Crafting Bone Tools

The underlying philosophy of WETCC Extension Service is to reconnect people with nature. In an effort to understand and appreciate the gifts of Mother Earth, we explore the traditions of our ancestors. One of the traditions that seems to be very clear and universal to all Indigenous Peoples is to use what you have and let nothing go to waste.

With that in mind, it is hunting season in this part of the world. The meat and bones from a variety of animals give us much needed protein. So many times the bones are discarded after the soup is gone. With a little bit of creativity and a couple of saws and files, beautiful ornaments and functional tools can be made. A few of the items made at Extensions recent workshop are, knives, fish hooks, needles, tooth picks, lamp base, awls, and pendants.

Simple steps to creating bone tools.

Step one: Gather bones. Use bones from a hunt, local meat processor or from a finished meal.

Step two: Remove skin, hooves and as much meat and tendons as possible. Be sure to cut the bones so that the marrow can be removed from the bone (remove at least one joint)

Step three: Boil the bones until all of the marrow can be removed from the bone. This may take several hours. Do not put the bones in the oven as the dry heat will make the bones brittle.

Step four: Let the bones air dry.

Step five: Draw a pattern on the air dried bone. Cut the bone with a saw to shape the tool. Use files to finish shaping the tool.

Step six: Polish finished tool with sand paper and steel wool. Option- soak the tool in peroixide to whiten.






Indigenous Gardener Mentor

FREE TRAINING!!!  The Indigenous Gardener Mentor curriculum offers free training in a multitude of skills such as: gardening, various forms of food processing, hide tanning , crafting bone tools, building root cellars, wild food identification and preparation, tracking, personal care products, and whatever else we can think of! 
WHAT WE ASK FOR IN RETURN: Pass the training on. The method in which that happens is up to you. Examples are: training family and friends, holding community workshops, building employable skills.

WHO’S ELIGIBLE? Anyone willing to learn! Adult Tribal and Non-Tribal Community Members are welcome. ( Special trainings can be held for those under 18 years of age. Contact us for more information

UPCOMING TRAINING OPPORTUNITIES November 2009:  Root Cellar Construction, Crafting Bone Tools, Make Vinegar From Wild Fruits and Herbs

TRAINING OPPORTUNITIES 2010:  Stone Carving, Outdoor Clay Oven Construction, Clay Oven Baking, Spoon Carving- wood and horn, Gardening Made Simple, Anishinaabe Nutrition and much more!


IMG_0458Bone Toolswild food identification and preparation

And One More Thing :)

grinding to powderdry tobacco stalksGaining knowledge is all about trial and error. It seems that the most successful techniques are stumbled upon, at least it does in my case. The following  is one of  many such experiences:

The goal was to grind tobacco stalks to use in various medicinal applications and to use as an organic insecticide. Getting to that goal was a new venture for me.  The first technique that was used was shaving the stalks into small pieces with a knife.  This method was working, but at the speed it was going the task would have been done around the time of next years tobacco harvest.

sifting powderSitting there pondering the astuteness of my situation, I caught a glimpse of the wood chipper. The hair around my ears stirred as the brain storm gained momentum. A few minutes later the shredding was finished. The drying of the shredded stalks then began. I tried to air dry them. After 2 days they seemed to have more moisture in them than when this adventure started. (Please take note of the stalks ability to collect moisture even in their shredded form.) The next option was to place them in the dehydrator. This cut the drying time down to a few hours. The final stage was placing the shredded, dehydrated pieces into a blender to grind the pieces into a powder.  As this process was taking place, some of the pieces could not be ground down to a powder. The hair around my ears once again stirred as a thought creeped into my mind.  The bigger pieces of stalk would work much better in the medicinal applications, and the powder in the organic insecticide uses. Challenge solved!  A fine wire mesh strainer  separated the two mediums.tobacco powder

Knowledge gained: the plants will guide me through my ignorance time and time again! I give heart filled gratitude for their patience!


Harvest time is always a great time, and a busy time. Harvesting started in March with sugar bush and slowed down around the middle of October closing out the gardens. Although harvesting slows down, it continues through winter! If you would like to know more, come and see what we are doing at Extension’s Camps, Anishinaabe Center’s Defeat Diabetes Day, and Sah Kah Tay Indigenous Preservation efforts.
 An example of one family’s harvest: 18 gallons of maple syrup, several pounds of fresh spring greens, strawberries, blueberries, chokecherries, plums, gooseberry, currents, raspberries, black cherries, high bush cranberries, celery, parsley, beans, cabbage, tomatoes, peas, zucchini, beets, four varieties of squash, corn, ten varieties of potatoes, eight varieties of peppers, onions, garlic, ginger, kale, broccoli, carrots, chives, cauliflower, cucumbers, tobacco, mullein, catnip, nettles, several varieties of wild mushrooms, oregano, basil, lemon balm, sage, cedar, thyme, rosemary, sumac, wild rice, fish, beaver, bear, and deer. This list is only a partial glimpse of the 2009 harvest. These items are what has been stored for winter, not what was enjoyed fresh from Mother Earth!

Gardens! Gardens! Gardens!

It began on a crisp sunny day in January 2009. A group of community members gathered at the White Earth Veterans Center in Mahnomen, MN. Anticipation for spring sizzled in the air. Gardens!, someone said. Food security! said another. Traditional foods, domestic garden food, health issues, time management, garden equipment, skills and experience were discussed and identified. The words sparked an enthusiastic plan to begin a grassroots garden venture.

The plan: to engage and immerse at least 25 families into the arms of Mother Earth and her bountiful gifts. An exciting element of this plan was that although we knew what we were going to do and how we were going to do it, we had no idea where the journey was going to take us. As with any passionate from the heart plan, you do your best and hope for the best.

The steps taken to fulfill the plan: Strengths were identified. Anishinaabe Center, Sah Kah Tay, WETCC Extension and several community members shared what they had to offer. Challenges were identified. Land and soil issues, experience and skill levels, passions and aversions, and time management were discussed and partnerships formed to turn the challenges into strengths.

The journey: An amazing albeit exhausting 10 months of laughter, community building, skill acquiring, food gathering experience! Wide eyed awe showed on the faces of new gardeners and experienced gardeners as new and old techniques were shared and implemented. Some of the techniques used are square foot gardening, perennial gardening, raised beds, hoop houses, companion gardening, container gardening, wild food gathering, and not sure how that happened-but it works gardening. We even had rare Indigenous Plant rescues occurring! (Areas that were being disturbed for development.)

The result: 28 family gardens, 2 community gardens, monthly garden meetings and a Farmers Market. Some of the experiences ranged from tilling up their very first garden to wild food immersion to expanding a family garden into an upcoming CSA. Examples of the educational opportunities include the nutritional, medicinal and utilitarian use of domestic and wild plants, edible landscaping , wild food identification, gardening by the moon, sustainable harvesting, recipe sharing, and taste testing, The knowledge shared was a spectacular demonstration of the wonderful people living here!