- 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
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.
within this Site
][ Costume ][ Deer ]
Making ][ Moccasin ][ Rawhide