Leatherwork


In earlier days a waterbag was also used. This consisted of a piece of buckskin stretched over a hoop to form a bottom, with the ends of the buckskin brought upward and secured to a very small hoop for an orifice. It was called tqo azis, waterbag, or tqo abid, water paunch, as later the paunch of a cow or sheep was employed instead of buckskin. The modern bottle is tqozis. Pg. 298

Tanning is done in the following manner. The hide is allowed to soak in water, without any changes, for about a week or so, when it is pinned slantingly from a post to the ground, and the hair and remnants of flesh are scraped off with a scraping stick. It is now soaked again, after which it is secured to a beam or tree and twisted by means of a stick. After remaining in this twisted condition for a day or so it is untwisted and again soaked and retwisted. This is repeated for several days, after which it is spread out and covered with blankets to exclude the air as much as possible. The hide is now brought in and stretched quickly, after which it is thoroughly rubbed with the brains of sheep and allowed to dry. If robes are desirable, the skin is dressed in exactly the same manner with the exception, of course, that only the surplus flesh is removed. Deer, elk, antelope, goat and calfskins are treated in this manner, while goat, cow, sheep and horsehides are merely hung up to dry or pinned down and covered with dirt and dried. The ceremonial skin is also treated or dressed in this manner, the difference being in flaying the animal. After drawing a line with pollen along the breast and stomach, as also along the arms and legs of the deer, a symbolic incision is made with rock crystal and the hide is then cut with a stone knife. Pgs. 302-303

The Navaho make leather pouches from five to six inches square, with a flapping lid extending about two inches over the pouch. These serve as receptacles for tobacco, matches, pocketknife, money, and other small articles, as in the earlier days they contained the steel and flint, corn leaves and tobacco, pollen, and the dice used in gambling. The pouch is occasionally worn by some of the older members of the tribe, though the younger generation discard them, preferring modern clothes, which are usually well supplied with pockets. It is carried on the left hip, and is attached to a strap passing over the right shoulder. Both pouch and strap are often decorated, the latter especially, with a profusion of small silver buttons. Pg. 311

The wrist-guard consists of a piece of leather about three inches wide, which is laced with buckskin thongs on the inner side of, and tightly fitting, the wrist of the left hand. A heavy silver plate, often of exquisite workmanship, and with beautiful turquoise setting, decorates the guard on the outer side, as the wrist-guard largely has no other than an ornamental purpose. Pg. 312

Some maintain that the shield was elliptical in shape, others know only the round shield which was made of horsehide, and later rawhide. This was burnt slightly, placed over an anthill and covered with a heavy layer of dirt to give it the desired shape, when it was placed in the sun to dry. The entire outer rim of the shield was decorated with eagle feathers, to preserve which many shields were provided with a crease in the center, so that they might quickly be opened and closed by stepping on them. In addition, the outer surface of the shield was richly emblazoned with figures relating to war, such as figures of the sun, half sun, rainbow, crescent, a bear's foot, and the Slayer of Enemies. In action the shield served to guard against attacks from either side, for which purpose it was carried through a buckskin sling on the left arm, while again it could easily be brought to the front or rear by means of the buckskin band which was attached to the shield and passed over the right shoulder. With the introduction of modern firearms, however, few were found dexterous enough to constantly hold the shield at such angles at which a bullet should glance from it, so that both shield and spear became worthless. Shields may still be found among the family relics. Pg. 317

Bows and arrows were carried in a quiver made of mountain lion or goatskin, and provided with two pouches to receive the arrows and bows. In time of peace it was girthed around the waist and hung down the right side, while in war it was strapped to the back, over the right shoulder, so that the archer might conveniently reach back, and also protect himself with the shield from attacks on the front. The quiver has not entirely disappeared, though most archers prefer to carry a few arrows and the bow in their hand, gathering each arrow after its discharge. Pgs. 321-322

An Ethnologic Dictionary of the Navaho Language; 1910, The Franciscan Fathers.