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Brain Tanning

Updated on July 3, 2013


Now this is something special! In this article, I'm gonna take you back, way back to when making leather for clothing, blankets, and the such was a way of survival. The same way our Native American ancesters did it so many years ago. How? With the use of a brain.

Science has shown what the Native Americans already knew. That in every creature, its brain is just big enough to tan its own hide. Is that not amazing? Here hunters have been shelling out hundreds of dollars every hunting season to have the hide of their kill tanned. If we'd only knew about this and the process, thousands of dollars could have been saved over a hunting career.

As we all know, Native Americans didn't believe in wasting a single part of thier kills. They were blessed enough by The Great Spirit to have the kill in order to provide food and tools for their tribe. They used every single piece of the animal, including the brain. Now, the brain of the animal killed is exactly enough to tan it's own hide. No less. So, here comes the process that I've been rambling about. Get ready boys! Time to get nasty!

STEP 1 After the animal is skinned, Soak the skin in water approx. a day then tie it up to a stretching rack. This soaking time will loosen the hair and make it easier to remove. If leaving the hair on, omit the soaking process.

STEP 2 Next, take the animals brain and heat it over low heat, smashing it into a slimy paste. Now the nasty part! Scoop out the brain matter with your hand and rub it onto the wet hide. During this process, the hide will become softer, thinner, and more translucient. If hair has been removed, treat both sides.

STEP 3 Stroke, push, and stretch the hide til it is dry. Use the rounded end of a stick to stretch out the fibers. To check if the hide is dry, use the back of your hand. If it feels cool, keep stretching. If it feels warm and soft then it is dry enough.

STEP 4 Once the hide is dry, take it off the rack and smoke it over a small fire of green boughs and leaves. This can be done by building a tripod over the fire and draping the hide around it. Keep the fire as low as possible. You want smoke--not heat. Turn the hide from time to time. Don't worry about oversmoking, this process will cure and set the brains.

STEP 5 Finally, buff the hide thoroughly by running it rapidly back and forth like a shoe-shine cloth around a smooth pole. When finished, the hide should be soft and pliable enough to use for clothing, blankets, and even moccasins.


Well, are you grossed out! Smashed brains in your bare hands. Me neither. What do you think? A really cool inexpensive way to tan a hide huh? I'm telling ya, those Native Americans really know what their doing. I guess from here you have to make a decision. Is it worth the money to have it done commercially or is it more beneficial to do it yourself without spending a dime.

Either way you decide, I hope this article was informing enough and possibly brought some of you just a little closer to your Native American heritage.


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