The American indian bow types were beautiful hunting bows, and made with care and ingenuity.
A Self Bow is a bow made from only one solid piece of wood. Many of our Eastern tribes used hunting bows such as these. These bows often had a rectangular cross section and a long profile. Most often these bows were meant to bend through the handle such as with English Long Bows. Western tribes were known for making sinew backed and horn composite bows of shorter stature.
My experience has primarily been with those designs of eastern North America, and the early contact period hunting bows. There are many designs and usually made from hickory, locust or ash, as well as mullberry in more southern areas. There are also records of hop horn beam and service berry bows. Truly, I would be suprised if other woods such Maple and oak were not also used.
The Native American Self Bows were extremely effective in the hands of a master archer. Often children were given a bow when they were a toddler and shot it every day from then on. Animals that were available to hunt varied but it was possible to hunt anything from snakes dangling from trees, to moose.
In some cases both were the same, however in many of the Eastern Woodlands there were two distinct bows. The main difference was that a hunting bow typically had a draw weight of 40 to 50 lbs and a war bow was usually around 60-65 lbs.
A self bow is durable, quiet, and alive. They are light in the hand and very beautiful. The Early contact period Bows and Arrows were more effective than the Muskets of the time and there are several accounts of this, such as when John Smith purposefully broke his musket to hide it's ineffectiveness during a contest where a Native shot an arrow through a European breast plate.
A Self Bow is a very alive peace of wood and is shot differently than modern bows. In this way they can be very instinctively learned. However, much practice is needed to achieve consistant accuracy and form. Because a self bow demands this, many do not have the patience or commitment to learn.
Self Bows are made from cut and dried preforms called "staves" The overall Process is called tillering and is a skill that requires both logical and creative ability and much time and wasted materials to master. Native Indian bow makers were masters of the craft due to their heavy reliance on hunting bows.