A lot of work goes into preparing the buffalo hide for scraping. First, you start by spreading out the hide and washing it, keeping it wet so it doesn’t dry out and harden. Before working on the hide it is important to smudge and pray for the hide, to work with it in a good way. It is important to remain open to the teachings of the hide and reflect while you are working on it. Then, in order to string up the hide it needs many holes cut into the edges of the hide. In order to make the holes it is important to cut the fat off from around the edges before it is strung up, otherwise it becomes too difficult scraping around the rope and holes. After the crew is done scraping around the edge and the holes are made, they can begin to make the 10×10 frame with which the hide will be tied to and strung up so that they can begin scraping.
Joely BigEagle-Kequahtooway and Lorne Kequahtooway are artists and leaders behind the Buffalo People Arts Institute (BPAI). Founded in 2015, BPAI became a non-profit organization whose mission is to share traditional Indigenous teachings and knowledge in order to raise social consciousness and create awareness of the power and strength drawn from blood memory and our connection to the buffalo.
In collaboration with NCCIE and Common Weal, BPAI documents the process of and teachings about buffalo hide tanning. This series of stories entitled, Buffalo Hide Tanning and Teachings, takes you on a journey of exploring connection to the buffalo while also reflecting on the social and historical realities of the buffalo and the people who rely on its survival.