What Is Sinew?

Sinew is the tough, flexible, fibrous connective that connects muscles with bones. Think back to the early days of humans. It took thousands upon thousands of years to learn how to use what is in nature. Sinew, which consists of both ligaments and tendons, was discovered to be useful for tool making. The use of sinew is still alive today in native cultures.

One lesson I have learned is how native cultures taught how important it is to “use what has been given to you”. In other words, when an animal was slaughtered, it was used for food, it’s hide and fur for drums and clothing, it’s sinew for making arrows, etc. Gratitude was woven into this practice. This is vastly different than other practices, such as killing an animal only for its tusks, leaving the carcass to rot.

There is a wonderful series shown on National Geographic called “The Great Human Race“. In this series, we watch each phase of human evolution, tools that were created, and discoveries by humans over time. It’s a “must watch”! I could not find a clip of the scene where they talk about sinew, instead, I offer you this clip:

The meaning of the word sinew

Sinew was so important for day-to-day living that over time it became a word used to describe strength, resilience, and power.

Using sinew

Sinew was used to make dreamcatchers, arrows, drums, and for beadwork. Today you will find simulated or artificial sinew out on the market in a variety of colors. Certain projects, like drum making, require the strength of sinew as opposed to another natural cordage, like cotton string. Examples of sinew cordage are here and here.

Here’s an interesting video on how to make sinew. Don’t watch if you are squeamish.

Weapon wrapped in sinew

War Club
Men used the kopluts (war club) as a striking weapon. Generally, the club had a short handle that provided for better leverage when fighting man-to-man. When these were used from horseback, the handle was longer to lengthen the reach of the warrior. This particular kopluts has an oval head made from catlinite and wrapped in sinew on a wooden handle that has been dyed red.
Catlinite, rawhide, horsehair. L 43.3, W 11.3 cm
Nez Perce National Historical Park, NEPE 2166

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