Plains Indian Tanning Tools
Tanning is the process of preparing an animal's skin to be used as leather. Properly done it leaves the leather supple and suitable for clothing.
Brain-tanning uses the brain of an animal to tan the hide. To tan a deer or elk hide takes about ten hours. Tanning of a buffalo with the hair-on takes thirty to forty hours. Tanned buffalo hides might be used for constructing a tipi.
To begin, a hide is stretched on the ground or in a
frame. The meat, fat and membrane are removed with an elk horn scraper
(wahintke (2)) or leg bone flesher (1). Next the hair is removed, unless it is
destined to be a bison robe. Hair is pushed off with a beamer (3) while wet
or removed later, after the skin has dried, with a wahintke scraper (2) to
produce rawhide. Many of the tribe’s containers were of rawhide. Rawhide is
untanned leather. It is hard and durable.
An additional step to produce a soft hide involved re-wetting a hide, sewing up holes and rubbing brains onto the hide. The hide was stretched, pulled and rubbed until dry. A hide might be smoked so it would dry soft when it became wet.
Artifacts by Sioux Replications / All images © Franz Brown
|Artifacts Group 1 / Group 2 / Group 3|