Buckskin Leather and Furs

At Manitoba Buckskin we make all natural brain tanned buckskin leather using methods and processes that have been passed down for generations. There are many variations and regional differences in methods of working with wildlife hides, and we are very fortunate to have had the opportunity to learn from women from many regions as they share their knowledge with us. We make leather the way it has been made for thousands of years in our part of the world. We work in partnership with several First Nations Artists and craftspeople whose beautiful work we are pleased to share with the world. All of the products we have currently for sale are listed online at: http://manitoba-buckskin.myshopify.com/.

In our hide tanning process, we are practicing what has been traditionally women's work. It is with great respect and admiration for the strength of the women of the past and present, whose knowledge has been carried and shared withIt us, that we endeavour to follow in their footsteps practicing the art of natural hide tanning.  The leather is soft and strong, retaining the strength and integrity of the living skin. No commercial chemical tanning agents are used in the tanning process. We work with whitetail deer, caribou, elk, bison and moose hides.  We also have had the privilege of working with many Muskox and a few polar bear from up North on several occasions. 

Deer, elk, bison, caribou, muskox and moose hides are all different, and each present their own challenges. As individuals, each animal is unique, and so also are their hides. Each hide has its own history and characteristics. Some are thicker and some are thinner, of a different size and weight, depending on where and how they lived, predators, age, season, and gender. While we encourage clean and efficient skinning, we make the best use of all hides we receive. Some are partial, uneven, full of knife marks, etc.  Every animal presents its own history and each hide is treated with the same attention and care.  

We receive hides collected by the St. Malo Wildlife Association in Southeast Manitoba, the Lac du Bonnet Wildlife Association,  as well as from Winnipeg and the surrounding areas. Moose are mostly from Northern Manitoba and Saskatchewan, and Elk from the West. We also work in cooperation with Elk and Bison ranches, receiving hides from these animals several times a year.  Manitoba Buckskin also receives furs for custom tanning. The furs must be in excellent condition, and cared for properly before we receive them, to ensure satisfactory results. Tags, permits and licences / Status numbers are required with all hides received.  We pay cash for hides in good condition. 


The Tanning Process

In the tanning process we use, the active ingredients include: hides, brains, hydrated lime or hardwood ash, natural oils and emulsifiers, pine, fir, red oak, and cedar smoke, time, water and work. We scrape each hide by hand either when wet on a beam or dry on a frame. Each hide is smoked at least twice during the process, and stretched until entirely soft.  The result is a very luxurious leather which is strong and durable. Unlike commercially tanned leather where the skin fibres are chemically altered and broken in the tanning process, natural buckskin retains the skin fibre structure, and represents the integrity and movement of the living skin. Smoked hides have a range of beautiful colours from light gold to dark brown, and a smoky aroma that lasts for years.The smoke gives the buckskin its characteristic colour and also imparts the unique quality of staying soft after repeated wetting and drying. The smoke permeates inside the skin itself and cures the hide, preserving it and preventing natural decomposition.  Some of the cleanest hides with the fewest blemishes and stains are kept naturally ivory white. These must be treated with more care because they are more susceptible to stains, are not as washable, and will stiffen up more if they get wet.




Bison Hides

Most of the Bison Hides we work with at Manitoba Buckskin are turned into Buffalo Robes: Full hides with good winter wool.   Most are 3 yr. old ranch animals, raised in Manitoba and grass fed in pasture.  The hides we receive in the coldest winter months with the best winter wool are used for the Robes. The fur covers the whole animal, with a thick coat of wool under the guard hair.  The finished robe is smoked on the skin side, any holes are sewn closed, and the fur is cleaned and brushed thoroughly.








Rawhide is made by cleaning and scraping the flesh side of large whole fresh hides, removing the hair, washing the skin thoroughly, frame stretching to dry, then scraping and sanding the inside smooth and applying oil conditioner to the top grain side. We do not bleach or chemically treat the skins, so they retain their natural colour when dried. Chosen hides are large with few or no holes, knife scores, or stains, retaining the individual animal's character, natural scars and markings.  Rawhides are available whole, in pre-cut drum circles, or cut into babiche lacing. The natural rawhide is extremely strong and durable, is stretchy when wet, and dries tight and stiff.                                                                                                                    






Manitoba Buckskin Drums are made in house in our own woodshop. We manufacture and craft the highest quality hand made drum materials.  Solid red oak (non laminated) round hand drum frames are available in three sizes: 12", 14", and 17" diameter. Hand drum frames measure 3/8" thick on the edge, 2-1/2" on the side.  We measure and cut rawhide by hand to put together individual ready-to-assemble drum kits.  These include the solid oak round frame, babiche lacing, red willow-buckskin drumstick, and deer, elk, bison rawhide drum cover. We have provided many organizations and school groups with drum materials for cultural drum making workshops around Manitoba.

 Large Grandfather or Powwow drums are made by custom order to spec.  These are solid hardwood heavy duty drum frames made without metal fasteners: using mortise and tenon joints and dowels.