Wednesday, July 22, 2020

RETRO Episode 27: Bury the Hatchet Show Notes

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Bunny Trails

Episode 27: Bury The Hatchet

Record Date: October 2, 2018

Air Date:  October 3, 2018


Shauna: Welcome to Bunny Trails, a whimsical adventure of idioms and other turns of phrase. 

I’m Shauna Harrison

Dan: And I’m Dan Pugh

Dan: Shauna, you were talking just a bit ago about this awesome thing you are doing as a team building exercise at a work conference you are attending. 

Shauna: Say something about your axe throwing thing you

Dan: When I was 18, I took second place in a tomahawk throwing contest. I also won second place in a beauty pageant while playing Monopoly, but that’s neither here nor there. 

Anyway, all this talk of axes and tomahawks makes me think of a common idiom, Bury the Hatchet.


According to the OED, to stop fighting; to end a quarrel; to make peace.

Or as urban dictionary puts it in an unusually intelligent entry... To forgive and move on

Origins and History

From An old Iroquois legend tells of two leaders who convinced the five great nations – the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga and Seneca – to stop fighting and form a confederacy. To celebrate the peace, they buried their weapons under the roots of a large, white pine tree, and an underground river washed them away.

Although it is believed that burying the hatchet ceremonies took place long before Europeans arrived in the New World, the only surviving records come from those European accounts. The French Jesuit Relations from 1644 described that when the Iroquois visited Quebec, they wished to “unite all the nations of the earth and to hurl the hatchet so far into the depths of the earth that it shall never again be seen in the future.” 

The name comes from Powhatan tamahaac, derived from the Proto-Algonquian root *temah- "to cut off by tool"

 (a) to bury the hatchet: to stop fighting; to end a quarrel; to make peace.

[1680   S. Sewall in New-Eng. Historical & Geneal. Reg. (1870) XXIV. 121   Meeting wth ye Sachem the[y] came to an agreemt and buried two Axes in yeGround;..which ceremony to them is more significant & binding than all Articles of Peace the Hatchet being a principal weapon wth ym.]

1694   Acct. Treaty between Benjamin Fletcher & Indians of Five Nations 22   The French Indians should come to me, and desire to bury the Hatchet, as you have gone to Canada to do the like.

1754   in Coll. Mass. Hist. Soc. (1836) 3rd Ser. V. 10   We have ordered..our Governor of New York to hold an interview with them [sc. the Six Nations] for delivering those presents, [and] for burying the hatchet.

1794   J. Jay Corr. & Public Papers (1893) IV. 147   To use an Indian figure, may the hatchet henceforth be buried for ever.

1819   J. Heckewelder Acct. Hist., Manners, & Customs Indian Nations xii, in Trans. Hist. & Lit. Comm. Amer. Philos. Soc. 1 125   Metaphorical Expressions... ‘To bury the hatchet’,—To make, or conclude a peace.

1898   Sketch 3 Aug. 50/1   I asked papa how grown-ups made friends again, after they had quarrelled. He said, ‘Oh, they bury the hatchet and smoke the pipe of peace.’

1930   Oxf. Ann. Girls 53/2   All that doesn't matter one hoot. You two ought to bury the hatchet, and start enjoying life.

2014   Radio Times (South/West ed.) 26 July 90/4   Taw Jackson and Lomax are two rivals who decide to bury the hatchet when Jackson is released from jail.

(b) to dig up the hatchet: to resume fighting after a period of peace; (more generally) to renew hostilities.

1727   C. Colden Hist. Five Indian Nations iii. 70   If ever he should hear of the like Complaint, he would dig up the Hatchet, and joyn with the rest of the English to cut them off, Root and Branch.

1877   F. Parkman Count Frontenac 108   I thank you for bringing back the calumet of peace..and I give you joy that you have not dug up the hatchet.

1913   T. W. Burgess Boy Scouts on Swift River xii. 172   He was wise enough to realize the futility of digging up the hatchet again, but his heart was ever turned from the white men.

