Ask the Marshall

Did the Indians really use smoke signals or is that something out of Hollywood?

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Larry Smith

Austria

Sending messages by smoke signals was a simple form of communication used mostly by the Plains Indians and in the Southwest since smoke talk was of little use in woody or mountainous areas. The natives used green wood or leaves to create smoke, while a blanket helped hold and release the smoke in short or long puffs for some prearranged signal to their friends. Obviously, the message couldn’t be too long or complex, but it did serve a simple purpose. The use of mirrors was also an effective way to signal or send brief messages.

Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian. His books include The Arizona Trilogy and Law of the Gun.

If you have a question, write:

Ask the Marshall

PO Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327

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