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Buckskin - A softened and smoke treated rawhide, sometimes known as smoked leather.  Buckskin was one of the most valuable materials of the Indian and combined the good qualities of both cloth and leather fr making articles of clothing, bags and pouches, and many other useful things.

Buckskin is usually thought of as softened deerskin, or the skin of the buck, or male deer.  Deerskin makes a superior quality of buckskin, but the Indian also made buckskin from many other hides and skins - from that of the buffalo, the moose, the elk, and even smaller animals.  Sometimes the hair was left on and the softened skin or hide used as a robe.

Buckskin is not a tanned leather - although the white man's modern "buckskin" is usually tanned sheepskin, and he even tans a deerskin with chemicals and terms it buckskin.  But not the Indian.  his buckskin is made directly from rawhide, without tanning agents.

While there were some slight differences in the procedure among various tribes, in general the method of making buckskin was about the same.  Taking his dehaired rawhide, the Indian softened it by working into it the brains of the animal, adding perhaps a little of the liver.  This had been made into a suds by boiling it in water.  Southern and southwestern indians found that green young maize, mashed up, served the same purpose,  and others used cornmeal and eggs.  The hide, or skin was then pounded in a mortar or kneaded and stretched and pulled.  After this treatment it was soft and white and some Indians used it in this fashion, especially for women's clothes.

Since this type of skin became hard after being wet, the Indian treated his hide or skin with smoke.  A pit was dug in the ground and a fire made from white cedar, corncobs, buffalo chips, or rotted wood.  The skin was sewed into a cone shape and suspended over the fire, or laid over it on a bower of bent poles.  Care was taken that the fire did not blaze, and the skin was smoked for an hour or so.  With old white cedar the Indian got a dark tan skin; with young white cedar he obtained a light yellow or buff color.  Corncobs and buffalo chips also produced a yellow.

Sometimes the Indian dyed the skin by steeping it a day in a solution in which red oak bark had been boiled.  this gave a yellow reddish color.  A bright red was obtained by soaking the skin in a solution of red wild peach bark.  Finished, or smoked, buckskin is soft and pliable, can be easily cut and sewed, washes like cloth and never becomes hard.  It is windproof and a protection against thorns and brush.

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