A Brain Tanning Bibliography

A Brain Tanning Bibliography

Over 150 accounts, particularly covering Native American history,
Pioneer America, and Leather Chemistry.

You will occasionally notice text in navy blue that indicates the older accounts and their original date. Maroon text contains notes on sources that I think are particularly good or interesting.

Native America

Over 110 accounts of Native American tanning from the 1600’s to the present. Most of these are ethnographies, based on interviews with elders and analysis of artifacts at the turn of the century. Others are written by explorer’s documenting the survival skills of the people’s they encountered.

Northwest Coast 
Great Basin

Artic & Sub-arctic

Northwest Coast

Barnett, Homer G. The Coast Salish of British Columbia. Eugene: University 
    of Oregon Press, 1955.

Boas, Franz. “The Kwakiutl of Vancouver Island”. Memoirs of the  
    American Museum of Natural History Vol VIII, Part II. New York: G.E.  
   Stechert, 1909.

Drucker, Philip. “Northwest Coast”. Anthropology Records, 
    Culture Element Distributions: XXVI. Berkeley: University of California Press, 

Elmendorf, William J. & Kroeber, A.L.. Twana Culture. Washington: 
    Washington State University Press, 1960.

Emmons, George Thornton. The Tlingit Indians. Seattle & London: 
    University of Washington Press, 1991.

Gunther, Erna. “Klallam Ethnography”. University of Washington 
    Publications in Anthropology Vol 1, #5. Seattle: University of Washington  
   Press, 1927.

Teit, James. “The Thompson Indians of British Columbia”. Memoirs 
    of the American Museum of Natural History Vol II, pt. IV. New York: G.E. 
   Stechert, 1900. 
Original manuscript written 1895.

Teit, James. “The Lilloet Indians”. Memoirs of the American 
    Museum of Natural History Vol IV, pt. V. New York: G.E. Stechert, 1906.

Teit, James. “The Shuswap”. Memoirs of the American Museum of 
    Natural History Vol II, pt. VII. New York: G.E. Stechert, 1900. 
Based on interviews with elders from 1888 to 1900.



Albright, Sylvia L. “Tahltan Ethnoarchaeology”. Department of 
    Archeology Publication #15. Burnaby BC: Simon Fraser University, 1984. 

Emmons, G.T. “The Tahltan Indians”. Anthropological Publications
    of the University of Pennsylvania Museum, Vol III. Philadelphia: 
   The University Museum, 1911. 
Interesting details on neolithic tools

Holbert, Harry. “Ethnography of the Kootenai”. Memoirs of the 
    American Anthropological Association #56. Menasha, WI: American  
    Anthropological Association, 1941.

Peltier, Jerome. Manners and Customs of the Coeur D’Alene Indians. 
    Spokane: Peltier Publishing.

Post, Richard & Commonst, Rachel S. “The Sinkaietk or Southern 
. General Series in Anthropology #6. Menasha, WI: George 
   Banta Publishing Co., 1938.

Ray, Verne F. “Plateau”, Anthropological Records Vol 8 #2, 
    Culture Element Distributions XXII. Berkeley: 
    University of California Press, 1942. 

Sapir, Edward & Spier, Leslie. “Wishram Ethnography”
    University of Washington Publications in Anthropology Vol 3, #3. Seattle: 
    University of Washington Press, 1930. 

Spinden, Herbert Joseph. “The Nez Perce Indians”. Memoirs of 
    the American Anthropological Association Vol II, Part III. Lancaster PA: New 
    Era Printing Company, 1908.

Teit, James. “The Salishan Tribes of the Western Plateaus”
    Bureau of American Ethnology 45th Annual Report. Washington: US  
    Government Printing Office, 1930. 


Catlin, George. North American Indians: Being letters and notes on their 
    manners, customs, and conditions, written during eight years’ travel  
    amongst the wildest tribes of Indians in North America, 1832-1839.
   Philadelphia: Leary, Stuart and Co., 1913. 
One of the earliest (1830’s) detailed accounts of Plains Indian tanning. Specifies the use of a wood-ash lye as part of the ‘usual mode of dressing the buffalo, and other skins…’Check out this other site’s online selection of Catlin’s paintings with descriptions.

