Preparing the Buffalo Hides

preparing buffalo hides at Native American Rhymes

Every part of the buffalo not used for food was put to some other purpose. Horns, bones, hoofs,hides, and innards became household items, such as those listed here. Even the dung of the buffalo was saved to use as fuel. The most versatile portion of the animal was the hide. The thickness - and uses - of the skin varied according to the age an sex of the animal. The thickest skin came from off bulls and went into shields and the soles of winter moccasins. The thinnest was that of unborn calves for berry bags. Between the two extremes were cow skin, who intermediate thickness has allowed it to be fashioned into any number of items from rafts to ball coverings for a game called shinny.

In addition to these natural variations, the Indians treated the skins to give them different properties. An untreated skin, called rawhide, was tough and stiff in texture, but after tanning became soft and pliable. For winter garments and blankets the hair was left on the hides; for other uses the hides were scraped clean. Sometimes a hide would age in such a way that it ultimately would serve two different purposes. The upper part of a cowhide tepee cover, made rainproof by the grease and smoke of many cooking fires, was eventually salvaged by the industrious Indian women who would cut it up and stitch it into clothing to be worn during the wet season.


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