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Craftsmanship of the Nuwu

The Arts & Crafts of today were once made for everyday uses from utilitarian uses as well as clothing, cooking and the Lifeways of the Southern Paiutes.

ARROW POISON Boil rabbit blood with Indian salt for arrow poison. Chemehuevi Jim Chili.



ARROWS Arrows are made out of black native current Ribes hudsonianum, and golden current Ribes aureum. The green shafts are heated on a bed of coals until the bark pops which helps remove the outer bark. The above sketch shows a method of applying fire hardened points to this type of arrow. Koosharem Jimmy Timmican.

ARROWS Arrows made out of green Greasewood are straightened by heat. To straighten arrows from the common reed Phragmites, first dampen the shafts and then press between two hot flat stones. Green arrows made out of certain other woods are cut and then the same day the outer bark is scraped off leaving the inner bark on. If the entire bark is scraped off the shaft will dry too fast and split. The shafts are straightened by hand a few times each day and wrapped up in a bundle after each straightening until dry and perfectly straight. The following sketch shows how arrows are made out of the common reed. Koosharem Jimmy Timmican.

ARROWS Dried arrow shafts can be straightened by poking them under hot coals to heat them (not on top as they will burn); then straighten them with an arrow wrench (see photo below) since they're too hot to hold. Sand off marks made by wrench with a rock Kaibab, Morris Jake.


ARROW FLETCHING In fletching arrows any feathers of the right size are used except the great horned owl (moo-oom'puhts). Pine hen (kaom'puhts) and sage hen feathers (sechu') are very good. Koosharem, Jimmy Timmican.

BARK USES Cliffrose Tree/shrub, Peow'oonup. The old people wove leggings out of bark from ankle to below the knee for wearing in the snow to keep their feet dry. They also made bark sandals in the winter to wear with the leggings. Bark blankets and skirts were also made. The best bark is cliffrose Cowania stansburiana (peow'oonup) because it doesn't itch when next to the skin; however, juniper bark would suffice for snow protection if cliffrose wasn't available. Shivwits, Bessie Tillahash.

BASKET MAKING October and November are the best times to cut Skunkbush Sumac Rhus trilobata that is to be used in making baskets. Shivwits, Bessie Tillahash.

BASKET MAKING Willow Salix exigua (kawnuv) was used for the coil in a basket. Skunkbush Rhus trilobata was split and used in the weaving. Eagle Valley, Minnie Jake.

BASKETS You should give away the first basket you make then you will make many more. Eagle Valley, Minnie Jake.

BOW AND ARROW WOOD The Kaibab band made bows out of narrow leaf cottonwood Populus angusttfolia and arrows from serviceberry Amelanchier. Arrowweed was used for arrows in the St. George area; it doesn't grow at Kaibab. Kaibab, Morris Jake.

BOW PRESERVATION Oil bows with deer fat to prevent splitting.

BOW WOOD Old man Levi from Las Vegas told me that Paiutes made their bows out of screw bean mesquite and arrows out of arrowweed and cane Phragmites. LeRoy Anderson, Moapa.

BOWS AND ARROWS OF THE SHIVWITS The Shivwits had a longer bow than most tribes that was easy to bend. It was made out of narrowleaf cottonwood Populus angusttfolia (sawhawv'). Long arrows were used with this bow. The Shivwits never used poisoned arrows. They glued arrowheads on with heated lac from creasote Larrea tridentata (yutump). Bessie Tillahash.

BOWS OF HORN Mountain sheep horn will soften when it is boiled. It is then easy to bend and shape into a horn bow. Wes Levi, Lonnie Kouchomp, Kanosh, Utah, and Roy Tom, Indian Peak.

BOWS WITH HORN BELLIES To put a horn belly on a bow, find an old decayed white deer horn that can be pounded and ground to fine powder. This powder is then boiled to a paste, put on the belly of the bow, and allowed to dry. Roy Tom, Indian Peak.

BUCKSKIN CLEANING White flour is used to clean white buckskin dresses. Rub the flour in with a toothbrush and then shake the flour and dirt out. This brings out some of the dirt.

BUCKSKIN CLOTHING In the old days, Paiutes in southern Utah made beaded necklaces, buckskin shirts, and leggings similar to the Utes. Eagle Valley, Minnie Jake.

BUCKSKIN DRESSES In the old days buckskin dresses were made with the flesh side of the tanned hide out. Koosharem, Florence Kanosh.

CRADLEBOARDS Koanonts'. The Paiutes had their own styles of cradleboards. They are called koanonts'. They came in very handy in the old days when the bands were migrating and at many other times. They are still popular today among the Paiutes and have not outlived their usefulness. The cradleboard allowed a woman to carry her baby on her back while traveling so her hands would be free to carry other things. When a woman was out harvesting seeds and berries she could take her baby with her in the cradle to lean up against a tree so the baby could watch what was going on. If the cradle fell forward the hood or visor protected the baby from falling on its face. The hood also kept the sun out of the baby's eyes and could be covered with a light blanket to keep flies off a sleeping baby's face. The cradle could also be hung from a limb to let the wind rock it. The cradleboard serves as an excellent bed on cold winter nights so the arms can remain covered and the baby cannot kick off the blankets. On warm nights the arms can be left out. The snugness of being wrapped in a cradle gives the baby a sense of being held, loved, and helps them grow up with a straight posture. They are never left tied in the cradle all the time, but only at night and at other times when the baby wants it or it becomes handy to do so. Babies do become accustomed to them and often won't go to sleep until they are put in one.

The following sketch depicts a Shivwits cradleboard made by Bessie Tillahash.




The cradleboard is about three feet long. Since the Shivwits didn't always have access to water sources at time for materials they often made their cradles out of whatever was available. Mesquite root was ideal to go around the outside of the frame but if none was available willows or other woods would be used. This outer piece was reinforced at the top to make it strong enough here to hold the weight of the baby when picked up at the top only. This reinforcement consists of several small willows wrapped together with split Skunkbush Sumac to hold them together. Then the wrapped willows are placed up beneath the mesquite root and bent to conform to the inner top curve of the cradle. The mesquite root is wrapped with split sumac catching one or two of the smaller willows with each wrap to hold the root and wrapped willows together as one.













The sketch above shows the finished cradleboard and the shape of the hood or visor. The bark on the long thin vertical willows is peeled off. They are bent on both ends and wrapped to a horizontal willow as shown under "Section of backboard" in the sketch of the Shivwits cradleboard. A little strip of buckskin or cloth is folded over both ends and sewn on to reinforce them. The visor is made flat and then soaked and bent to shape in a slight downward arc. It isn't cupped beneath as with other hood styles. The narrow end goes to the front/top on the visor unlike other cradle board styles where the narrow end goes to the back and the wide end on top. The two ends of the arched stick that holds the front of the visor to each side of the frame are notched at the ends to allow a string to be tied around them so they can be tied to the backboard. Carrying straps about two inches wide are attached at the back of  the Shivwits cradleboards. They are tied on each side to the strong outer stick about one third of the way down from the top of the cradle.

Designs are woven into the hood with colored yarn or willows slip with bark on for darker color and peeled for a lighter stitch. Different colors and designs are used on them for female and male babies. The colors blue and green were for boys and red for girls. Sometimes beadwork is added to the buckskin covering. Florence Kanosh said, "It isn't considered right to make a cradleboard for a baby until after the baby is born." 

DIGGING STICKS Digging sticks were made from toonump (curl-leaf mahogany) and

kweyu'soov (unidentified). Koosharem, Jimmy Timmican.

FIRE BY FRICTION Juniper wood is used in fire by friction.

FLINT BAKING Before arrowheads are made out of agate, chert and similar rocks they

are baked in "tus" (a fishhook type barrel cactus). Kaibab, Toni Tillahash.

FLUTES Flutes were made from tonup'eev because of its pithy center. Elderberry was

also used. Koosharem, Jimmy Timmican.

FLUTES Old Tom made a flute out of juniper. He split it, hollowed it out, and glued it

back with pitch. Flutes were used as love calls. Kaibab, Morris Jake.

GLUE Glue was made from boiling deer antlers. Kaibab, Lucille Jake.

HORSETAILS Horsetails were hung in Indian tipis to hold combs Eagle Valley, Minnie Jake.

LIGHTNING RODS A short stick of toonump' (curl-leaf mahogany) was used as a lightning rod. It was painted with ocher and stuck in the hat band when traveling around. It was supposed to keep lightning from striking the person wearing it. Cedar City, Mable Yellowjacket.

MOCCASINS After moccasins soles have been sewn on with sinew, tie a knot in the end of the sinew and burn the frayed ends that protrude beyond the knot with a piece of charcoal. The sinew will curl up and keep the knot from coming loose. Eagle Valley, Minnie Jake.

MOCCASINS Badger hide, with the fur on, was sometimes used as the top piece over moccasin toes. Badger hide was also used for moccasin soles since it is fairly thick. Eagle Valley, Minnie Jake.

MOCCASIN PATTERN The moccasin pattern shown in the sketch below, is the typical pattern presently used by Southern Paiutes. The soles are soft and are sewn on inside out using a welt. The tongue in the sketch is typical but different shapes may be used. Shivwits moccasins dating from the early 1900s were high tops reaching just above the ankle. The soles were rawhide and were sewn on with a hidden stitch and curled up some just like Hopi and Navajo moccasins. The main difference was that a welt was used between the soles and uppers. Also, the uppers were not buttoned but wrapped around the ankle and then held in place with a wrap around string. The uppers were smoked or dyed brown.

MOCCASIN SOLES Moccasin soles, moccasin tops, and gloves were cut lengthwise of a hide as shown in the sketch below so they won't stretch out of shape when worn. Kanosh, Earl & Verna Pikyavit.

PAINT Ochre came in yellow, orange, and red colors. -Yellow or orange ochre can be made red by frying it in grease. The grease makes it easy to apply to the face and then wipe off.

PIPE STEMS Pipe stems were made from elderberry wood. Eagle Valley, Minnie Jake.

PIPE STONE The pipe stone used by the Paiutes was a light-colored stone but I don't know where it came from. Eagle Valley, Minnie Jake.

PITCH Paiutes mixed fine horse manure with pitch and then applied it hot to basketry type water jars to waterproof them. The manure consists of fine grasses that help keep the pitch from cracking when dry. Eagle Valley, Minnie Jake.

QUILL WORK Paiutes did porcupine quillwork on buckskin. They used roots for dyes, and had lots of colors. Eagle Valley, Minnie Jake.

RABBIT SKIN BLANKET Rabbits are skinned in the winter when the hair won't slip. If hides are dirty they are first washed and the holes sewn up before cutting. Hides are cut into long strips one-half to one inch wide. They are cut in a spiral manner, starting at a hind leg; the ears are not left on. Wrap the strip over a cloth string while hide is still green (a yucca string was used long ago). Wrap the rabbit hide around the string so the fur side is out and twist. This string reinforces the hide and keeps it from breaking. Each strip of hide can be sewn to the string at the splice, or ends wrapped over each other. After a very long strip is once twisted it is then doubled over and twisted again for a thicker, stronger blanket. Tie the twisted hide from tree to tree to dry.




When you are ready to weave the blanket, stakes are placed in the ground and the twisted rabbit hides placed on them as in the sketch. They are then laced together with cloth or yucca fiber. Each lace is about three inches apart and stakes are placed at approximately the size of a desired blanket. It takes over one hundred rabbit hides to make a blanket. The blanket is hung up to keep bugs out of it. (I witnessed Minnie Jake make a blanket for me using the above process, LaVan Martineau.)

She also stated that white rabbit-skin blankets can be made out of winter snowshoe rabbit hides. Black designs can be put into the blanket from pieces of dark hides. In making black and white blankets the hides are not cut into strips, but tanned and then cut into rectangles and sewn together. Snowshoe rabbit hides are thicker than jackrabbits and will not rip.

SANDALS FOR WINTER USE In the winter when the snow was slushy, the Indians made sandals out of yucca. They were woven and had a strap across the toe. Rabbit hides were wrapped around the feet, fur inward, to keep the feet warm while wearing the sandals. Eagle Valley, Minnie Jake.

SHIELDS Shields are made by heating a green buffalo hide over hot coals. The heat causes the hide to shrink and thicken. Koosharem, Jimmy Timmican.

SINEW Sinew from the lower leg of an animal is stronger than back sinew and is preferred for bowstrings.

SMOKING HIDES Cedar bark was used for smoking deer hides. You must be careful so as not to allow the bark to burst into an open flame or it will burn the hide. Eagle Valley, Minnie Jake.

SMOKING HIDES My mother said that hides are only smoked when it is cloudy because it's not windy then. Shivwits, Eleanor Tom.

SNOWSHOES Paiutes used to make snowshoes. They were shaped like an egg. Juniper bark was ruffled up and put around the feet to keep them warm. Buckskin was used to hold the bark onto the feet. Rabbit hides were also used with the fur against the feet. Eagle Valley, Minnie Jake.

TANNING A Koosharem informant boils deer brains, instead of frying them. She doesn't use grease in tanning; she says it stains. Julia Timmican, Koosharem.

TANNING Buffalo, horse, and bear hides are tanned by first staking one out on the ground with the hair side down. After it is fleshed, brains or salt is applied to the flesh side. Then each day thereafter the hide is dampened with warm water or a wet gunny sack placed on it. As the hide begins to dry, and while it is still damp, rub the hide with a pumice stone or pound it with a club. Do this each day until it remains soft. The hair is left on when using this process. It is difficult to take the hair off the above hides as can be done with a deer hide by using a pole and draw knife. The tails were generally left on horse hides. Horse hides are hard to tan below the knees. Eagle Valley, Minnie Jake.

TANNING TABOO There is a story about how the Creator made certain parts of a deer skin stretch more than other parts when tanned. Also when you work on a hide you shouldn't drink water during the hours you work on it as water will get into the hide and leave hard places. Kaibab, Lucille Jake.

TIPI MAKING One time when some other Indian dancers and I were making a canvas tipi in Richfield, Florence Kanosh watched silently from her nearby window. We followed the basic Boy Scout pattern of a full half circle that overlaps in the middle above the door where wooden pins hold it together. When it came to the point of cutting the holes for the pins, Florence came out and instructed us to add a canvas extension for these pins so that the half circle would remain a half circle and the tipi would set squarely on the ground and be a little wider at the base. We didn't know until then that she had lived in a tipi and had helped make them. Her instructions gave us a much better looking tipi than we would have had, following some of the published patterns. Later when a whirlwind carried our tipi over a nearby fence she came out and told us we should have something to tie it down to in the center near the fire pit. (LaVan Martineau.)

TIPI POLES The Indians in my area used to use twelve tipi poles from the red birch. When camp was moved these poles were taken to the next camp. This was done by drilling a hole in the end of each pole and then tying six on each side of a horse with one end of each pole dragging on the ground. Koosharem, Jimmy Timmican.

TIPIS Elk-hide tipis didn't get hard when rained upon because they were stretched tight over the tipi poles. I was raised in one of these. Eagle Valley, Minnie Jake.

TIPIS Tipis were made out of elk hides. Kaibab, Morris Jake.

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