Denig. “The Assiniboine”. Bureau of American Ethnology Annual 
    Report #46. Washington: US Government Printing Office, 1928. 

Desmet. “Assiniboine of the Forest”, Anthropological Papers of 
    the American Museum of Natural History Vol IV. New York: G.E. Stechert, 

Dodge, Colonel Richard Irving. Our Wild Indians: Thirty-three Years Personal 
    Experience Among the Red Men of the Great West.
 Hartford: A.D.  
   Worthington and Co., 1883.
Based on experiences from the 1840’s to 1870’s 
Third earliest detailed account of Plains tanning, specifies the use of a wood-ash lye soak as a basic step in tanning buffalo skins and making parfleche.

Dorsey, J. Owen. “Omaha Sociology”. Bureau of American 
    Ethnology Annual Report #3. Washington: US Government Printing Office, 

Ewers, John C. The Blackfeet: Raiders on the Western Plains. Norman OK: 
    University of Oklahoma Press, 1958.

Fletcher, A.C. & LaFlesche, F. “The Omaha Tribe”, Bureau of 
    American Ethnology Annual Report #27. Washington: US Government Printing 
   Office, 1905.

Grinnel, George Bird. The Cheyenne Indians: Their History and Ways of 
 New York: Cooper Square Publishers, 1962. 
Based on experiences 1890-1923

Hanson, James Austin. Metal Weapons, Tools and Ornaments of the Teton Dakota Indians. Lincoln 
    NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1975.

Hoebbel, E. Adamson. The Cheyennes: Indians of the Great Plains. New 
    York: Harcourt, Brace, Johanovich College Publishers, 1960.

Hoebbel, E. Adamson & Wallace, Ernest. The Comanches. Norman OK: 
    University of Oklahoma Press, 1955.

Howard, James H. “The Ponca Tribe”. Bulletin of the Bureau of 
    American Ethnology #195. Washington: US Government Printing Office, 1965,

Hunter, John D. Memoirs of Captivity Among the Indians of North American 
    (from Childhood to the Age of Nineteen).
 London: 1823. 
Based on experiences at the end of the 1700’s and beginning of the 1800’s. This is the earliest detailed account of Plains hide tanning I’ve found.
Specifies the use of a wood-ash lye soak as part of the basic tanning methods, plus has all kinds of interesting tanning details and materials—-especially for Buffalo.

Kroeber, Alfred L. “The Arapaho”. Bulletin of the American 
    Museum of Natural History Vol XVIII. Lincoln & London: University of 
    Nebraska Press, 1902.

Lowie, Robert H. ” The Assiniboine”. Anthropological Papers of 
    the American Museum of Natural History Vol IV. New York: G.E. Stechert, 

Lowie, Robert H. The Crow Indians. New York: Farrar & Rinehart Inc., 

Lowie, Robert H. Indians of the Plains. Garden City NY: The Natural 
   History Press, 1954.

Mandelbaum, David G. “The Plains Cree”. Canadian Plains Series. 
    Regina: University of Regina Occasional Publications, 1979.

Mails, Thomas E. The Mystic Warriors of the Plains. Garden City, NY: 
    Doubleday & Co. Inc., 1972.

Powers, William K. Indians of the Northern Plains. 1969. 

Skinner, Alanson. “Ethnology of the Ioway Indians”. Bulletin of 
    the Public Museum of Milwaukee Vol 5, #4. Milwaukee: The Public Museum 
   of Milwaukee, 1926.

Skinner, Alanson. “The Eastern Cree”, Anthropological Papers of 
    the American Museum of Natural History Vol IX. New York: G.E. Stechert, 

Steward, Dr. Julian. The Blackfoot. Berkeley: US Department of the 
   Interior, National Park Service Field Division of Education, 1934.

Weltfish, Gene. The Lost Universe. New York: Ballantine Books, 1965. 
Based on interviews with elders in the 1920’s

Wissler, Clark. “Material Culture of the Blackfoot Indians”
    Anthropological Papers of the American Museum of Natural History Vol V, 
    Part I. New York: G.E. Stechert, 1910. 

