Sunday, 19 August 2012

Tanning moose hide in 1947

Last  summer  while  I  was
staying  at  Pachuanak  with my
father,  I  was  interested  in
watching  the  women  transform
a  moose's  hide  into  beaded
moccasins.  This  is  how  they
did  it."  (written in 1947 by a student of Ile a la Crosse School)

"The  men  had  killed  a  moose
-- a  rare  event  these  past
years-- and  brought  the  hide
home  to  their women  who  immediately  soaked  it in  a  tub  of
water  so  that  it would  not
harden  before  they  worked  on
it.  The  men  also made  a  frame
with  four  poles-- and  their
task  was  ended."

"The women punched holes
around  the  hide  to  tie  it to
the  frame  which  they  ·stood
upright  against  2  trees.  With
a  sharp  bone,  they  scraped
off  the  fur  on  one  side,  the
flesh  from  underneath  and  let
it stand  for  a  night.
The  next  day  they  removed
the  hide  from  the  frame  and
rubbed  it  on  both  sides  with
the  brains  of  the moose  which
the  men  had  saved.  This  takes
the  place  of  oil,  I  was  told.
It  was  then  left  to  dry  in
the  sun  for  a  few  days.
When  it was  dry,  they  soaked  it again  in  water  to  soften  it. They  took  the  hide  to
the  bush,  hung  it  over  a
strong  branch,  and  wrung  it
with a  stick,  turning  it  over
and  over  until  not  a  drop  of
water  could  be  squeezed  out
of  it.  While  the  skin  was
drying,  the  women  scraped  it
and  beat  it with covers  of
pails  to  make  it fuzzy  and
soft on  both sides.  It was
now  ready  to  be  tanned.
They  sewed  the  skin  together  lengthwise,  leaving
both  ends  open. With
sticks  they  built  a  tepee,
suspended  the  skin  inside
and  made  a  fire  with  rotten
wood  directly  beneath  it.  The
smoke  which  curled  in  and  out
of  the  roll  of  skin,  tanned  it
to  a  golden  color.
Finally  they  cut  out  the
mocassins  according  to  a  simple  pattern  of  their  own.  Some
sewed  on  the  colored  beads ,
scarce  and  expensive  since  the
war,  while  others  embroidered
the  floral  designs  which  they
had  traced  on  the  skin  with  a
little stick dipped  in  a  red
solution made  with  a  piece  of
crepe  paper.
What  patient  labour  it required--definitely  a  woman's
work"~  Florence  Ahenakew  (IX)

Florence Ahenakew was a grade 9 student at Ile a la Crosse School in 1947 when she wrote this story. She was born on June 7, 1929. Her father was Alexander Ahenakew, the H.B.C. post manager of Pine River (near Patuanak) in more

Copied from 'Island Breeze' ....December 1947   (Ile a la Crosse newspaper)

The black and white photos on this page were taken in the 1940's in La Loche, Saskatchewan.
The coloured photos below were taken in 2012 in La Loche, Saskatchewan.
Read more......

The boy is Robert Guetre (1940?). Elizabeth (Robert's mother) is the lady on the left. Father Ducharme on the left. Isabelle (Velner) Janvier (grandmother of Pauline (Janvier) Fontaine shown below) is on the right.

Pauline (Janvier) Fontaine scraping a moose hide in La Loche 2012 with grandson Ondre and husband Elmer. Pauline's grandmother is Isabelle (Velner) Janvier who is shown in the 1940's photo above. 

Pauline and husband Elmer Fontaine with grandson Ondre (not seen) scraping a moose hide in 2012. (La Loche)