Buckskin Tanner is about my adventures into the ancient craft of natural tanning. For me it began in 1953 at what would become Disneyland’s “Indian Village.” Walt Disney brought many Indians from across the U.S. to supervise the construction of Plains Indian tipis and other cultural items representative of many tribes. The park didn’t open until 1954, but my father knew Indians who were there, and somehow they got us in. Some were very old and I recall spoke little or no English. The tipis were made of hides, and there was some discussion about tanning the “Indian Way,” which caught my attention. The book begins there and goes forward, explaining how I learned this Way, and how it eventually ended up being an important part of my 2 year horse back trek in the mid-1970s across the U.S. Deep South.
The last chapter of this book follows my investigations into Plains Indian bison (buffalo) tanning, which until the publishing of Buckskin Tanner has never been fully or accurately explained. The history books have had it all wrong, or at best, incomplete. I explain what happened and didn’t happen among Plains Indian tanners (virtually all women!), and the book ends explaining in great detail how I did it using a bison hide I got from South Dakota. But it is the detective work leading up to this that makes for some interesting, at times humorous, and even exciting twists in turns. Buckskin Tanner is a companion to Cheyenne Tipi Notes: New Insights Into 19th Century Plains Indian Bison Hide Tanning (2019).
So, Buckskin Tanner is not only about an earth friendly method but an unusual history that dates back into the millennia. Over the years I’ve tanned over 700 deer, elk, moose, and bison, all of it in private collections, museums, and in clothing I made for people.
For crafters, hunters, and others wanting to transform rawhide into beautiful buckskin for clothing, or to just to show off your new found skill, Buckskin Tanner is a book that can get you there.