Cheyenne Tipi Notes

Cheyenne Tipi Notes is about a detailed description by anthropologist and ethnographer James Mooney of Southern Cheyenne women tanning cow hides for a historic reproduction of a 19th century hide tipi, between April 28th and June 2nd, 1903, at the Darlington Indian Agency, Oklahoma Territory. This is the only such detailed accounting of Plains Indian tanning that fully explains the method used to tan bison hides the “old way.”

What sets this historical record apart from others is that the tipi still exists, perfectly preserved but buried away and virtually forgotten in the underground artifact catacombs of the Chicago Field Museum 115 years later. I found Mooney’s extant notes at the Smithsonian Institution, and then transcribed them, and later found my way to the Field Museum to examine the tipi myself. Putting the two together, I had disentombed and interpreted what happened over a century ago, bringing back to life an ancient craft that was central to Plains Indian culture.

Cheyenne Tipi Notes is a companion monograph to my related work, Buckskin Tanner, which provides a step by step account of Plains Indian tanning, including what Indian tanners did to prepare bison hides for clothing and their tipis.