Wissler, Clark. North American Indians of the Plains. New York: American 
    Museum of Natural History, 1920. 

Great Basin

Fowler, Don C. “Material Culture of the Numa”, Smithsonian 
    Contributions to Anthropology #26. Washington: Smithsonian Institute Press, 

Kelly, Isabel T. “Ethnography of the Surprise Valley Paiute”
    University of California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnology  
    Vol 31. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1932. 

Lowie, Robert H. “Shoshonean Ethnography”, Anthropological 
    Papers of the American Museum of Natural History Vol XX. New York: G.E. 
   Stechert, 1924. 

Lowie, Robert H. “The Northern Shoshone”, Anthropological 
    Papers of the American Museum of Natural History Vol II. New York: AMS  
   Press Inc, 1909.

Ray, Verne F. Primitive Pragmatists: The Modoc Indians of Northern 
 Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1963.

Riddell. Honey Lake Paiute Ethnography.

Steward, Julian H. “Nevada Shoshoni”, Anthropological Records 
    Vol 4, #2: Cultural Element Distributions XIII. Berkeley: University of 
   California Press, 1941. 

Steward, Julian H. ” Northern & Gosiute Shoshone”
    Anthropological Records Vol 8, #3: Cultural Element Distribution XXIII. 
   Berkeley: University of California Press, 1943.

Stewart, Omar C. “Northern Paiute”, Anthropological Records Vol 
    4, #3: Cultural Element Distributions XIV. Berkeley: University of California 
   Press, 1936.

Stewart, Omar C. “Ute – Southern Paiute”, Anthropological 
    Records Vol 6, #4: Cultural Element Distributions XVIII. Berkeley: University 
   of California Press, 1942.



Buskirk, Winfred. The Western Apache: Living With the Land before 1950. 
    Norman OK & London: University of Oklahoma Press, 1986.

Ferg, Alan & Kessel, William. Western Apache Material Culture: The 
    Goodwin and Guenther Collections.
 Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 

Geronimo (edited by Barrett, S.M.). Geronimo: His Own Story. New York: 
    E.P. Dutton & Co., 1970. 
Based on what Geronimo dictated to Asa Daklugie in 1904-05. Geronimo states that ‘During my minority (youth) we had never seen a missionary or a priest. We had never seen a white man’. 
A very interesting autobiographical account with a good helping of material culture. His description of deerskin tanning starts with soaking the hides in a wood-ash lye.

Gifford, E.W. “Apache-Pueblo”, Anthropological Records Vol 4, 
    #1: Culture Element Distributions XII. Berkeley: University of California Press, 

Gifford, E.W. “Northeastern and Western Yavapai”, University of 
    California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnology Vol 
   34, #4. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1936.

Gifford, E.W. “The Southeastern Yavapai”, University of 
    California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnography. Berkeley: 
   University of California Press.

Haley, James L. Apaches: A History and Culture Portrait. Garden City NY: 
    Doubleday & Co, 1981.

Hill, W.W. An Ethnography of the Santa Clara Pueblo, New Mexico. 
    Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1982.

Lange, Charles H. Cochiti: A New Mexico Pueblo Past and Present. Austin: 
    University of Texas Press, 1959.

Mails, Thomas E. The People Called Apache. New York: BDD Illustrated 
    Books, 1971.

Mason, Otis. Report of the National Museum: Aboriginal Skin-Dressing. 
    Washington: National Museum, 1889. 

Opler, Morris Edward. An Apache Lifeway: The Economic, Social and  
    ReligiousInstitutions of the Chiricahua Indians.
 New York: Cooper Square  
   Publishers, 1965.

Roberts, Frank H.H. “Village of the Great Kivas on the Zuni Reservation, 
    New Mexico”
, Bureau of American Ethnology Vol 111. Washington: US 
   Government Printing Office, 1932.

Russell, Frank. The Pima Indians. With introd., citation sources, and 
   bibliography by Bernard L. Fontana. Tucson, Ariz.: University of 
   Arizona Press, 1975. – XV, 479 pp. : Ill.

