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“Arrows and Snakeskin” by Sidney Noyes Riggs Essay

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Updated: Mar 13th, 2020


America is one of the countries in the world that has a rich history. Recorded history traces the origin of the country to the expulsion of the Red Indians from their land by the white men from England.

Recorded history is of the view that the American country was initially occupied by the native Indians, who were colonized by the white man and later herded away from their land. The white man dominated the land, and today occupies what initially was Red Indian’s territory.

The red Indians were decimated by the advanced warfare techniques used by the colonials, combined with the strange diseases that plagued them due to their contact with the white man.

It is important to note that the native Indians had never been in contact with the outside world, been an enclosed society. As such, when the strange diseases from the white man were communicated to the native Indians, their immune system was so weak to fight them back.

Many books have been written in efforts to chronicle American history. This is especially so because American history is a topic on itself that is taught in American learning institutions.

To this end, Sidney Noyes Riggs wrote a book that is used by history students interested in learning the origins of the American nations.

Arrows and Snakeskin: A History Commentary

To say that Sidney Noyes Riggs is an iconic figure in American history will be an understatement. He influenced and shaped the American history-at least in the classrooms-by his chronicles of the origin of the American nation.

In the year 1962, he published a 192-page book on the Pequot War (Eggleston, 2010). The small book was titled Arrows and Snakeskin. It was published by Lippincott Printing House.

As earlier stated, the central theme in Riggs’ Arrows and Snakeskin is the Pequot War. This was fought between the years1636 and 1638 (Riggs, 1962).

For at least four years, an amalgamation of colonial forces and friendly Native American tribes fought against the Pequot tribe (Riggs, 1962). But Sidney Riggs, in this commentary of the conflict, captures the last two years of the war. This is between the years 1636 and 1638.

According to Riggs, as vividly illustrated in his book, the Pequot War, or what many scholars regard as the Pequot War, was instrumental in the shaping of the American history (Riggs, 1962).

The war, as the book illustrates, pitted Native American, Indian tribes against each other, with one party enjoying the support of the colonials.

Arrows and Snakeskin: A Critique

It will be a little ambitious to expect the whole of American history to be captured in one book. That is the reason why, when contrasted with American history, Arrows and Snakeskin may give the illusion of being limited in depth and scope.

There are many aspects of American history, many of which, understandably, are not captured by this book. For example, the American continent existed way before the landing of the colonials from England. The societies that existed hitherto had their unique interaction patterns.

But given the fact that these societies could not write- at least not in the conventional way of writing- this history cannot be vouched for with confidence.

Archaeologists are perhaps the only ones positioned to analyze this history from primitive depictions in caves and other archaeological sites.

Given this scenario, it is easy to appreciate why Sidney Riggs does not capture the life and culture of the red Indians before the arrival of the colonials. He is not an archaeologist.

The book captures the events that took place between the years 1636 and 1638. As stated earlier, the Pequot war started in 1634 and ended in 1638 (Eggleston, 2010).

Arrows and Snakeskin: Relationship with Other Writings

One way of gauging the credibility of any book is to contrast its contents with those of other books covering the same topic. To this end, to gauge the accuracy and relevancy of Sidney Riggs Arrows and Snakeskin, it will be pertinent to take a look at what other authors say about the Pequot war.

To put his story across, Sidney Riggs gives an account of the relationship between the Native Americans themselves and that between the colonials or settlers and the red Indians.

From the book, we learn that the Indians were segmented into different tribes that were in constant conflict (Eggleston, 2010). For example, the Narragansett Indians were arch-rivals to the Massasoit tribe (Riggs, 1962).

This relationship is accounted for in other writings, and this lends Riggs’ Arrows and Snakeskin a halo of credibility. For example, Eggleston (2010) captures the rivalry between the two tribes in his book A First Book in American History.

Arrows and Snakeskin: Thematic Development

The book is titled Arrows and Snakeskin, and this is a depiction of the Red Indian’s way of life in latter day’s Connecticut. Arrows, snakes, and skins were symbolic phenomena in this community. Sidney Riggs derives the title of his book from this symbolism.

Sidney Riggs tells the story of how the Narragansett Indians, angered by how the Europeans treated them, decided to go to war with them. They delivered a bundle of arrows wrapped in snakeskin to the settlers (Riggs, 1962).

This symbol translated to the Narragansett’s intention of going to war with the settlers. The symbolism was not lost on Bradford, one of the top officials in the Plymouth settlement. He sent the snakeskin back to the Narragansett kinsmen, only this time packed with bullets and gun powder.

This exchange is perhaps what captures Sidney Riggs’ fancy, hence informing his selection of the book’s title.

Arrows and Snakeskin: An Analysis

To some extent, Sidney Riggs book is relevant to a course in American history. This is as far as the United States of America’s colonial history is concerned.

The book captures one of the most important events in American history; the rise of the Connecticut state. As such, the book is relevant to the history of the student.

But the importance of the book in American history classes is also limited. This is given the fact that it concentrates more on the Pequot war.

Thus, it is not helpful in studying other attributes of colonial history, such as the rise of other American states. However, I would still use this book again.

Arrows and Snakeskin: Conclusion

Sidney Riggs’ organization of the book made it friendly to read. For example, the book is only 192 pages long, meaning that it can be covered within a short time.

Also, the book covers mainly one attribute of American history. This is the Pequot war and the rise of the Connecticut state. As such, the reader is not confused by many themes competing for their attention.

However, the book was a little drab. The dullness of the book was not helped by the cover design. Sidney Riggs found it wise to use a brown colored design for the book’s cover.

This makes it dull, at least on face value. But an in-depth analysis of the book’s content will reveal that the selection of the color brown for the book’s cover was a sign of ingenuity on Sidney Riggs’ part. The cover gives an illusion of an Indian American artifact made of leather.


Eggleston, E. (2010). A first book in American history. New York: Polity Press. Pp 289-256.

Riggs, S. N. (1962). Arrows and snakeskin. London: Lippincott. Pp 2-190.

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