Tanning (American Indians Ready Reference)
Article abstract: Tanning enabled animal hides to be preserved and used
The tanning of deer, elk, bison, and small animal hides was accomplished by women, using the brains of the animals or human urine. Most hides were tanned on both sides, but sometimes the hide was tanned only on the underside (if the hair was left in place). In the Arctic, the Inuit tanned only with urine, which was often stored during the winter in ice troughs. Plains and Plateau peoples would mash animal brains with moss into small cakes for later use in tanning. A woman’s status was determined by her ability to do hide work, which included preparing the hide, tanning, and sewing.
To remove the hair, a woman could bury the hide in ashes for several days, or she could use a sharpened hand stone or one hafted to a leg bone as a scraper. The hide was next beamed with an animal rib to break the grain, then pegged to the ground or placed on a vertical rack to facilitate rubbing the brains or urine into the hide. After tanning, the hide could be smoked with “punk” wood in a small tipi structure in order to prevent it from cracking when it was dried after being wet.
(The entire section is 212 words.)
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