Keeping the Art of Porcupine Quill Bead Work Alive

Last Updated by Michael Zimny on

Toshina One Road of Sisseton practices the art of Dakota porcupine quill bead work. Though the art form is traditional, she sometimes incorporates modern methods of quill acquisition.

“Sometimes we come across roadkill,” she laughs. “If I don’t though I’ll get them online, off of eBay.”

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In this age of cyber commerce, there is an online shop that specializes in porcupine quills.

Once the hair is removed, the quills have to be bleached to receive a dye. Toshina uses a variety of dyeing techniques including Kool-Aid for more neon colors.

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The quills are soaked in water to make them pliable. Then they can be wrapped around a base made of different materials.

She does a brisk business selling jewelry but is moving into larger projecs like decorating a buffalo hide with quill work.

“This is a dying art,” she says, “and we have to preserve it.”

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