Spier, Leslie. “Havasupai Ethnography”, Anthropological Papers 
    of the American Museum of Natural History Vol XXIX part III. New York:  
   G.E. Stechert, 1928.

Underhill, Ruth. Pueblo Crafts. Washington: Bureau of Indian Affairs, 1944.


Brereton, John. Sailors Narratives Along the New England Coast, With
   Notes  by George Parker Winship. New York, Burt Franklin, 1905. 
Originally written in 1602, very little detail.

Densmore, Francis. “Chippewa Customs”, Bureau of American 
    Ethnology Bulletin 86. Washington: US Government Printing Office, 1929. 

Hilger, Sister M. Ines.  “Chippewa Child Life”, Bureau of 
    American Ethnology Bulletin 146. Washington: US Government Printing Office, 1951.

King, William S. Iroquois Crafts. Lawrence KS: Publications Service of 
   the Haskell Institute, 

Lyford, Carrie A. “Ojibwa Crafts”, Bureau of Indian Affairs, 
   Indian Handcraft Series. 1943.

Morgan, Lewis H. League of the Iroquois. New York: Mead & Co, 1922.  
Originally written in 1851. 
Not a lot of detail, but some.

Morton, Thomas. “Manners and Customs of the Indians, An Extract for his 
    New English Canaan”
. Old South Leaflets Vol IV. Boston: Directors of 
   the Old South Meeting House, 
Originally written in 1637…not much detail.

Ritzenthaler, Robert. “The Chippewa Indian Method of Securing and 
    Tanning Deerskin”
. Wisconsin Archaeologist Vol 28, #1. 
Good detail and pictures of Chippewa women in different stages of tanning.

Skinner, Alanson. “The Northern Saulteaux”. Anthropological 
    Papers of the American Museum of Natural History Vol IX. New York: 1911.

Skinner, Alanson. “Prairie Potawatomi Indians Part II, Notes on the 
    Material Culture”
. Bulletin of the Public Museum of Milwaukee Vol VI. 
   Milwaukee: 1926. 

Skinner, Alanson. “Ethnology of the Sauk Indians”. Bulletin of 
   the Public Museum of Milwaukee Vol V. Milwaukee: 1925.

Skinner, Alanson. “Material Culture of the Menomini”. Indian 
    Notes & Monographs. New York: Museum of the American Indian, Heye 
   Foundation, 1921. 
Good detailed account, with many pictures of Menomini women in different stages of tanning.


Bushnell, James H. “The Choctaw of Bayou Lacomb, Louisiana”
    Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 48. Washington: Government Printing 
   Office, 1909.

Lawson, John. A New Voyage to Carolina. Chapel Hill: University of 
    North Carolia Press, 1967. 
Originally written in 1860. 
Talks about the common use of sweet corn as a substitute for brains, and the Native use of tannins.

Swanton, John R. “Indians of the Southeastern United States”
    Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 137. Washington: Government Printing 
   Office, 1946. 
Great source on tanning in the southeast, with many primary source references from the 1700’s and 1800’s.



Aginsky, B.W. “Central Sierra”. Anthropological Records Vol 
    8, #4: Cultural Element Distributions XXIV. Berkeley: University of California 
   Press, 1943.

Ayer, Gladys. ” Bear River Ethnography”. Anthropological 
   Records Vol 2, #2. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1938.

Barrett, S.A. & Gifford, E.W. ” Miwok Material Culture: Indian Life 
    of the Yosemite Region”
. Bulletin of Milwaukee Public Museum Vol 2, #4. 
   Milwaukee: 1933. 

Drucker, Philip. “Yuman-Piman”. Anthropological Records Vol 6, 
   #3: Culture Element Distributions XVII.Berkeley: University of California Press, 

Essene, Frank. “Round Valley”. Anthropological Records Vol 8, 
    #1: Culture Element Distributions XXI. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1942. 

Garth, Thomas R. “Atsugewi Ethnography”. Anthropological 
    Records Vol 14, #2. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1953.