2015   GQ (Nexis) Dec. 146   Unable to set aside his pride, Trump dug up the hatchet once more.

Tomahawk: The name comes from Powhatan tamahaac, derived from the Proto-Algonquian root *temah- "to cut off by tool"

 a. to bury the tomahawk: to stop fighting; to end a quarrel; to make peace. Similarly, to dig up the tomahawk: to resume fighting after a period of peace; to renew hostilities.Originally with reference or allusion to the custom among some American Indian peoples of burying a tomahawk when peace has been made after fighting (see quot. 1705); cf. earlier to bury the hatchet, to dig up the hatchet at hatchet n. Phrases 2a(b).

[1705   R. Beverley Hist. Virginia iii. vii. 27   They use..very ceremonious ways in concluding of Peace..such as burying a Tomahawk.]

1775   G. Gilmer in Coll. Virginia Hist. Soc. (1887) 6 80   I..resolve never to bury the Tomahawk untill liberty shall be fixed on an immovable basis thro' the whole Continent.

1866   Janesville (Wisconsin) Gaz. 27 Sept.   That gentleman seemed to forget that we were an intelligent people and not savages who dug up the tomahawk for trivial causes.

1930   K. Feiling Brit. Foreign Policy 1660–72 ii. 55   She could expect little welcome in France unless she buried the tomahawk.

1996   Grapevine (Texas) Sun 25 July 3 a/1   They agreed to bury the tomahawk forever, and live as friends and brothers.

2012   H. Hickam Crater xxi. 174   Looks like we might have to dig up the tomahawk, do battle with those old creatures.

 b. to take up (also raise) the tomahawk: to declare war; to begin fighting; (more generally) to commence hostilities. Similarly, to lay aside (also down) the tomahawk: to cease hostilities; to come to terms. Cf. earlier to take up the hatchet at hatchet n. Phrases 2b. Now rare.

1775   J. Adair Hist. Amer. Indians 239   I persuaded the Choktah to take up the bloody tomohawk against those perfidious French.

1791   Lloyd's Evening-Post 4 Nov. 1057/2   If we had our senses about us, we should not have taken up the tomahawk on either side.

1806   Z. M. Pike Acct. Exped. Sources Mississippi (1810) 86   Grateful that the two nations had laid aside the tomahawk at my request.

1814   H. M. Brackenridge Views Louisiana ii. v. 123   They may come here in peace, or for the purpose of trade, but it will be far hence that they will dare to raise the tomahawk.

1906   Ames (Iowa) Times 16 Aug. 1/3   They had better lay down the tomahawk and try and get together.

1946   Hope (Arkansas) Star 22 June 1/2   In Boston the OPA took up the tomahawk against black marketeers as butchers gloomily pointed at their bare shelves.

1991   G. F. G. Stanley in J. R. Miller Sweet Promises 105   It is not surprising to find both contestants seeking the aid of such Indian warriors as were prepared to take up the tomahawk on their behalf.

  war-hatchet  n. a hatchet used by the N. American Indians to symbolize the declaration or cessation of hostilities (see quots. and cf. hatchet n. Phrases 1a).

1760   G. Groghan Jrnl. 4 Dec. in R. G. Thwaites Early Western Trav. (1904) I. 116   That you [sc. chiefs and warriors]..may..bury the War Hatchet in the Bottomless Pitt.

1796   J. Wolcot Wks. IV. 485   Gentle Reader, Wouldst thou not have imagined that the war hatchet was buried for ever?

a1816   B. Hawkins Sketch of the Creek Country 1798 & 1799 in Coll. Georgia Hist. Soc. (1848) III. 72   He lifts the war hatchet against the nation which has injured them.

1841   J. F. Cooper Deerslayer II. xv. 247   Our great fathers, across the Salt Lake, have sent each other the war-hatchet.

1881   E. B. Tylor Anthropol. ix. 224   The bundle of arrows wrapped in a rattlesnake's skin, or the blood-red war-hatchet struck into the war-post.

 a. to hang up one's hatchet: to stop working; to take a rest; (in later use esp.) to retire. Cf. to hang up 2 at hang v. Phrasal verbs.

c1325  (▸1307)    in R. H. Robbins Hist. Poems 14th & 15th Cent. (1959) 21   Hang vp þyn hachet ant þi knyf, whil him lasteþ þe lyf wiþ þe longe shonkes.

c1422   T. Hoccleve Dialogus (Durh.) l. 736 in Minor Poems (1892) i. 136   Hange vp his hachet & sette him adoun.

c1450   in F. J. Furnivall Hymns to Virgin & Christ (1867) 69 (MED)   Hange up þin hachet & take þi reste.

a1550   in R. Dyboski Songs, Carols & Other Misc. Poems (1908) 129   Whan thow hast well don, hange wp thi hatchet.

