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Q: Making Native American smoke signals ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   0 Comments )
Subject: Making Native American smoke signals
Category: Miscellaneous
Asked by: bobh33-ga
List Price: $10.00
Posted: 11 Oct 2002 06:22 PDT
Expires: 10 Nov 2002 05:22 PST
Question ID: 75268
Where can I find information (preferably online) about making native
american smoke signals?  I'd specificaly like to learn how to actually
create them, what kind of fire, what kind of wood, how to interrupt
the smoke, etc..
Subject: Re: Making Native American smoke signals
Answered By: johnny_phoenix-ga on 11 Oct 2002 07:32 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hello bobh33

In order to make smoke signals you need the right kind of smoke. This
can be achieved from what is known as a smudge fire.

This information was courtesy of the university of iowas web site on
Native American Web Sites


When you get to this page press CTRL - F and type "smudge", this will
take you to the relevant part although with an interest in Native
Americans, you may find the whole lengthy page interesting.

How To Make a Smudge Fire

1. Allow a small wood fire to burn down to coals (or use charcoal).

2. Smother with a thin but complete layer of green grass, conifer
boughs, or leaves.

3. If smudge material dries and flares up, put out with an additional
layer of material.

Do not use water unless absolutely necessary.


* If using leaves be sure of their identity. Reactive plants such as
poison ivy, oak and sumac produce reactive smokes.

* With too thick a smudge layer some of the smoke will cool and
condense on the outer smudge material rather than rising.

Credit for these instructions on how to create smudege fires goes to
Concious Choice on their web site.

Concious Choice 

Once you have your smudge fire. 

You then need to interrupt the flow of the slow moving smoke, catching
it in a blanket or tarp and then when the smoke builds up release it
from the cloth.

The site that i derived this from which is

is interesting in itself within the context of your question. William
Tompkins, the author has been asked for a code of smoke signals, but
he has explained that

"Smoke signals were not a standardized code as in the sign language. 
In as much as they aimed to transmit secret knowledge, most or many of
the signs were devised privately and to suit a particular purpose or
the caprice of the transmittor". (Credit William Tompkins author of
Smoke Signals)

you can read the rest of his article which includes the knowledge that

One puff meant ATTENTION.  
Two puffs meant ALL'S WELL.
Three puffs of smoke, or three fires in a row, signifies DANGER,

(credit again for the extract to William Tompkins author of Smoke


It appears that there was no set language, like for example morse
code. It would appear that Native American Indians, could use the
signals to send messages to others - since the act of a smoke signal
itself is overt the receiver had to know in advance for example,what
would be meant by four signals then four signals as opposed to two
signals followed by four signals .

Search Keys "Smoke Signals", language, "Smudge Fire", 

Additional Links

Wikipedia - free encyclopedia

This suggests that with training, the sizes and ahapes of the smoke
could be changed, but this seems very random doesn't it, you would
have to hope that it wasn't a windy day when you were planning a flank
attack on the US cavalry.

I hope this helps, and look forward to seeing some signals after
you've had a practice. five followed by two followed by one, will be
our code for "Bring Ice cream and don't forget the wafers"

Take Care

Johnny Phoenix
bobh33-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars
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personalized way.  Definitely worth the money.

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