Gayton, A.H. “Yokuts and Western Mono Ethnography”
    Anthropological Records Vol 10, #1. Berkeley: University of California Press, 

Gifford, E.W. & Klimek, Stanislaw. “Culture Element Distributions 
    II: Yana”
. University of California Publications in American 
   Archaeology and Ethnology Vol 37, #2. Berkeley: University of California 
   Press, 1936.

Holt, Catharine. “Shasta Ethnography”. Anthropological Records 
    Vol 3, #4. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1946.

Voegelin, Erminie W. “NE California”. Anthropological Records 
    Vol 7, #2: Culture Element Distributions XX. Berkeley: University of California 
   Press, 1940.

Voegelin, Erminie W. “Tübatulabal Ethnography”
    Anthopological Records Vol 2, #1. Berkeley: University of California Press, 


Artic and Sub-artic

Honismann, “Culture and Ethos of Kaska Society”. Yale 
   University Publications in Anthropology, 40. 

Murdoch, John. “Ethnological Results of the Point Barrow 
. Bureau of Ethnology Annual Report #9. 1887. 
Quite long, detailed and fascinating. The Inuit tools and methods are fairly unique. Well described and illustrated.

Nelson, Edward William. “The Eskimo About Bering Straight”
    Bureau of American Ethnology 18th Annual Report. Washington: US  
   Government Printing Office, 1896.

Oakes, Jillian E. “Copper and Caribou Inuit Skin Clothing 
. Canadian Ethnology Service Mercury Series 
   Paper # 118. Hull, Quebec: Canadian Museum of Civilization, 1991. 
Written in 1944. 
Relatively long, detailed and interesting step by step discussion of the tanning of Caribou skins for clothing.

Powell, J.W. “The Hudson Bay Eskimo”. Bureau of Ethnology 11th 
    Annual Report. Washington: US Government Printing Office, 1889.  
Shows interesting tools for applying paints to skins.

Rogers, Edward S. “The Material Culture of the Mistassini”
    National Museum of Canada Bulletin #218, Anthro Series #80. Ottawa: 1967. 

Miscellaneous Accounts

Binford, “Smudge Pits” American Antiquity Vol 32, #1. 1967, 
Detailed analysis of smoking pits used east of the Mississippi.

Bogoras, W. “The Chukchee Material Culture”. Memoirs of 
    the American Museum of Natural History Vol XI Part 1. New York: G.E.  
   &Stechert Co, 1909. 
Very interesting account of native tanning methods in Siberian Russia. Doesn’t mention brains but similar elements are used, and some dis-similar. Fairly long, fairly detailed, good drawings of tools.

Driver, Harold E. Indians of North America. Chicago: University of 
    Chicago Press, 1961. 

Faber, G.A. “Greek and Roman Tanners”. The Ciba Review, May 
    1938. Basle. 

Farnham, A.B. Home Tanning and Leather Making Guide. Columbus OH:  
    A.R. Harding Publishing Co, 1950.

Goodchild, Peter. Survival Skills of the North American Indians. 
    Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 1984. 

Handbook of the North American Indians Vol 10: Southwest. Washington: 
    Smithsonian Institute, 1983. 

Hobson, Phyllis. Tan Your Hide! Pownal VT: Garden Way Publishing, 1977. 

Hodge, Frederick Webb. Handbook of the American Indians, North of 
    Mexico, Part 2.
 Washington: Government Printing Office, 1910.

King, Arden Ross. Aboriginal Skin Dressing in Western North America. 
    Unpublished PHD Dissertation: University of California at Berkeley, 1947. 
A book length cataloguing and analysis of the archaeological and anthropological record. Great source for finding a lot of the data in one place, a lot of his analysis is quite interesting though much of it is faulty in my opinion. I don’t think he ever tanned a hide, or really understood the process.

Mason, Otis. Report of the National Museum: Aboriginal Skin Dressing. 
A classic, that is reasonably interesting.

Paterek, Joseph. The Encyclopedia of American Indian Costume. Santa 
    Barbara: ABC-CLIO Publishing, 1994.

Shwerz, F. “Leather Dressing in the Stone Age”. The Ciba 
   Review, April 1938. Basle. 
Some interesting detail about stone age tanning throughout the world, some of it to be taken with a grain of salt.

