum/