Reviving the art of brain tanning hides


Dan Ninham
Special to Indian Country Today

James Tom Jr. began learning the art of tanning hides as a kid growing up in Oklahoma, then picked it back up again while serving in the military.

He wanted to perfect the traditional, Indigenous method of brain tanning — using the animal’s brain matter to soften and protect the hide. After years of research, trial and error, he finally got it right.

He’s now sharing that knowledge, traveling to teach classes in a number of tribal and other communities while also offering instruction for students with the Native American Student Alliance in Stillwater, Minnesota.


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