1659   J. Howell Prov. Eng. Toung 6/2 in Παροιμιογραϕια   I have hang'd up my hatchet and scap'd my self.


1975   Sunday Times (Johannesburg) 10 Aug. 7   I need a son to carry on the business when I hang up my hatchet.

2004   W. Safire in Associated Press Online (Nexis) 15 Nov.   After more than three decades of opinionated reporting on the world's first and foremost political battle page, it's time to hang up my hatchet.

A Quick Thank You

Today’s show is sponsored by our patrons on Patreon. You make Bunny Trails possible. We’d  like to thank all our patrons, and especially our Lagomorphology Interns, Charlie Moore and Pat Rowe.

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Pop Culture and Modern Examples

We Bury The Hatchet

Garth Brooks off the Album: Ropin' the Wind from 1991

Bury the Hatchet is the fourth studio album by the Irish rock band The Cranberries, released on 19 April 1999

Bury the Hatchet - Tim Dutton - 2011

With the help of his family, Cole Hawkins put the violence of the Civil War behind him. Then thirteen men, calling themselves the Hatchet, tortured and killed his wife and daughter. Now Cole Hawkins must embrace his violence, once again to put their reign of terror to an end and Bury the Hatchet.

Bury the Hatchet - Catherine Gayle - 2015

USA Today bestselling author Catherine Gayle presents the first novel in the sexy Tulsa Thunderbirds hockey romance series, a spin-off from her popular Portland Storm series. They both need to make amends... But they might be making more than that. Tulsa Thunderbirds goaltender Hunter Fielding has a lot of kissing up to do following a few brash and uncalled-for statements. Now he needs to prove to the watchful eyes that he's changed for the better. But cozying up to Little-Miss-Perfect-Gone-Bad isn't his idea of making amends. Agreeing to marry a hockey star to clear her "bad girl" reputation is the worst idea Oklahoma's former sweetheart, Tallulah Belle Roth, has ever heard. With cameras constantly in their faces, Hunter and Tallie need to prove their sickeningly-sweet, do-good lives are the real deal-just to Bury the Hatchet once and for all. But when the cameras are off, desire burns hot. Can fake and just for show turn into something real and forever?

This practice was most famously used in recent time during the 1990 Oka Crisis in Canada, although the weapons were not buried. Faced by an ultimatum that would have seen battle with the Canadian Forces the next day, the besieged Mohawk warriors piled and burned their weapons, and then walked out of the cordon that had been tightened around them. The alternative was a bloody battle, which could have triggered further violent resistance to the Canadian government far beyond the immediate locality of the crisis, which centred on Montreal's suburbs of Oka, Quebec (Kanesatake) and Kahnawake. Mohawk commentators stated at the time that this was not a surrender, but a cessation of hostilities, as per the burying of weapons of honoured tradition.[citation needed]

Favorite Things About the Phrase

My favorite thing I learned researching this phrase comes from Delaware.

Return Day Delaware is a public holiday in Delaware, where it is a day off for the general population, and schools and most businesses are closed. It is held on the Thursday after the November election day.


Many people travel to Georgetown, Delaware for the celebration of Return Day. The festivities start with a concert and a traditional free ox roast in the town circle. The festival events include food vendors, competitions, musical entertainment, arts and crafts, and a parade of the winning and losing candidates from both parties.

The candidates ride in horse pulled carriages or antique cars around the town circle, followed by the ceremonial “bury the hatchet” – where the Sussex County chairmen of the Democratic and Republican parties meet on stage, clutch the hatchet and together plunge it into a box of sand from Lewes – that signifies the end of the competition. The town crier reads the results of the statewide and Sussex County elections during the ceremony, and afterward all attendees receive a free roast beef sandwich.

This years ceremony will happen on November 8th. And with our Nation seemingly divided on every issue, it’s refreshing to see the people of Delaware coming together to put aside their differences… if only for a day.


Dan: That about wraps us up for this week. Thank you for joining us.

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Sources Used

Oxford English Dictionary

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