Buffalo Skull




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By Ernest Thompson Seton

rrm089.gif (33225 bytes)
Figs. 89 & 90

For the SUN DANCE, each dancer needs a buffalo skull. Real skulls are no longer at hand; but we can make wooden skulls that look very well, and have the advantage of being much lighter.

Once, under challenge, I made a skull complete in twenty minutes; but I prefer to spend an hour or more over each.

Take a block of spruce, pine, or other soft wood, 10 inches thick, 15 inches long, with no large knots. Split it down the center.

Take one-half, remove the bark, smooth it, and sketch on it the form shown in Fig. 89.

At a and b, sink a 1-inch auger hole about 2 inches deep. At c and d, sink a 2-inch auger hole about 2 inches deep.

Now take a sharp hatchet or drawknife, and trim the block along the dotted lines, until the skull is like Fig. 89.

Cut a hole through the palate, that is, the upper jaw (e).  Use a drawknife to round up and trim everything.

Now cut two horns of the shape in Fig. 90. They are all the better if of curved wood. Drive their dowels into the holes prepared (a and b); and secure the horns by driving a couple of finishing nails through the skull into the dowels. If there is a visible gap between the horn-core and the skull, fill it up by wrapping soft twine into it around the core or dowel.

Give the whole thing a coat of white paint, and the skull is ready.

I have always found these skulls wonderfully decorative around the camp. Still another use was discovered. I hollowed out a space 4 X 4 inches in the back of the skull, and about 2 inches deep; then prolonged the eye-hole into this, covering the little chamber at the back with a board, somewhat hollowed in the middle, and so arranged as to make the chamber 3 inches wide. In other words, I turned the skull into a bird-box. Next year, we found every one of these hollow skulls with a pair of nesting birds--most of them wrens, but one a great-crested flycatcher.

The buffalo skull was not only a sacred symbol in the old Plains Indian camps, it was a universal and beautiful decoration. As such we use it, and never fail to find it carrying with it some of the best Indian spirit.

Rhythm of the Redman






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Breech Clouts, Breech Cloths ] [ Buffalo Skull ] Buttons ] Canoe Decoration ] Drums and Shields ] Indian Graphic Arts ] Indian Names for Months ] Indian Moccasins ] Navajo Loom ] Painted Paddles ] Peace Pipes ] Picture-Writing ] Sign Language ] Painting the Tepee ] Pottery ] Teepee Plans 10' ] Tweezers ] War Bonnets ] Willow Bed ]

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Last modified: October 15, 2016.