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You are on Penobscot Root Clubs, Page 1




Background information from




Root Clubs were made from root bundles of immature gray birch trees (not war clubs, there was no word for war among this tribal nation) new & old.  Short clubs used to finish off a kill on an injured animal, longer clubs made later to stave off soldiers that had spears as weapons.  They believed they were releasing the spirits of animals & birds from the wood they were carving.  The clubs were also carried in dances and religious ceremonies.

Penobscot Native people in Maine sold off some of their ancestor's clubs, then began making new ones, and re-purchasing the ancient ones, to preserve their Penobscot & Wabanaki cultures.

After digging up a small tree with most roots intact, carvers trim and sometimes completely remove the bark of the sapling. The roots are sharpened and shaped into points, occasionally an animal or spirit will be carved on a root point. Human or spirit faces or animals are carved in the root ball under the points, sometimes incorporating a root point. The stock of the small tree becomes the handle and is then decorated with small cuts; "chip carving". While other cultures use chip carving to decorate wood, among Native Americans primarily the Penobscot but occasionally the Maliseet, Abenaki and Passamaquoddy are the only tribal groups to utilize chip carving as a decorative technique. Penobscots have long been know for the beauty of their chip carved items. Burnt work/pyrography is also used as a decorative technique on root clubs, Passamaquoddy root club makers more frequently use burnt work on their clubs.  The root balls are plainer in the older root clubs, some carvings on early root clubs have a reddish vegetal stain, but no paint. Smaller root clubs are thought to have been shaman's clubs for ceremonial use.
The traditional chip carving and designs on root clubs are an ancient skill that was nearly lost. In the late 1880's carvers discovered these could be sold as "tourist items" or "souvenirs". Maine Indian carvers of that era began incorporating designs that sold; a combination of the traditional form but with modern touches that appealed to the buyers . These modern changes included painting the handles and the face or animals carved in the root bundle and using Plains Indian type headdresses on the faces that were traditionally carved on some root clubs. Place and tribal names sometimes appeared on the handles - as tourists liked mementos of where they had visited.
 The root ends are carved into points that make it practical for use as a war club, but at the same time resemble either a feathered headdress, or, individually, the sort of peaked caps worn by some of the men and women of the Maine tribes. The Penobscot became part of the Wabanaki Confederacy, an alliance of Native American people that included the Passamaquoddy, Micmac (Mi’kmaq), Abenaki, and Maliseet Indians, who occupied Maine and parts of Canada. The name Wabanaki means “People of the First Light” or “People of the Dawnland,” referring to the fact that they lived where the sun rose on North America.
Root clubs have been viewed by museums and anthropologists as “tourist art,” not “traditional” enough to warrant a place in museums. Decades of research by exhibit curators Stan Neptune and Joan Lester of the Abbe Museum have built the body of evidence to show that this uniquely Wabanaki form, in fact, is very much a part of Wabanaki traditions going back centuries or more. And while new styles have been created over the years to support an economy tied to tourism, the earlier forms have continued and are still being made today. Root clubs started as weapons, then became ceremonial tools as spirit clubs, then became tourist pieces. Increasing complexity in the use of ornamental design parallels the market that grew for these objects.

Priced as indicated.

Small club, says "Omega in the Woods" and incomplete name N.E. Con...  dated 1935

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Maine Indian club, Measures 14-1/4" long x 3" across root end, 5/8" diameter handle

Weight: 2.2 ounces

$295  SOLD

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$275  SOLD

Large club found in Vermont, the root top is decorated like a bird's head with beak

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Measures 20" long x 4-3/4" across root end, 1-3/8" diameter handle

Weight: 14.5 ounces

$495  SOLD

Large root club found in an antique store in Maine




Linear 25-1/4” long x 6-1/4” across widest 2 points on root

Handle is 1-3/8” diameter

Grain carving along the handle; crack follows the stem of the carving

Etching and sealed wrapping near end

Signed “Five Islands, ME” on largest root.

Weight: 1 pound  8.3 ounces

$695  SOLD




Zoomorphic with two animal faces on 2 points.
19-3/8” long x 5-3/8” across root, 1-1/8” diameter handle.

Weight: 11.1 ounces



A substantial piece!  Zoomorphic with three animal faces on 3 points.

22-1/4” long x 8” widest across top points x 1-3/8” diameter handle.

Weight: 1 pound 8 ounces

$595  SOLD


Root club is unsigned.  Zoomorphic with two animal heads on two points, may be birds.

Traditional diamond pattern and wheat design on handle.

Measures 19-3/8” long, 1” diameter handle; root measures 5-1/4” x 3-1/4”

Weight: 9.9 ounces



Large root club with traditional diamond pattern one row around neck, wheat pattern on handle; words “Kennebunk Beach 95” reference date is 1895.  Tomahawk and spear etched on lower part of handle.

Measures 23” long; handle is 1-1/4” diameter; root measures 4-1/4” x 3-1/2”

Weight: 14.9 ounces



Measures 21" long x 4-1/2" across widest part of club, 1-1/4" diameter widest on club handle
Native in headdress carved and painted on front; 4 distinct points; handle painted black and etched with wheat design and other decorative designs at top and bottom of handle; eyelet screwed in back with sinew loop

Weight:  11.5 ounces



Measures 19-1/2" long x 3-1/2" across widest part of club; 1" diameter widest on club handle
Native face carved & painted on flat area of club; two distinct points on club; handle painted dark red with wheat and leaf design and other decorative designs on handle and around top edge.

