Tanning Tools
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Plains Indian Tanning Tools

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.
Plains Indian Tanning Tools

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.

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