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Native American Deerskin Dressing:   Page 6
SMOKING
"...heated smoke; and by some chemical process or other, which I do not understand, the skins thus acquire a quality which enables them, after being ever so many times wet, to dry soft and pliant as they were before, which secret I have never yet seen practised in my own country;"
George Catlin, from his travels on the northern plains, 1832-1839.

        Smoking was not nearly as important as we imagine. Some tribes did it regularly, most did it situationally, and many didn't smoke 'em at all. Many tribes only smoked moccasins. Next in line was leggings. Others smoked these two items until they were colored, and smoked other hides but not long enough to color them. In drier southern areas (the southwest, Texas, much of California, parts of the great basin) they never smoked their hides. Why not?
        The myth is that if white hides get wet they must be completely resoftened. I've tested this alot, intentionally and unintentionally. The reality is that when white hides get wet they are somewhat harder to resoften than smoked hides, though not nearly as hard as unworked hides. However, the effects of the brains can be washed out of the hide and he more hides are smoked the easier they are to resoften, especially after multiple wettings. That is why smoking was more important in northern regions and moccasin hides were the most likely recipients.
        I think it is also safe to surmise that native people's buckskin got functionally smoked in their daily lives: hanging up in the lodge, around the campfire, etc. If you've ever lived in a tipi or earth lodge or nearly any native dwelling, you've no doubt had your clothes smoked a bit too.

Traditional Native Hide Smoking Methods

Various Native Smoking Setups
 

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