Weight: 7.4 ounces

$325  SOLD


Measures 22" long x 5-3/4" across widest part of club; 1-5/8" diameter upper part of club, 1" lower part of club handle
Native in headdress painted & carved on one point; 5 distinct points including the Native carved one; Wheat and leaf design in green painted handle

Weight: 8.1 ounces



MASSIVE CLUB & ROOT, impressive
Measures 25-1/2" long x 8-1/2" across widest part of club; 2-3/8" diameter upper part of club handle, 1-1/2" lower part of club handle
Part of club painted red with carved Native face and headdress; 4 distinct points; yellow band around bottom of club where it enters handle; handle is painted black with exception of 2" on the end which are natural; eyelet screwed into top of handle at back

Weight: 1 pound 15.1 ounces



If you got hit with this, you wouldn't wake up.
Zoomorphic (animal heads) on it.
Measures 28" long x 9-3/4" across on widest part of club; 2" diameter on club handle
Three of the points have faces carved into them (1 bear, 2 birds); 9 points total.
Wheat and star leaf designs etched in handle along with two Native heads in headdresses
A remarkable artifact

Weight: 3 pounds 7



Measures 20" long x 4-1/4" across widest part of club, 1-1/8" diameter widest on club handle
Two birds with red beaks carved and painted on the two points; handle squared off and painted canoe with two Native people in it and other decorative graphic designs (no etching); about 4" of bottom of handle left round with groove cut in to separate the two shapes

Weight:  6.3 ounces



From a Maine estate.  Early 20th century with good old patina. Measures 20" long x 6-1/8" across widest part of club, 1-3/4" diameter widest on club handle
Native face in headband carved and painted on front; 6 distinct points all painted dark red; top of spikes all show wear; small wood chip over left eye of face; handle  etched heavily with wheat and leaf designs;

Weight:  11.5 ounces



Superbly carved.  Original late 19th-early 20th century Penobscot.  Found in Wiscasset Maine.  Great age patina.  Measures 18-1/2" long x 7" across widest part of club, 1-1/8" diameter widest on club handle.
Zoomorphic with duck or raven and bird/eagle possibly ceremonial; 4 distinct points; handle painted red (flaked), end painted green with drilled hole; handle etched with wheat and leaf design and other decorative designs at top and bottom of handle; bottom inch of handle left with bark; scratches on shaft and slight chip on end of one prong.

Weight:  1 pound 4.9 ounces



Estate sale find. Measures 21" long x 6-1/8" across widest part of club, 1-3/8" diameter widest on club handle
Native in headdress carved and painted on front; all 3 distinct points are carved and painted (resembles toucans); handle painted black and etched to natural wood with wheat design feather /arrow/circle design, teepee and spear designs on handle; top and bottom of handle left with bark left on

Weight: 8.5 ounces



 Measures 22-1/4" long x 8" across widest part of club, 2" diameter widest on club handle
Huge Native face carved and painted on front; smaller Native head on the back; 3 distinct points; handle etched with wheat design and other decorative designs; bottom inch of handle with bark

Weight:  1 pound 11 ounces



SIGNED AND DATED, original paint
Measures 23" long x 6-1/2" across widest part of club, 1-3/8" diameter widest on club handle
Zoomorphic piece with distinct zebra, and two deer heads,possible bird beaks;  one possible anteater; one human full body upside down in center; all points smoothed and painted; 15 distinct points; damage: one leg missing on the human body, one ear from a deer; handle sanded and inlaid cuts painted red and green wheat design and other decorative designs at top and bottom of handle; etched signature in middle of handle: Ralph I Jrash, Sept 25th 1901

Weight:  14 ounces



Measures 24" long x 6" across widest part of club, 1-1/4" diameter widest on club handle
Native in headdress carved and painted on front; 4 distinct points; end of handle left with bark; handle  etched with wheat design and star leaf designs

Weight:  1 pound 4.5 ounces



Measures 22-1/4" long; root ball with point itself is 7" long; club diameter is 1-1/4".  Bird beak with beak point painted red; black and yellow stripes around top of handle, red painted design below that; hewn marks on handle.

Weight: 1 pound



Vintage small club, considered "vintage tourist", a great collectible.
Painted red, handle has traditional wheat etched pattern, yellow band around base of root; Native face in headdress, two points.
Measures 15-3/4" long x 4" across root ball x 3-1/4" between the 2 points; handle is ranges from 1-1/2" at top to 7/8" to 5/8" along length

Weight: 6.9 ounces



Vintage large club, green painted handle with traditional wheat design, crack in bottom of handle (stable); Native head with hair and headband (band is gray with red dots); four points painted red, green and striped blue-white-gray.  Nice 3D root ball.  
Measures 25" long x 5-1/2" across ball/points x 3-1/2" deep; root ball is 4-1/2" from handle to top

Weight: 10.8 ounces