Steinburg, Jack. The Manufacture and Use of Bone Defleshing Tools. 
    American Antiquity Vol 31, #4. 1966.

Vaughan-Kirby, F. “Zululand: Skin-dressing”. Man: A Monthly 
    Record of Anthropological Science Vol 18. Royal Anthropological Institute of 
    Great Britain and Ireland, 1918.

Wilder, Edna. Secrets of Eskimo Skin Sewing. Anchorage AK: Alaska 
    Northwest Publishing Co, 1976. 
Talks about the use of alder bark tannins in traditional Eskimo fur tanning….worth some experimenting.

Young, Stella. Navajo Native Dyes: Their Preparation and Use by Nonabah  
    G. Bryan, Navajo.
 US Department of the Interior: Bureau of Indian Affairs, 

Pioneer America

Austin, Maria. Letter to Her Son Stephen, in Texas. Jan. 16, 1822. 

Braund, Kathryn E. Holland. Deerskins and Duffels. Lincoln & London: 
    University of Nebraska Press, 1993. 

Cunningham, Patricia A. & Lab, Susan Vose. Dress in American Culture
    Bowling Green: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1993.

Evans, Mary. How to Make Historic American Costumes. New York: A.S. 
    Barnes & Co., 1942.

Holley, Mary Austin. Texas. 1836. 

Holman, David & Persons, Billie. Buckskin and Homespun: Frontier Texas 
    Clothing, 1820-1870
, Austin: Wind River Press, 1979.

Pitz, Henry C. & Warwick, Edward & Wyckoff, Alexander. Early American 
    Dress: The Colonial and Revolutionary Period
. New York: Benjamin Blom 
    Publishers, 1965.

Postlethewayt, Malachye. “The Universal Dictionary of Trade and Commerce”. 1774. 

Taylor, Walter Penn. The Deer of North America. Harrisburg PA: The 
    Stackpole Co, 1956. 

Wilcox, R. Turner. Five Centuries of American Costume. New York: Charles 
    Scribner’s Sons, 1963.

Leather Chemistry

Beinkiewicz, Krzysztof J. Physical Chemistry of Leather Making. Malabar 
   FL: Kreiger publishing Co, 1983. 
Very technical and didn’t do much for me, though Steven Edholm really likes it.

Cormack, David. An Introduction to Histology. 1984. 
Gives you an understanding of skin structure and elements from an anatomical point of view. Really helped me understand more of what the chemistry books were talking about.

Davis, Charles Thomas. The Manufacture of Leather. Philadelphia: Henry 
    Carey Baird & Co.

Dutta, S.S. An Introduction to the Principles of Leather Manufacture. 
    Lalbazar India: The Indian Leather Technologists Association.

Haines, Betty. The Microstructure of Collagen.

Lazell, E.W. Hydrated Lime: History, Manufacture and Uses in Plaster, 
    Mortar, and Concrete.
 Pittsburgh PA: Jackson-Remlinger Publishing Co, 

O’Flaherty, Fred. Chemistry and Technology of Leather. New York: 
    Reinhold Publishing Corp, 1956. 
A collection of various articles. Fairly technical but very good.

Progress in Leather Science 1920-1945. British Leather Manufacturers 
   Association. London: 1948. 

Reed, R. Ancient Skins, Parchment and Leather. London: Seminar 
   Press, 1972. 
Highly recommended, must read for anyone interested in ancient tanning processes. Good in depth discussion of the chemistry of traditional tanning methods, that is fully understandable to the lay man. This book increased my understanding of brain tanning many fold.

Thorstensen, Thomas C. Practical Leather Technology. New York: Van 
    Nostrand Reinhold Co, 1969. 

Wilson, John Arthur. The Chemistry of Leather Manufacture. New York: 
    The Chemical Catalog Co, 1923.


Based on research at the libraries of the University of California at Berkeley, Davis, Los Angeles, & Santa Barbara; University of Montana at Missoula, University of Oregon at Eugene, Southern Oregon University, Humboldt State College, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, University of Utah at Salt Lake and other places here and there.