INDIAN ARTIFACTS
by HOWARD GENE LaROCHE
Houston, Texas 2001



      When I was twelve years old and a member of the Boy Scouts, I became interested in Indian Lore and Costumes. My mother had two arrowheads which her mother found when she was a little girl. I thought that indians were primarily from Oklahoma.

     One day a friend brought several arrowheads to a Boy Scout meeting and told us that his uncle had found them along the San Jacinto River. Several years later, after we had moved to Cornish Street in Cottage Grove, I started spending a lot of my free time fishing on the banks of White Oak Bayou, five or six blocks away and new Shepherd Drive.

     One day I found some broken pieces of pottery on an eroded bank of the Bayou. I took them home and my mother confirmed that they were indeed indian pottery. I went back and searched for more traces and started digging in that area. I soon found more pottery and then some arrowheads and miscellaneous pieces of broken flint. I then moved downstream several hundred feet and dug again, again finding pottery and arrowheads.

     Looking for new digging sites, I went upstream on the bayou, under the railroad tracks. I then spent a good deal of time exploring the bayou upstream to 11th Street. I found no more eroded areas, but on a hunch, I started digging in a mound of dirt about a foot or so high and about ten or fifteen feet in diameter and found flint chips, pottery, and arrowheads. I then located a number of more mounds, all with indian artifacts. Additionally, there was several dry gullies emptying into the bayou. Going upstream on the gullies, I found more arrowheads and and evidence of indian camps.

    When I was about 15, our family moved to the Garden Oaks area on Wakefield Street. I started exploring the upper reaches of the bayou in that area and found more indian camp sites. The uncle of a friend had an arrowhead that he had found on the banks of Buffalo Bayou up near the small town of Addicks. We then started exploring that area.

    About one thousand feet below the site of the present Addicks Dam, there was a cornfield of about ten acres on a slope leading to the bayou. We went there one winter after the drop was in and found a number of arrowheads that had been turned up by the plow. We talked to the farmer, and he gave permission to look in his field any time the crops were in. Down below this area, I found a large mound on the side of the bayou. This was different from any mounds that I had found on White Oak Bayou. The mound was of clay, rather than sandy soil. In the summer, the clay was hard as brick and in the winter was very sticky.

    This mound was the only one with bones that had not deteriorated with age. I found a piece of deer antler which had softened by not deteriorated. The indians that had inhabited this mound were of a different clan or era, as the pottery was of a different type and the arrowheads were of a different shape.

     After I graduated from High School, I joined the Navy and ceased my explorations. While I was gone, the Smithsonian Institute excavated a site on the Bear Creek Branch of Buffalo Bayou near the Katy Road. Later, my brother Charles and I excavated a site nearby. Charles enjoyed searching, also, and had a nice collection of points. Charles later gave me his collection. In my following description of my collection, I am crediting Charles for the points he found.

     The number of arrowheads found was greatly exceeded by the number of broken fragments of arrowheads and miscellaneous fragments of stone. Also included were various stone tools, when a stone was broken to shape into an arrowhead, any fragment which happened to fit comfortably in the hand, was shaped into a useful tool.

     Depending upon the shape of the fragment the tool could be used as an awl, a drill, a knife, a scraper, or a pen. I have one such which was probably used to cut a design on pottery and probably degradable items such as wood or leather. In the photographs which follows, I will try to explain the probable use of some of these tools.

     The arrowheads come in a large variety of sizes and shapes and uses. The smaller ones are commonly called bird points, or dart points. I believe that they were all arrowheads and that there was a variety of sizes of arrows; large for animals such as bear and deer, smaller ones for rabbits, squirrels, etc. and still smaller for birds, frogs and fish. The largest points were undoubtedly spear points for the larger animals.

     The points points come in a variety of shapes; some with large barbs, medium barbs and no barbs, some points are almost cylindrical, some flat on one side, some flat on both sides. Some makers were artistic with stone of varying color, when available; some with a red, black, etc. tip fading to yellow, gray or etc. at the haft. These craftsmen who had this artistry were also the best craftsmen in the quality of chipping and shaping.

     Sadly, after World War II, the United States Corp. of Engineers dredged all of Houston's picturesque bayous into ditches, and all indian camp sites have been lost forever.