MENOMINEE, EARLY 20TH CENTURY
This Menominee tattooing tool dates to 1911 and consists of four sewing needles bound with cotton thread to a wood handle. The accompanying kit includes packages of charcoal for making ink, and a bent wood bowl for mixing and holding the ink.
By the early 20th century Menominee tattooing was mainly therapeutic or medicinal. According to one source, those suffering from headaches would ask a healer to tattoo the image of a thunderbird at the source of their pain. The tattoo tools were said to have been given to the Menominee by the Thunderbirds, and were symbolic representations of the spears (lightning) of those entities.
This Menominee kit is one of only three surviving examples -that we know of- of historical tattooing tools from North America’s Eastern Woodlands.
For more, see Krutak (2014) “Tattoo Traditions of Native North America: Ancient and Contemporary Expressions of Identity,” and also our 2017 chapter “Scratching the Surface: Mistaken Identifications of Tattoo Tools from Eastern North America” in #ancientink
Image after American Museum of Natural History 50.1/6643