Traditional Braintan Workshop

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Cultural Preservation

The Global Initiative for Indigenous Advancement, Inc (GIIA) believes sustaining traditional ways, through the transfer of cultural knowledge and practices, ensures that Indigenous values persist, and that crucial social, cultural and economic links are maintained.

GIIA’s traditional brain tanning workshop is a seven day, hands-on cultural preservation initiative. Participants are guided through the process of traditional brain tanning to create:

  • Rawhide

  • Buckskin

  • Traditional sinew

  • Moccasins

  • Fur on pelts

  • Rawhide drum

Traditional Braintan Process

The traditional process of brain tanning hides is labor intensive, involves using animal brains, water, and is not for the faint of heart. It is necessary to preserve this traditional skill for many reasons:

  • directly connects us to the land and our ancestors, honoring them by practicing traditional ways

  • restores our relationship with the 4 legged, respecting them as food, garments, blankets, rope, sinew, oil and many more resources

  • renews our resistance against wasteful culture, many hunters discard the hides and parts they don’t want from their harvest. Indigenous culture is respectful, we honor all the parts of the animal

  • sustains a long history of self-reliance and self-sufficiency

  • creates a sense of cultural identity fosters a close connection to nature

  • provides economic opportunity

The Process

  1. Soak the skins in a lake for a few days to clean and soften them.

  2. Scour the skin to remove bits of flesh and fat. This first fleshing can be done over a wide log using a carved leg bone as a scraper. 

  3. Use your bone or steel scraper to remove the grain. (where the hair grows.) 

  4. Spread the hide out in the sun to dry.

  5. Wet hide

  6. Scrape off the membrane layer (Inside of hide)

  7. Place the hide back over the log and methodically scrape off the membrane, including the paper-thin epidermal layer between the carcass and the outer hide. 

  8. Rinse the hide in running water overnight or until the hide feels loose and thin.

  9. Wring the hide thoroughly (need a friend)

  10. Stretch the hide as wide and evenly as you possibly can. Usually you can do this on a frame, the further you can stretch the hide, the larger the final piece.

  11. Apply brain slurry

  12. GIIA has honor and reverence for the four-legged that give their lives so we may live. All participants are expected to treat all hides accordingly. Hides used in our workshops are acquired from local hunters.

  13. Respect and thanks are given to instructor Andre StrongBearHeart Gaines of the Nipmuc Tribe and to the Massachusett Tribe, whose homelands GIIA humbly operates (with communication to their council.)

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